Joe Pasquali, our resident college football analyst, is back again this year to cover NCAA college football. He has completed a team preview for every team in the Big Ten. What can Nebraska accomplish in their second season in the Big Ten?
Expectations were high on Nebraska going into the 2011 season coming off of an impressive last year in the Big 12. Their first season in the new Big 10 went well but didn’t live up to the high expectations of Cornhusker nation. Optimism is still high in Lincoln, but I don’t think this team is ready to unseat the top of the Big 10 just yet. The schedule is more kind, they get two of their three toughest games at home (Wisconsin, Michigan) in prime time 8 PM slots and have a joke of a non-conference schedule (Southern Miss, UCLA, Arkansas State, Idaho State).
About as one dimensional of a team as you see in the Big Ten, Nebraska has always been proud of a great rushing offense and little else. Rex Burkhead returns for his senior season as one of the nation’s top running backs (1,357 yards last year, 17 TD’s). Along with a 100% healthy Talyor Martinez, one of the better running QB’s around, this offense will continue to pound the ball. First team all-conference selection Spencer Long (G) anchors and offensive line which will have three new starters in 2012. They’ll have four easy games to gel before conference play starts, and if they can, Nebraska will put up impressive numbers on the ground again.
Replacing key defensive players will be a tough task for Nebraska in 2012. Linebacker Levonte David was the backbone to the Cornhusker defense and this year’s team appears to be going with quantity over quality. The staff has pledged to have more depth to the defense this year, using JUCO transfer Zaire Anderson, Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley. The secondary gave up some big plays in big games last year (Wisconson, Michigan) but will only improve if Nebraska can get more pressure on opposing passers. Nebraska only had 21 sacks last season, 10th in the Big Ten.
Special Teams (A+)
Brett Maher is a stud. Well, as much of a stud as a kicker/punter can be. Maher was all conference as a kicker and punter last season, along with being a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza award (for the nation’s top kicker). His ability to nail field goals and pin opponents deep with great punting will be a huge help to Nebraska and could be the difference in big games.
Bo Pelini is a good coach and is entering his fifth year at Nebraska (39-16 overall). The offensive will improve under another season of Tim Beck (2nd season), but can the defense? John Pacuchis takes over the blackshirts and hopes to bring back the toughness of Cornhusker D.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 9-3 (3rd in Legends)