I hate to say it, but it's hard to be extremely confident in the 2013 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Sure, there is a lot to be excited about. But excitement and confidence are two extremely different things.
Next season's version of the Huskers should be a whole lot of the same—fast paced, sometimes explosive offense that can score in bunches and a rubber band defense. It's difficult to really justify how the defense can be better. The positive is that there is so much uncertainty surrounding a horrific D that loses quite a few starters.
And I really think the end of the year record will also be more of the same.
But assuming Bo Pelini gets a third chance at the end of 2013, there is a lot to be excited about in 2014, and I can say that with confidence.
Here is why.
The Taylor Martinez saga ends
It's hard to remember a more polarizing figure in Nebraska's long and storied history. Martinez has been electrifying and erratic. He has silenced critics with some extremely proficient passing displays in certain games, only to throw some of the most brain-numbing interceptions in the next. One week, he is one of the best Huskers ever, then taunted mercilessly the next.
"T-Magic" or "T-Tragic"—I can go on and on.
And while Martinez has brought a lot of big-play ability to Lincoln the past three years, his departure could also bode well for Big Red. His play has exemplified Nebraska football recently—exciting but not entirely stable.
Enter two highly talented young quarterbacks—Tommy Armstrong and Johnny Stanton. Armstrong will be a redshirt sophomore by the time Martinez is gone and Stanton will either be a sophomore or redshirt freshman. Both fit the dual-threat mold better than Martinez, and either one should add an element of stability.
It's difficult to really measure what might happen with these two, but you have to think either one will be a significant upgrade. Whoever is at the helm, they will get some very talented, experienced help.
The truly scary thing about the 2014 Huskers can be summed up by the following playmakers who all return (barring NFL departures): Kenny Bell, Ameer Abdullah, Jamal Turner, Braylon Heard and Imani Cross. Think about that for a second. Every one of those guys logged significant snaps this past season. Think about them in 2014!
Add to this mix the talented youngsters who are currently freshmen or highly touted recruits coming in, and there are about 10 to 15 reasons why 2014 will be one of the best Nebraska offenses—ever.
Will Nebraska cure its Defensive woes by 2014?
I will admit—this one is hard. But there will be a lot of young players getting their first licks next season, and their learning curve is going to have to be fast.
Nebraska needs the most help within the defensive line and linebacking corps, and there is a bevy of talent looking to fill those holes this coming season.
Even if the new crop of players are bigger and faster, the thing they lack the most is experience. 2013 will be the year this defense learns learns to play together and on a big stage. It will take time for them to gel.
Barring any major surprises, the 2014 schedule is as soft as a down pillow filled with marshmallows. You don't believe me? Take a gander and tell me I'm wrong.
The two toughest games on the schedule, Michigan and Penn State, take place in Lincoln. The last non-conference foe, Miami, comes to Lincoln as well—and they are hardly the Hurricanes of yesteryear.
This might actually be the most favorable schedule the Huskers have had in a long time, and it's hard not to think a National Championship run is on the table for 2014.
One thing is for certain—the offense will be there. That looks as if it is here to stay. The defense just needs to be serviceable and disciplined.
Will it happen? That is anyone's guess—but Pelini has got to put a charge in this D.
Hold tight, everyone. 2013 could be just as infuriating and disappointing as the last couple of years, but there is bright light at the end of the tunnel—all you have to do is wait another year.