CFB Crystal Ball: Colorado @ Nebraska - Week 2

A jab about Maria Taylor's height ends up Paula Deen-ing a local Nebraska woman who has hit the Lutheran sushi a little hard. Deion initiates his latest marketing stunt at halftime, but backs out due to an unfortunate entendre. Lil Red risks personal deflation after sabotaging his own team.

CFB Crystal Ball: Colorado @ Nebraska - Week 2

This is the second installment of Robn's CFB Crystal Ball Preview Series, which predicts what will transpire during some of the 2024 season's most compelling matchups. Everything in this prediction will assuredly come true. Just wait. We are really good at this.

Date: September 7, 2024

What We Imagine The Broadcast To Be: 7:30pm ET on NBC

Location: Memorial Stadium - Lincoln, Nebraska

Actual Lookahead Line as of June 1: Nebraska -6.5 at DraftKings

When this game popped up on the calendar, it immediately sparked as it did last year the evocative warmth of decades gone by, of a better time. Tommy Frazier vs. Koy Detmer. Rashaan Salaam vs. Larry Phillips. Tom Osborne vs. Bill McCartney. Players with giant shoulder pads running with a lot of extraneous body movement across my screen in something less than Standard Definition. The Big 8 on ABC.

OK, fine, all my examples are from a revealingly specific mid-90s vantage point, but still--

/producer whispers in ear/

What's that? The Big 8 was also terminated by TV deal re-negotiations? Not everything was magically better in the past?

Well, at any rate, we're glad to finally see realignment actually bring old rivalries back together. This old Keith Jackson of a Game can happen regularly now that both schools are once again back in the same conf--

/producer whispers in ear again/

What's that?

They're still in separate conferences? Scheduling this game is just a nostalgia play? And the from an on-field standpoint the two schools have gone in similar yet separately bad directions since their mid-90s glory days? I see.

Speaking of "on-field," let's go down to the sideline at Memorial Stadium and check in on the action.

Everyone's attention this week is on Texas @ Michigan, which Fox is televising and from where Fox and ESPN are airing their morning shows. There is also the Mike Leach Memorial Bowl (Texas Tech at Wazzu) later this evening. There is Oklahoma-Houston, but I don't have that kind of offensive stamina. There is Iowa vs. Iowa State, but I don't have that kind of three-and-a-half-point-spread sweat stamina. Boise State vs. Oregon will be falsely intriguing. There are the likes of Oklahoma State and Utah and Tennessee playing... power teams that aren't ranked. In the does-not-compute file, Cal is playing Auburn and Mississippi State is playing Arizona State. There's multiple nerd bowls: Duke vs. Northwestern and Virginia vs. Wake Forest.

So, why are we telling you what's going to happen in this game?

Because so much of "what will happen in this game" will not be about what happens on the field. It will be about the false narratives that either of these teams matter (forget the nostalgia crap, above, these schools are 6-6 until they aren't, anymore), the manufactured conflict between the dramatis personae, the NBA-i-fication of this game, before it starts and after it concludes.

It's going to get stupid, and you need to be armed.

If we can tell you in advance how stupid this all is going to get, maybe you can do your mental health a favor and, instead of watching Colorado @ Nebraska, watch other college-aged paid men doing pre-CTE damage to other college-aged paid men.

Crystal Ball Preview: Notre Dame @ Texas A&M (Week 1)
Jimbo lurks in fiscal desperation, sabotaging the Midnight Yell. Riley Leonard’s ankle re-shatters. Jac Collinsworth incinerates while Chris Fowler explodes on a sleep-deprived Herbie. Marcus Freeman is forced-stoic after a narrow win. We may as well have just played the Ireland Week 0 game.

The networks and social media algorithms have sensed over the past few weeks your aloof, mostly ironic interest in Deion Sanders being back for another year of his bullshit.

Sensing you're somewhat interested in what The Entertainer is up to, they've set upon you to galvanize your interest. They radicalized you, feeding you all sorts of shaded content that either makes your interest fanatical, or rabidly anti-Prime. Either way, your interest is no longer aloof or ironic, and you're now stuck in a loop of continuous engagement while grappling with your newly-seeded addiction to having strong feelings about this person, who himself is addicted to the attention you just unwittingly played a small role in helping him acquire.

It all starts going downhill when the Cornhuskers' Unity Walk turns divisive.

