Nebraska's players may get a break over the next few weeks, but for Bo Pelini's coaching staff the work is just beginning.
In a lot of ways football games for the future are won over the months of December and January.
Pelini's coaching staff will hit the recruiting trail hard starting today as NU will have their full allotment of seven coaches out for most of the week.
HuskerOnline.com has confirmed that defensive coordinator Carl Pelini will be visit linebacker Zaire Anderson and his family this week with Ross Els.
After a strong visit this weekend in Lincoln, Carl Pelini and Els should have a great opportunity to solidify Anderson's commitment, as he's considered the heir apparent to Lavonte David for 2012. Another high priority junior college target is cornerback Mohammed Seisay who NU would like to replace Alfonzo Dennard with in 2012. You can also expect him to get a key visit this week.
Carl Pelini will stay on the West Coast to help NU close on other top targets such as defensive end/tight end Nate Iese and fullback Christian Powell.
Bo Pelini will travel east to visit quarterback/athlete Devin Fuller, as NU would like to add a second quarterback that has the ability to move positions if need be.
Secondary coach Corey Raymond will travel to New Orleans this week to visit linebacker commit Deion Jones, who just picked up an offer from LSU. A visit from Bo Pelini will also come later this month according to Jones.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck will travel south this week and visit quarterback commit Tommy Armstrong. Armstrong, who is still in the playoffs looking for a second-straight state championship, says he expects Beck in the middle of the week. Don't be surprised if Beck makes his way into Florida at some point as well, as he's one of NU's top recruiters in the Sunshine State.
Defensive line coach John Papuchis will visit both defensive end commit Greg McMullen and defensive tackle target Vincent Valentine this week, according to both of them as of Sunday. Valentine was supposed to be in Lincoln for the Iowa game, but was not able to make it. Papuchis's in-home will go a long way in telling NU where they stand in the coming weeks with Valentine.
The previous two years the Huskers haven't had the luxury to go on the road to recruit during the first week of December because they've played in the Big 12 championship game.
It's important they take advantage of this week to solidify things with some top targets that are out there. I have a feeling we'll see a few big commitments pop here over the next two to three weeks.
Bowl picture still unclear
After a long talk with Mike Schulze of the Outback Bowl on Sunday, I've realized there's still a lot of football that needs to be played before we'll know NU's bowl destination.
Yes the safe money is still on either Orlando for the Capitol One Bowl or Tampa for the Outback Bowl. However, there are still a lot of things that could happen.
Michigan currently sits at No. 16 in the BCS and they must be in the top 14 to qualify for an at-large BCS bowl bid. They should have a chance to move in there, especially if Oklahoma, Michigan State and Georgia all lose this week, which are all ranked slightly ahead of the Wolverines.
The other thing to watch closely is if Oklahoma State slides into the BCS Championship game with a win over Oklahoma, the Fiesta Bowl will look at taking another Big 12 team as an at-large, which could mess things up for Michigan.
However, if Wisconsin beats Michigan State and Michigan goes to the BCS I think Nebraska will go to the Capitol One Bowl. If Michigan does not go to the BCS, then I see them going to the Capitol One Bowl and Nebraska going to the Outback Bowl.
The biggest question remains how far would Michigan State or Wisconsin's stock drop with a loss in the Big Ten Championship game? That's why both Michigan and Nebraska are more attractive to the Outback and Capitol One Bowls because they won't be coming off a loss and can almost guarantee 30,000 fans to travel. MSU didn't even travel that well a year ago when they went to the Capitol One Bowl as an 11-1 team.
Zoning in on my Heisman ballot
When I start to zone in on my Heisman ballot, I'm obviously looking hard at both Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Alabama running back Trent Richardson, however there are several other guys in the mix.
One player I'm kind of surprised isn't getting more consideration is Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who has 1,871 combined rushing and receiving yards to go along with an NCAA leading 34 touchdowns. With two games left to play, Ball has a real shot at Barry Sanders NCAA record of 39 touchdowns which was once considered untouchable.
I think if Wisconsin would've beat Ohio State and Michigan State he'd obviously be right up there with some of the top candidates.
Another guy who deserves a hard look to get to New York is USC quarterback Matt Barkley. It's too bad Barkley won't have the Pac-12 championship game this week to prove himself again on the big stage.
For the stat geeks
***Nebraska's average margin of victory this year was 7.7 points. That right there should tell you the competitive balance in the Big Ten. You aren't going to see very many blowouts, as the Big Ten has 10 teams that are currently bowl eligible.
***NU led the Big Ten in rushing attempts at 47 per game this year.
***Brett Maher led the Big Ten in punting average (45.0 yards) and net punting (38.5). The amazing thing is he still led the league in net average, despite giving up an early punt return for a touchdown against Fresno State. Maher also led the Big Ten in kickoff depth, at 67.2 yards.
***Perhaps the most impressive stat for Nebraska this year is they were 89.8 percent in red zone scoring efficiency. 32 of their 44 red zone scores were touchdowns.
***Only Iowa's Marcus Coker (281) had more carries than NU running back Rex Burkhead (260) this year in the Big Ten.
***Lavonte David finished six tackles behind Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor on the Big Ten leader board.
Around the state
***FCS powerhouse North Dakota State made another offer in Nebraska this past week. The Bison offered Bellevue West safety Bo Liekhus, who is another version of Jeff Souder for the Thunder Birds. Liekhus played running back and defensive back and has a ton of room to get bigger and stronger.
NDSU assistant A.J. Cooper arguably does as good of a job evaluating the state of Nebraska as any out-of-state coach. All of the Nebraskans he's recruited to Fargo start and play big roles for Craig Bohl's 4th ranked Bison.
***Maybe the top in-state prospect still on the recruiting board for 2012 is Cambridge offensive lineman Mike Shoff.
The 6-foot-6, 280 pound Shoff holds offers from Kansas and Florida International. Iowa offered Shoff a while back, but the Hawkeyes have cooled on Shoff and appear to be full on the line. KU has obviously fired Turner Gill and Nebraska does not appear to be interested in offering Shoff at this point. One team to watch though in Shoff's recruitment is Iowa State, as he was in Ames for the Cyclone's victory over Oklahoma State.
Shoff is an extremely raw prospect, but his upside is through the roof. In some ways he reminds me of Jared Crick when he was coming out of Cozad.
***If you didn't catch the Class A state championship game last week, we've posted some great highlights featuring Husker tight end commit Sam Cotton and his fellow Lincoln Southeast teammates Najee Jackson and Devin Washington. Both Jackson and Washington are very impressive 2014 prospects to keep tabs on.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.