I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
Last year Nebraska entered into uncharted territory and embarked on a journey that would carry them to the wilds of Wisconsin, the monument of Michigan, and the Situation at State College. Before the season even began, expectations were high for the Cornhuskers of Nebraska, but as we all know, sometimes expectations only bring sad faces. Despite wondrous highs such as defeating Michigan State in dominating fashion and epic comebacks like that of the Ohio State variety, Nebraska often struggled to get in tune with its new conference slate losing early and somewhat often, at least by Nebraska standards, on its way to a 9-4 season.
With no Spring Game due to the storm from hell, Cornhusker fans have been forced to sit with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths and with anticipation that this might be the year that Taylor Martinez takes the vaunted, "Next Step." After every pundit pounded its chest stating that Martinez has regressed, the defense has no identity, and that Nebraska is still a few years away, fans have become a bit... agitated. Calls for Pelini's head are heard across the state and the wonderful story that began all happy last year has become more of a nightmare in many ways.
Still, would you count this team down and out? With returning stars on both sides of the ball, this is no team to overlook, and even though they may not be National Championship material, this is still a team to take seriously.
B. Opening Statement
There are generally two frames of thought on Nebraska going into this year:
The first, and by far the most prevalent, is that Nebraska is a fierce rushing offense with a propensity to stall at inopportune times but able to make big game plays in a flash plussed with a so-so defense that can play the pass but is too small for the run. This group believes the Huskers will only go as far as Martinez' arm and generally believes Nebraska is destined for a regression from 2011's rookie run through the Big Ten. With a difficult and tricky schedule at every turn, including Non-conference traps vs. Southern Miss, @UCLA, and vs. Arkansas State, Nebraska will undoubtedly lose at least four games and could very well lose five before losing a 6th in a bowl appearance.
This is a completely plausible scenario.
The second frame of mind is one that focuses less on the inability for the defense to stop the run and more on the advances that Nebraska has made in a year. With far fewer new preps the coaching staff, led by one of the best defensive minds in the game, will be able to create more attacking defenses and better suited offenses for this year. Adding to that a slightly less daunting away slate and grabbing home games against the two favorites for the B1G crown will allow the Cornhuskers to sneak away with anywhere between 11-1 and 9-3. Even with any of those three records, Nebraska will be in the running for the Big Ten Conference Championship and the Rose Bowl will definitely be on the table.
Again, this is a completely plausible scenario.
And so, the question becomes which scenario seems to be most likely? What would evidence say? Why would a person believe Nebraska anything from 7-5 all the way to 11-1?
The answer to these questions lies solely on the shoulders of one man: Bo Pelini.
Now, I understand that many of you may not believe he is ready for this responsibility. Sure, his antics on the sideline have turned off the purists in you and while he may not be the Vest, Pelini has been remarkably consistent in his coaching career. After turning around a sinking ship in one year at Nebraska, Bo Pelini created a defense suited for the high flying spread offenses of the Big XII. That did not translate well to the Big Ten however, and now he had to spend the past year and a half devising new plans to crush its adversaries.
You may not believe in this man, but this man has won at least 9 games every season and for the time being, he seems to be on a mission; namely, to win a conference championship. This does not seem to be a man to trifle with.
A. What We Have Written About Nebraska this Offseason
- A Nebraska Cocktail Party Preview
- OTE's Nebraska Potluck Featuring Braised Lil' Red
- Nebraska's Smartest Guys in the Room
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
Hot Fuzz (7/10) Movie CLIP - The Battle for Sandford Begins (2007) HD (via movieclips)
From top of what was perceived to be the most difficult division, the London Metro Police Force, to what he always thought was the minor leagues, Nicholas Angel is forced into the small town of Sandford. Our hero Nicholas is paired with simple folk who like to live clean lives, but have a dark competitive spirit and will stop at nothing to keep their noses clean. Aiming to always do right and to uncover the truth, as well as save the day and represent good in his new division, Nicholas must fight his way against the local powers that be... literally.