NBC – yes, we're predicting that this game is on NBC, which now has Big Ten rights – thought it would be a good idea to stick Maria Taylor in the middle of the traditional procession to conduct player interviews.

A mid-50s woman in attendance at The Walk has been having herself an afternoon. She's hit the Lutheran Sushi and grain alcohol Kool-Aid fairly hard. This woman, later identified by internet sleuth-ers as the aunt of one of Matt Rhule's assistants, is caught on camera asking why there's a giraffe participating in it, a nod to Taylor's unusual height.

A little red light starts blinking in every sports network control room. It's the light that indicates a possible racism in the Zeitgeist. The System Engages.

Long after the irrevocable damage is done, the aunt clarifies that it was a silly comment about height. The comment had nothing to do with race and she meant no prejudice by it. But sadly, the fact that many white people have expressed hatred toward those different than them throughout history, combined with 21st Century Chad Culture's all-out lust for what it sees as retributive, crowd-sourced justice, means that Pam from North Platte gets no benefit of the doubt. She gets Paula Deen-ed.

Rhule is forced pre-game to address whether or not he'll fire or merely discipline his assistant for the woman's comment. He stares earnestly into the sideline camera minutes before kickoff and calmly explains how he won't fire his assistant coach right then, and how he's going to "just coach them."

ESPN, doing everything it can to act as if it's airing this game since Fox got Michigan-Texas and what's left on the slate isn't very, shall we say, viral, has a Tom Rinaldi think-piece out before halftime pontificating about racism in college football. A series of Pepe the Frog stan accounts react to the imbroglio by saying the aunt's comment was an insult to giraffes.

The person with the most distinct impact on the actual game itself is none other than LilRed. For those who don't know, LilRed is the Cornhuskers' attempt to reach a younger audience. It is the inflatable sports mascot equivalent of the Steve Buscemi, "how do you do, fellow kids" meme.

Shortly after an opening drive Nebraska three-and-out, LilRed causes an injury scare by performing a sideline backflip and landing on senior wideout Isaiah Neyor's ankle. Neyor is one of a few veteran targets that true freshman quarterback Dylan Raiola will rely on early this season to establish the offense. Neyor limps into the tent. Jac Collinsworth tries on the broadcast to strike the right balance of lightheartedness about the "how" and seriousness about the "what" and fails miserably.

Raiola is the essential straight-laced foil: If Colorado doesn't go 12-0 this year, it could be because of him, the second-ranked quarterback in last year's recruiting class, the noted decommit from Georgia last winter, the 18-year-old Cornhusker answer to Colorado's Shedeur Sanders.

Somewhere in the stands, "More Than Available" Scott Frost is in disguise, going half-Stalions, trying to determine not what the visiting team's play-signals are, but where his former employer's play-calling is going wrong. Whichever position coach he identifies as the weak link the person whose job he'll seek to undermine and then take for himself, in order to begin his redemption tour. Bo Pelini, the only person who will sit next to Frost, is eating peanuts one at a time, looking like the bug-eyed raccoon who is confused that you just found him out.

Colorado takes Nebraska's first punt back for a touchdown, then after a few traded drives of nothing, goes up 14-0 on the back of a deep Shedeur bomb. The commentators inquire whether the sky, or perhaps something higher, is the limit for this year's Buffaloes. Ten or eleven wins is a reasonable baseline, everyone suddenly agrees, certainly enough for them to squeak into the expanded playoff. Approximately 95,000 bros flock to their DraftKings account to bet Buffaloes natty futures. Prepared for the onslaught this year, DK tanks its one-way market price.

Nebraska manages only an anemic two field goals and heads into the tunnel down 14-6. Everyone thinks Raiola is suddenly, "not worth the hype," despite throwing for 284 yards and three touchdowns last week against UTEP. Neyor is ruled out for the rest of the game with a high-ankle sprain.

(Mike Leach Memorial Bowl check-in: Over on ABC, it's Texas Tech 27, Wazzu 21 at the half. Threatened with termination if he ran his trudging "Coug Raid" offense, Jake Dickert has honored Leach with a blistering pace of traditional Air Raid. Behren Morton has responded by carving up Wazzu's entirely new defensive unit of walk-ons and JUCO kids from the trashy part of California).

