I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
Nebraska has an overall record of 837-344-40 putting them at or near the top of many of the most prestigious honors in all of College Football. Add to that Five National Championships, a slew of Consensus All-Americans, a multitude of conference championships, and one of the best bowl records in all of football, and you would think every year is Nebraska's next chance at history. This year, those numbers don't mean quite as much as Big Red begins its first year in the Big Ten. Even though Nebraska does boast an overall winning percentage over Big Ten foes in the past (79-68-10), most of these wins can be accounted to Iowa (26) not picking up the slack for the conference.
So the question remains, what can we expect from Nebraska this year?
The Huskers are coming off an uneven 10-4 season in 2010 that saw some high highs, and low lows. Once again, Nebraska boasted a championship-caliber defense and an ugly offense. This year, Coach Tim Beck takes the reins of that ugly offense and is promising to install a fast-paced, no-huddle, attacking offense much like that of Oregon and Oklahoma. He has some starting pieces in Sophomore QB Taylor Martinez, Junior RB Rex Burkhead, TE Kyler Reed, and a crop of freshmen, including Jamal Turner (WR), Braylon Heard (RB), and Aaron Green (RB), who all have exceptional speed and athleticism. Still, question marks are dotting the landscape, and only time will tell if Beck's offense takes hold.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nebraska will start All-American candidates at every level. Led by soon to be All-Everything Jared Crick at DT, the Blackshirts are ready for the new challenges. A solid line, a deeper-than-it-looks linebacking crew led by Lavonte David, and a stout secondary being held down by Alfonzo Dennard should keep Nebraska in every game it plays. The Brothers Pelini are defensive masterminds, and when the Huskers come barreling through the Big Ten, you better believe they'll have their defenders ready. Much talk has been about the Husker's defense being oriented around the 4-2-5 Peso Defense to stop the spread, but don't overlook Pelini's history with a base 4-3 and a million ways to throw a defense at you. All of this will be moot if the offense doesn't score points.
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, when making your conclusions about the 2011 Big Ten Season, do not be bogged down by the talking heads on the WWL. Do not get downtrodden by every writer saying, "Nebraska this," or, "Nebraska that." Do not allow yourselves to wonder all the reasons Nebraska won’t win the Big Ten. Rather, think about all the reasons Nebraska could win the Big Ten this season.
The Huskers may be new to the Big Ten, but that doesn’t make them a new to football. Nebraska is bringing 121 years of history, championship-caliber resources and fans, and a pretty damn good football team over to the Big Ten. They bring back key playmakers on both sides of the ball, and understand the pressures of every team trying to take it to them. Of course, trying to stick it to you before you leave will be a little different than trying to take it to you as your joining. This team is built for the long haul and is at least two-deep at every defensive position. The Husker's offense may be a big question mark, but don't underestimate the speed that Pelini and Co. have recruited to be a part of Tim Beck's renaissance.
As you decide who you think will be hoisting up the yet-to-be unveiled Big Ten Championship Game Trophy in Indianapolis, ask yourselves why Nebraska won't win the Big Ten. There aren't that many reasons, and although Delany has gifted Big Red a daunting schedule, they should still line up nicely to make a deep run in the Legends division - a division that has multiple teams with question marks. When you look at all the facts, it's easy to see Nebraska as the Legends champion and quite possible this year's Big Ten Champion.
A. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
Wisconsin may be this year's logical pick for Big Ten Champion, and rightly so. They are a Big Ten tested team with a lot of experience and depth. With that in mind,the Huskers are this year's sexy pick for Big Ten Champion. In 2011, the sexy pick is where it's at.
NPR recently named Party Rock Anthem one of its songs of the summer because it set the tone for a good party. I, for one, didn't want to like this song being shoved down my throat like a bad vitamin, but the more I heard it, the more I couldn't help but love it. This song is one that gets your head moving up and down and makes it impossible for you to not smile (or go crazy). Nebraska gets you in much the same way. We have a vicious three-word hook - "Five National Championship", a good beat - the Blackshirts, and once you accept Big Red for what it is, you can't help but have a good time.
After a tumultuous offseason filled with scandal after scandal in the Big Ten, Nebraska brings a new attitude and a cool new look to the conference of conservatism. Party Rock Anthem teaches us that, "hatin' is bad." It may be easy to hate Nebraska because they sound redundant and are probably too corny for anybody to really admit to loving, but in the end, it's hard not to make them #1, and just like L.M.F.A.O., Nebraska is going to be on top of the charts when it's all said and done.
III. Emotional Plea
The Big Ten needs a new champion. This offseason proved as much, and even though it's hard to blame any one team (*cough* Ohio State *cough*), we can all agree that the B1G needs a new look, and Nebraska is ready to take that challenge head on. The Huskers may be the new guy, and while they don't have all the traditions down yet, they'll do their best to fit in.
Nebraska isn’t expecting everyone to roll over for them as they enter this season. There will be difficult games each and every week (Minnesota redacted from that statement). Still, before you go out and hate on the new guy, take a step back and think about how great it would be to have the Huskers holding up the BCS Championship Game trophy as red and white streamers rain down. The Big Ten champion leading the conference in a new era of domination over the SEC. Big Ten, you should root for your new member team, not jeer them.
A. The Staff Calls the Games
The staff sees Nebraska at 10-2 (6-2) with pretty much everyone assuming a loss at Wisconsin and a loss at Penn State. Even with both those losses, Nebraska should be in the driver’s seat for the Legends Division bid to Indy. If Nebraska loses early to Wisconsin, I predict an upset victory in the RCA dome, and a trip to Pasadena.
BamaHawkeye: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and MSU
Ted Glover: 11-1 (7-1) loses to Wisconsin
Jonathan Franz: 11-1 (7-1) loses to Wisconsin
Chadnudj: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Iowa
MSUlaxer27: 9-3 (5-3) loses to Wisconsin, OSU, and MSU
Ricardo Efendi: 9-3 (5-3) loses to Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Penn State
Paterno Ave: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State
KennardHusker: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State
Hilary Lee: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State JDMill: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State Graham Filler: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State
Hilary Lee: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State
JDMill: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State
Graham Filler: 10-2 (6-2) loses to Wisconsin and Penn State
For more in-depth previews of Nebraska with stats, analysis, and no Husker homerism, I highly recommend checking out Bill Connelly’s work here.