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2014 Closing Arguments: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Joe Robbins

Going into last year, there was a general feeling that between scheduling, some senior leadership, and a feeling of comfort in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers would be a team on the cusp of doing something great. Sure, they weren't going to go undefeated, but the defense had young playmakers, and that offense might be unstoppable. After the Wyoming game, that all changed quickly. Before last season, if you were to have told me that Bo Pelini would still be coaching after helming a meltdown vs. UCLA at home, leaked audio tapes where he said "F***  the fans", numerous blowups on television, a loss to Minnesota, a home loss to Iowa, and a resulting blowup in the final presser, I would have told you that Pelini had some black magic that didn't really make sense.

That all happened, and while it's hard to believe a new season with a fresh slate is just around the corner, this year probably leaves more questions than answers for everyone. Can Pelini coach the team that upset Georgia during bowl season or will he continue to top out at 4 losses? Can Tommy Armstrong put this team on his shoulders or will we be looking at backups this year? Can Ameer Abdullah and Randy Gregory live up to their preseason hype? I'm not sure what happens next, but let's look at the case to find out.

I. Case History and Opening Statement

A. Case History

This marks the fourth year of the Big Ten experience for Nebraska. The Seniors who graduate this season will have spent their entire playing careers going up against the likes of Iowa and Minnesota. The days of Colorado and K-State are long gone, and Nebraska really does feel like a B1G school these days. Even so, the transition still seems to be a work-in-progress, and there is no better illustration of that than last season.

In 2013, the Cornhuskers kept up their somewhat maddening streak of four losses. Sure, if you think about it in the bigger picture, that's really not such a bad thing. But, expectations were much higher. Fans, and many pundits, believed 2013 could or would lead to 10-2, or maybe they would do even better. Then the injuries started to pile up and Pelini started to get thrown under the bus, and you all were here and get the idea. The whole thing was a mess. The fact that Nebraska isn't starting from scratch this season is a testament to the new patience by still-new AD Shawn Eichorst, and the entire Nebraska administration.

With 2013 firmly in the rearview mirror, Nebraska looks to follow Tommy Armstrong into battle. Alongside him will be the Big Ten leading rusher from last year in Ameer Abdullah, and a talented core of young and proven receivers including the ever-entertaining Kenny Bell. Add to that a soon-to-be drafted early Randy Gregory - who will definitely keep more than his fair share of offensive coordinators up at night - and you have a good recipe for an interesting team in 2014. And hey, if we know what the outcome of the season will be, the least we can ask for is interesting, right? But we're getting ahead of ourselves...

B. Opening Statement

Ladies and Gentlemen of the OTE Jury, I come to you today to discuss the 2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers. As we embark on a new year of College Football, it feels right to discuss the consistencies that are Nebraska. As the old adage goes, there are a few things you can count on, death, taxes, and Bo Pelini losing four games a season. If it weren't so annoyingly true, that would be pretty entertaining. However, when life becomes predictable, one might wonder where the joy goes? Do we really appreciate things when they seem so blah?

I pose these questions to you today to establish a foundation for what I'm about to say next. Nebraska in 2014 will most likely be a moderately decent football team, learning on the fly, and will most likely finish the season with around four losses. Expectations above or below this mark overlook both blatant flaws and also signs of potential. Incredibly so, I believe it would be appropriate to put some conditionals on what will make a successful season in Nebraska this year.

With a difficult schedule, a brand new QB breaking in a system designed to make him successful, and what every pundit is talking about - a young O-Line, this Nebraska team could easily bottom out around six losses. Conversely, with the athleticism along the D-Line, the improvement of a diverse offense with multiple weapons coming back including an All-American RB, as well as improvement in recruiting and talent across each major position group, you could easily talk yourself into this team breaking the mold and winning ten games or so. The thing is, those two fighting forces will most likely result in another 9-4 season. But that's not all bad. This season can be successful for Nebraska in spite of the record if we see real improvement in each phase of the game. Like I've been saying all along, this will at minimum be a very entertaining football team with flashes of greatness at each level.

With away games at Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and two tricky non-con games in @Fresno State and Miami, there are more than enough places to stumble. If Nebraska can keep its composure and show growth? I'd like to think that will only setup this team for great things in the coming future. This year, though, is all about keeping perspective in check. Unfortunately, I'm just not sure perspective is something Nebraska fans will be good at. Only time will tell, so they say, but the clock is ticking for Bo to produce. More debacles, and this adventure may write its final chapter. Lucky for us, this season will be all about cats, so that's fun.

II. Discovery

A. What OTE has written about Nebraska this offseason

  • The Nebraska Cocktail Party Preview
  • The Smartest Guys in the Room: Bo Pelini, Cats, and Moving Forward
  • The Nebraska Potluck Part I, Part II
  • Corn Nation Visits OTE
  • The 'Great' Nebraska Apology Letter
  • B. What we can learn from pop culture

    Knock Bo Pelini all you want, but he knows something about cats...

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    III. Pending Docket

    I'm not going to sit here and tell you this is the most difficult schedule to have ever been created, but it would have been nice to have avoided MSU this year. Oh, and going to each of the division contenders' home field? Why that's just grand.

    Date: Opponent:
    8/30 vs. Florida Atlantic
    9/06 vs. McNeese State
    9/13 @ Fresno State
    9/20 vs. Miami
    9/27 vs. Illinois
    10/04 @ Michigan State
    10/18 @ Northwestern
    10/25 vs. Rutgers
    11/01 vs. Purdue
    11/15 @ Wisconsin
    11/22 vs. Minnesota
    11/28 @ Iowa

    III. Emotional Plea

    I'll be honest with you all. I don't think I have an emotional plea left in me. My hope for you all is that this year is one where we do not have too much consternation, gnashing of teeth, leaked audio tapes, or anything along those lines. In fact, in place of an emotional plea for this football team, I leave you with a video that give an emotional plea for a big part of this team over the past few years: Jack Hoffman

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    Oh, and if you feel so inclined, go find a charity that helps families fight this awful disease. Be that The Team Jack FoundationBHGP's Touchdowns for Kids, or any of the myriad of local and national groups that take care of these families and children each day. So that's my emotional plea for the day. Go do something good for others, and let's send good vibes towards all the kids and their families that are fighting each and every day. #TeamJack

    IV. The Verdict

    In a surprising twist the OTE writers pick Nebraska to go undefeated and... hahahaha... no. The group picks Pelini to end with four losses, which seems like a safe bet. The highwater mark is 10-2 with the low of 7-5.

    Writer Prediction
    Aaron Yorke 7-5 (4-4)
    Aaron Rench 8-4 (5-3)
    Green Akers 8-4 (5-3)
    Brian Gillis 8-4 (5-3)
    GoAUpher 8-4 (5-3)
    Ray Ransom 7-5 (5-3)
    MNWildcat 8-4 (5-3)
    DJ Carver 9-3 (6-2)
    MC ClapYoHandz 10-2 (6-2)
    Candystripes for Breakfast 10-2 (6-2)
    Eric Schulman 8-4 (5-2)
    Graham Filler 9-3 (6-2)
    babaoreally 8-4 (5-3)
    Jesse Collins 9-3 (5-3)
    Mike Jones 8-4 (5-3)
    GoForThree 8-4 (5-3)
    OTE Average 8.3-3.7 (5.2-2.8)