2012 Recap: Pure Pelini. Nebraska had another not quite put together 10-4 season. Half-full, they went 7-1 in conference and made it to the Big Ten title game. Half-empty, they were beaten soundly in the bowl game, steamrolled for 70 points by Wisconsin in the B1G Title Game and their one-loss was giving up 63 to Ohio State. It was a good season, but not good enough for a once-elite program searching for its first conference title since 1999 and BCS appearance since 2001.
Offense: This unit should be productive. Taylor Martinez comes back for his senior year. They are flush at tailback. The top three receivers return, including Kenny Bell and his ghillie suit. They replace two starters on the offensive line, but return two All Big Ten-caliber guys on the right side. With Tim Beck’s play-calling, the Cornhuskers improved from 65th to 26th in yards per play in 2012. This year, they could take a further step forward.
Defense: Nebraska has a very solid secondary. The trouble is they play in the Big Ten, where tough games are won on the line. The Cornhuskers have been woeful up front (96th in yards per carry allowed in 2012). Turning over six of the front seven this year, improvement is not probable. Ndamukong Suh may walk through that door, but he’ll be handing out iPads.
Black Shirts: The Cornhuskers will be wearing actual black shirts on the field against UCLA.
Marriage of Convenience: Is Bo Pelini doing well enough to stay on at Nebraska? Is Nebraska a good enough job to keep Bo Pelini tied down long-term? Neither side seems especially happy with this relationship.
Ceiling: 12-0. Offense lets them roll over a soft-ish schedule. They fend off UCLA, Northwestern and Michigan State at home, upset Michigan on the road. We find out how good they are against Ohio State and in the bowl game.
Floor: 7-5. Nebraska gets beaten by UCLA, then falters during November. Games at Penn State and against Iowa at home may be tougher after getting banged up three consecutive weeks against Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.
Prediction: 10-2. Very similar to last season. Nebraska turns over their initial schedule. They lose to a maturing Michigan team on the road. Drop one other game in November. Perhaps, they reach the Big Ten title game. The postseason defines how this season is remembered.
[Photo via Huskers.com]