When Bo Pelini arrived in Lincoln, the one thing Nebraska fans thought they would never have to question is the NU defense. After last season, though, the faith in the Blackshirts was shaken. Gerry DiNardo from the Big Ten Network believes Nebraska’s defense will make huge strides in 2012, but that will depend in large measure on the offenses it faces.
So let’s take a look at Nebraska’s twelve opponents for 2012 and see what kind of offensive threats they will pose for the Blackshirts.
It’s not a stretch to think that the FCS Bengals will struggle to move the ball against Nebraska. Idaho State is a home-game schedule-filler for Nebraska and a paycheck game for the Bengals.
Last year, Larry Fedora led the Golden Eagles to a conference championship and a bowl win. But graduation hit Southern Miss hard, and Fedora has moved on to North Carolina. There is still talent on the roster, but the transition combined with the graduation losses means the Eagles’ offense may struggle.
Gus Malzahn brings his experience as offensive coordinator for Auburn, where he helped direct Cam Newton and the Tigers to a national title. And he does have a Newton-like quarterback in Ryan Aplin to run his offense and give opponents difficulties. But, ultimately, the Red Wolves do have Sun Belt talent, which limits how effective their offense can be.
Silas Redd, Penn State’s most dynamic offensive weapon, is now at USC. While quarterback Matt McGloin returns at quarterback, the Nittany Lions’ offensive weapons will remain hampered and require the team to rely on defense to get by in 2012.
It’s very hard to rank UCLA’s offense with new head coach Jim Mora Jr. coming in and likely bringing a new offensive philosophy. Brett Hundley has won the job as the Bruins’ starting quarterback, and Rick Neuheisel did leave some talent in Westwood before he left. But until we see more, it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in UCLA’s offense.
MarQueis Gray is one of the most dynamic athletic talents in the league, and Jerry Kill is a good coach that has Minnesota’s program heading in the right direction. But the Gophers still have a long way to go in catching up to the rest of the B1G.
Kain Colter takes over the quarterback job full time in 2012, and his size and running ability will present opposing defenses with any number of challenges (just ask Bo Pelini about the kind of challenges Colter presents). But the Purples lose quite a bit of offensive talent around Colter, including standout wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, leaving the question of who will support Colter up for grabs.
No one questions that Michigan State’s defense is the best in the B1G. But replacing Kirk Cousins, arguably the best quarterback in the Spartans’ history, along with a tremendous amount of wide receiver talent will be a huge challenge. Andrew Maxwell has been impressive in the fall, and Le’Veon Bell looks ready to pick up the slack for Sparty’s rushing attack.
James Vandenberg is the best pocket passer in the B1G, and has a number of solid weapons including receiver Keenan Davis and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz to target. But the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God (also known as AIRBHG, who is a surprisingly good Twitter follow) has ensured that the Hawkeyes are going to struggle with depth and experience at running back.
Montee Ball was a Heisman finalist in 2011, amassing 1980 yards of total offense and scoring 39 (!) touchdowns. His backup, James White, is no slouch either, averaging over five yards per carry. Quarterback Russell Wilson has moved on to be the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, meaning Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien will be asked to lead the Badgers offense—which may consist of turning around and handing off to Ball and White quite a bit.
Braxton Miller opened eyes throughout the conference as a true freshman, throwing for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for 715 yards and seven touchdowns. The Buckeyes return Jordan Hall as a dangerous pass-catching tailback and Jake Stoneburner at tight end. And there is the little matter of Urban Meyer arriving in Columbus bringing his spread attack that has been successful at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida.
In 2012, the face of the B1G on offense is Denard Robinson. Shoelace has the chance in his senior season to put a real stamp on his legacy and lay the foundations for the Brady Hoke era in Ann Arbor. Adding in tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint (once Hoke decides what his suspension should be) and receiver Roy Roundtree, and the Wolverines look to have the most potent offense Nebraska should face in 2012.
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