Nebraska is in a similar situation. Many Husker fans believed that the transition from the vaunted Big XII and all of its high flying offense and near ESSSS EEEEEE SEEEEEE SPEEEEEEEEEEEEEED would be too much for its new digs to handle. As a former hotshot that had made more than a few of its colleagues look bad at times, it was time to move on. However, as the first act moved along, the perception was not reality and this was one mean crowd. Losses at Wisconsin and Michigan and a surprise loss to Northwestern dampened the spirits of the Cornhuskers, but they are ready now and plan on stopping at nothing to reclaim their dominance they once knew.
Not unlike Nicholas Angel, Nebraska is locked and loaded for this next showdown and this time they mean business.
III. Emotional Plea
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. I ask you to close your eyes for a moment. Now, imagine this scene if you will. The day is December 1st, 2012 and you are standing in Lucas Oil Stadium. There are zeroes across the board and red and white confetti is raining down from the rafters. As you look around, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends, enemies, and everyone there is standing in awe of the next great era of Nebraska football coming into focus.
At the center of it all is the rugged Senior Running Back, Rex Burkhead. As he holds his good buddy Jack Hoffman, a child battling cancer, his teammates embrace him and cannot wait to see him sitting in the front row in New York during the Heisman ceremony. This could not have happened to a better team, a better person, and a better time. Nebraska is back and the notion that the Big Ten would just be a rollover conference for the SEC and Big XII to punch in the stomach is gone. With three teams in the Top Ten and six in the Top 25, this conference is embarking on a new era.
Now pause for a moment and think about how much better football is with a historical powerhouse like Nebraska winning it all.
As you open your eyes, ask yourself just how great this could be. Are you willing to tell me that this is not good for the conference? Is this not good for the morale of all Big Ten fans across the nation after the ugly year we have endured? Friends, I implore you to think about the ramifications of hating Nebraska and instead of rooting for its demise, cheer for its return for the return is beneficial to all. Nebraska is not here to make war, but rather to unify the conference and add more power to the ranks. This moment is why Nebraska is here.
A. My Take
To be perfectly honest, while I wax poetic about Nebraska, I went into the picks expecting to have Nebraska go 9-3 this season. After the mess that was 2011 at times, and the proof that Pelini can be quite susceptible to head-scratcher losses, I just could not pick any better. Then a funny thing happened, I finished my picks (in a week by week manner) and Nebraska came out 10-2. Look, I feel bad about it too, but I think that the schedule at home pans out nicely to pull off a 2-2 record against the power brokers this year (Winning at home v. Wisconsin and Michigan, and Losing away at Ohio State and Michigan State). While there certainly are many trap games, when making logical picks, it becomes difficult to choose Nebraska to lose any more. I fully intend to see this prediction beaten down by midseason.
It is also worth noting that my scenario ends up having Michigan State win the division via tie breaker and losing to Wisconsin in the B1G CCG. Nebraska sits pretty at 10-2 and 'jumps' Michigan State for the second conference BCS Bowl Bid so that next year pundits can say Nebraska is back like they are saying Michigan is back. Sorry Sparty, it really sucks for you in this scenario.
B. The Staff Calls the Games
There is a general consensus that Nebraska will finish at 9.33-2.66 (5.42-2.58) this season to ensure another year of whining from the Husker faithful. Most everyone sees Nebraska losing at Ohio State this season and there is a general consensus that Nebraska will lose at Michigan State. Honestly, I could see any of the combination of scenarios, minus the one where Nebraska loses to UCLA... I hope that doesn't happen.
Ted Glover: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @OSU, @MSU, Michigan
MSULaxer27: 10-2 (6-2) Losses: @OSU, @MSU
Baba O'Really: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @OSU, @NU, @MSU
Mike Jones: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @OSU, @MSU, Michigan
The Writer Formerly Known as Paterno Avenue: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @OSU, @MSU, Michigan
JDMill: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @OSU, Michigan, Penn State
Brian Gillis: 9-3 (6-2) Losses: @UCLA, @OSU, @MSU
Hilary Lee: 10-2 (6-2) Losses: Wisconsin, @NU
Jonathan Franz: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: @OSU, @MSU, Michigan
Graham Filler: 10-2 (6-2) Not sure on the losses, so lets go ahead and guess.. @OSU, Michigan
C.E. Bell: 9-3 (5-3) Losses: Wisconsin, @OSU, @MSU
Jesse Collins: 10-2 (6-2) Losses: @OSU, @MSU