Nebraska is officially ready to tear up the Big Ten. Or, perhaps, the Big Ten is ready to tear up the Cornhuskers.
So much to contemplate.
The conference’s newest member is bracing for a new challenge and nothing will ever be the same. Preseason publications suggest Nebraska will rough up its football brethren in its debut season.
Is that true?
Perhaps, but here are a few details.
First, Indiana will NOT play Nebraska this season, which is a good thing from a win-loss standpoint, although a trip to Lincoln would be cool because it’s a great college venue.
The Huskers’ first event as an official member is the football media days/Kickoff Luncheon event in Chicago at the end of the month. Their first athletic event will come on Aug. 19 when they host women’s soccer powerhouse North Carolina. The women’s volleyball team gets its shot when it plays at New Mexico State.
That’s fine, but the debut the nation will be interested in comes Sept. 3 when Nebraska hosts Chattanooga in football and …
Hold on! We got carried away. The debut the nation REALLY wants to see will come on Oct. 1 when the Cornhuskers open Big Ten play at Wisconsin, then follow that the next week with a home game against Ohio State on Oct. 8.
Conference schedulemakers did not do the newcomers any favors.
Nebraska also gets to go to Minnesota, Penn State and Michigan. That’s a lot more travel than it was used to during its Big 12 days. It all will come via air rather than by bus. As a result, the Huskers expect to spend an extra $200,000 per season on travel.
So you know, Nebraska is in the Legends Division along with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. It is favored to beat up on those teams (well, maybe not beat up MSU, but still win) and qualify for the first Big Ten football championship game on Dec. 3 at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Huskers figure to have the conference’s best running back (Rex Burkhead), best tight end (Kyler Reed), best defensive lineman (Jared Crick), best linebacker (Lavonte David) and one of the best defensive backs (Alfonzo Dennard).
Crick, David and Dennard are All-America prospects, by the way. The 6-6, 285-pound Crick had 9.5 sacks last year. He is a beast.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez is a strong runner (965 yards, 12 touchdowns last year) and an inconsistent passer (10 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 1,631 yards). That was a big reason why Nebraska was so one dimensional. It ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in rushing and last in passing.
That has to change, and with a new offensive coordinator, it likely will.
The defense is very, very, very good. It held opponents to 17.4 points last year, and with seven returning starters, it might be better
In fact, Athlon Magazine’s college preview issue rates the Huskers as having the Big Ten’s best defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs.
Coach Bo Pelini is a firery guy, and he boiled over Nebraska’s slow finish (it lost three of its last four games, including a stunning 19-7 bowl upset to a Washington team it had throttled during the regular season). He shook up his staff and has four new assistant coaches, that new offensive coordinator (Tim Beck will run the attack and coach the quarterbacks) and a re-assigned assistant coach.
His defensive coordinator happens to be his brother, Carl.
Overall, there’s plenty of talent returning, and in a recruiting class rated No. 17 in the nation.
Bet the house that Nebraska makes the Big Ten title game. That means IU only has one way to play the Cornhuskers this season -– win the Leaders Division and advance to the championship game.
Yes, we know. Indiana winning a football championship is unlikely. Still, it’s July, the month of football dreams. Go ahead and dream, and don’t let reality start messing things up until September.
To answer a reader question, Van Coleman is very much alive and rating prospects at hot100.hoops.com.