NBC producers ask Taylor to address the giraffe remark at halftime from the network's sideline set. She doesn't wish to, and says she wasn't bothered by the remark. Then the network clarifies that when it asks her if she will do something, it's actually ordering her to do it. So, ever the professional and deeply uncomfortable, she references it obliquely as quickly as possible and downplays the affair. But Collinsworth, ever the chode, hands her a tissue on air, then, forgetting he's not broadcasting a Notre Dame game, pivots out of the segment noting that the Irish have two quarters left to reclaim the lead.

Meanwhile, back in studio, NBC commentator Jason Garrett tries to make an analytical point about football but is steamrolled by the rest of the studio broadcast crew who have analogized the giraffe insult into an entire universe of adversity that Colorado is "up against" in this game (because Colorado is black and Nebraska is white). You can't scroll anywhere on social media without seeing the video of the incident. You hate yourself for rewatching it, but you do it anyway.

Deion decides that the start of the second half is his time to pounce. Not to pull away for good and cement the win. No, no. To make his commercial mark. Mimicking Rhule's "unintentional" mid-field team meeting on Colorado's home field logo last year, he comes out for the second half with a selfie stick and a folding chair, and plops right down at mid-field.

He films a quick commercial for a campaign he booked last night: An Omaha second-hand car dealership caught up in a small matter of back taxes has a backlog of old Dodge Neons it needs to unload and turn into fresh capital, pronto.

The "Deion's Neons" campaign - he's appeared dressed in promotional clothing to this effect - is intended to do just that.

The inventory in question

Seeing the stunt play out live on social media, a band of former Colorado players who've accused Deion of never giving them a shot in his program notifies the world that the term "neon" is slang to refer to "White Americans who believe their skin color entitles them to speak from authority on subjects for which they have little to no real understanding." The race button at networks is positively throbbing. Fresh beef sizzles for the weekday shows.

The game turns early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 28-23 and noting gaps in Colorado's zone coverage, Raiola makes his legs work for him. He's scrambled for over 140 yards and gotten another 100 from RB Gabe Ervin Jr. in the second half alone. His Russell Wilson-ing sets up a go-ahead Cornhuskers touchdown from the 18 yard line, but he abandons his successful strategy in favor of falling back on his arm. This is a particularly odd choice because, with Neyor already out, Raiola's other senior wide receiver Jahmal Banks exited the game on the previous drive after tripping over LilRed's air pump on the sideline.

An admittedly improved Buffs defense, aided by a slew of Power Four transfers, disrupts Raiola's three straight passing attempts. A gutsy Rhule fourth-down attempt is thwarted by – who else – two-way sensation Travis Hunter, who picks it off in the end zone. Watching on the plane on his way home from broadcasting the game in Ann Arbor, Gus Johnson manages to scream the word "WOW!" into two syllables.

A gunshot followed by a long deflating hiss is heard over the crowd noise from the direction of where LilRed was last seen being led by Herbie and Harry Husker. Still in the stands, a nervous Frost stops scribbling in his notebook to peer over his glasses and identify the nearest exit. Pelini fumbles into his trademark rage when the peanut guy tells him he's out of inventory.

After the win, Deion jogs off the field having removed his "Neons" promotional vest. Asked after the game if he had seen the outraged reaction to his commercial stunt, Deion answers an entirely different question he's made up in his head, then puts on his "victory watch," a $40,000 Rolex.

Somewhere, next week's opposing coach Jay Norvell pens a tweet about taking off his gold jewelry before he coaches.

(Mike Leach Memorial Bowl check-in: A strangely defensive battle in the second half is won 38-28 by Texas Tech, whose experience and offensive firepower proves too much for the Cougs. After the game, Dickert is asked if he wishes he had a shot to play new presumptive No. 1 team Colorado this year. He notes that Washington State beat Colorado last year 56-14, and cites Deion's comments about black men not coming to Pullman in spite of Pullman containing 3x the number of black residents that Boulder does. The red button pulses once again).

Final Notes:

  • Final Score: Colorado 35 Nebraska 23
  • Nebraska's leading wide receiver for the season ends up being number six option Janiran Bonner
  • LilRed is quietly removed from the NCAA mascot Hall of Fame
  • Frost is discovered and politely invited to not return; Pelini discovers he has a mild peanut allergy
  • Maria Taylor is named a finalist for the Presidential Medal of Freedom