College Football Preseason Top 25: #22 Nebraska
The Nebraska Cornhuskers get ready for a second season of Big Ten play and Bo Pelini’s charges have some scores to settle.
The Huskers will be expected to win all four of their non-conference games but Nebraska has at least scheduled some tests for the first month of action. Southern Miss won’t go down easy in Lincoln while a road trip against a new look UCLA team will provide a solid test. Business picks up quickly once Big Ten play begins. The Wisconsin Badgers come to Lincoln knowing the Huskers will be hungry to avenge last year’s beat-down. A week later it will be Ohio State looking for revenge when they welcome Nebraska to the Horseshoe. A tricky road game at Northwestern will be followed by a home clash with Michigan. Nebraska’s loaded conference slate concludes with road dates at Michigan State and Iowa either side of home games with Penn State and Minnesota.
Taylor Martinez will once again be a threat with his feet and a liability with his arm for the Huskers. The junior quarterback will have his best receiving corps yet, with veterans Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, and Ben Cotton all great options. Rex Burkhead is poised to have a breakout year this season. The powerful running back was a force for Nebraska last season and don’t be surprised by some Heisman hype for the senior in 2012. On defense the Huskers have 8 returning starters but lack the star power of recent seasons. Bo Pelini hasn’t had much difficulty in developing defensive difference makers during his tenure so expect a relatively under-hyped name to step up this season. College Football betting fans should also pay heed to Nebraska’s stout special teams. Brett Maher was an All-Big Ten punter last year and had punts in excess of 60 yards over three straight games.
In four seasons under Pelini, the Huskers have won 8, 9, 10, and 9 regular season games. Don’t expect much deviation from that in 2012. Barring a shock, Nebraska should enter Big Ten play at 4-0 and I like them to go no worse than 3-1 in home games. The road slate however is not for the faint-hearted. A 2-2 split is the most likely result but 3-1 is within reach here. That would leave Nebraska on course for a 9-3/10-2 regular season. In terms of talent the Huskers have the players to win every game but Martinez simply hasn’t shown the consistency required against top class opposition. Look for the Huskers to be in the mix for the Legends Division title, in what promises to be a crowded race.