With its first game of the season on Saturday, the Nebraska Cornhuskers began their 2012 campaign with aspirations of winning the Big Ten in their second year in the conference.
The only way the Cornhuskers can win the Big Ten is if junior quarterback Taylor Martinez progresses and becomes the talented passer that he can become.
The process of becoming a pass-first, run-second quarterback began on Saturday, as Martinez picked apart the Southern Miss pass defense.
Martinez threw for 354 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-20 victory over the Golden Eagles, but more importantly he only had six carries for 10 yards. If the Cornhuskers can limit Martinez to less than 10 rushes per game and instead use him primarily as a passer, he will improve more quickly than he has in the past.
By allowing Martinez to throw the ball 34 times on Saturday, it appears that Nebraska is ready to give the junior quarterback full control of the offense not only in the run game, but in the passing game as well. The most impressive part of Martinez's performance was the fact that his 354 yards in the air were a career high.
In fact, Martinez didn't even reach 300 yards passing in any game in 2011, and only reached 200 yards twice. The five touchdowns tied a career high for Martinez, as he reached that feat back in 2010 as well.
If Nebraska plans to let Martinez throw more this season than in previous years, this Cornhuskers team can go far. The non-conference schedule is very favorable, as is the conference schedule.
The two toughest opponents for the Cornhuskers this season (Wisconsin and Michigan) play Nebraska in Lincoln, which will make things easier for Nebraska.
By the end of the regular season, Nebraska could very well be 10-2, which would likely put them in the Big Ten Championship game. If that's the case, Martinez and Co. could be playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.