Adrian Martinez dives for his first touchdown against Colorado last season. Martinez set 11 school records as a true freshman in 2018.

On Monday, maps started showing Nebraska being covered by various shades of red.

Sure, the alleged reason for this is the upcoming heat wave that is going to make walking the length of your driveway an activity that could leave you dehydrated.

But I think there is another reason.

With the various major conferences holding football media days this week — including the Big Ten in Chicago Thursday and Friday — we have reached the unofficial start of the college football season.

Those first games of the season in late August no longer seem so far away. You can almost feel football in the air — if you can get through the oppressive heat and humidity.

And I think the first signs of football fever might be the real reason that maps are showing Nebraska in red this week.

Why not? The level of fan excitement for a college football team coming off a 4-8 season has to be the highest it has been since last year’s Huskers.

But it isn’t just Husker Nation that seems to be drinking the red Kool-Aid. For a program that is coming off back-to-back 4-8 seasons, NU seems to be getting plenty of publicity nationally.

With the number of preseason magazines, college football websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, etc., it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone with something positive to say about any team (even Kansas).

But there are a large number of upbeat opinions about this season for Scott Frost and company, and those opinions aren’t just from people with styrofoam corncob hats stashed in their closets.

You can find the Huskers ranked eighth by College Football Today. That is eighth in the nation, not eighth in the conference, by the way.

CBS Sports said the Huskers “have become the sexy pick to win the Big Ten West.”

The Athletic said, “Feel good, Nebraska, the preseason hype is deserved.”

There must be plenty of people heading out to Vegas (and other fine areas where sports bets are now legal) with money in hand, because the Huskers now are at 6:1 odds to reach the college football playoff.

Some must be expecting Frost to equal the Year 2 magic from his previous job and sophomore Adrian Martinez to live up to his own ballooning hype nationally.

Those are really, really low odds for a team coming offthose 4-8 seasons that is in a conference that has struggled to get a single team into the playoff the past two years.

But isn’t it nice for Husker fans to be hearing about how good the team might be from people who don’t cheer for the Big Red?

It seems like forever since Nebraska football was talked about positively in the national sports scene. This century has been rough in Lincoln. Coaching changes, brief periods of appearing to be heading in the right direction and then having things come crashing down again have replaced competing for conference and occasionally national championships as the main storylines for Nebraska.

It seems like Frost and the Huskers have earned some patience with the local faithful after the progress the team made last year, which wasn’t reflected by the team’s record.

And there seems to be plenty of patience nationally, too.

A list of the top up-and-coming programs by 24/7sports listed NU at No. 3 among those teams with a target year of 2020. Of course, that includes saying NU could potentially win nine games this year and possibly be a top 15 preseason team next year and be 7-0 heading to Ohio State.

It never hurts to look ahead.

But, for now, stay inside, stay cool and think pigskin.

That opener against South Alabama is getting closer and closer. And I fearlessly predict that it will be a much more entertaining game than last year’s opener against Akron.

Dale Miller is a sports writer for the Independent

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