A Power Vacuum: Huskers Must Jump On The Opportunity

Josh KleinCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2010

2010, a college football odyssey.

Colt McCoy is gone, Stoops and crew have their own problems, Mike Leach has been ostracized and Mangino has been cut.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen it finally seems that there may be a power vacuum in the Big 12.

Never mind the Big 12, make that the nation.

Unless one is inclined to once again jump on the Ohio State bandwagon, or if you want to stick with Nick Saban and the Rolling Tide of Alabama, which most people will do.

However, throughout college football, there is no real clear cut number two.

And remember, it takes two to tango.  If Alabama is the favorite to win next year who is the number two?

Plenty of teams certainly have the "why not us" attitude and why not them?

So as a Nebraska fan I am forced to ask, why not us? 

Nebraska stood at the cusp of a Big 12 championship this year, shutting down a Texas team that couldn't even be shut down by the vaunted Alabama defense.

Yes, before you flood this article with comments, I do know Nebraska lost Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon, but head Husker Bo Pelini is an outstanding judge of talent, and apparently Nebraska should be just as, if not more talented on defense next season.

Don't ask me how, ask him, he said it.

That should be scary for the rest of college football.

With Pete Carroll's timely abandonment of USC, jumping ship with what seems to be impending NCAA sanctions against the football program the Trojans can't be considered a viable threat next season despite all the talent that they bring in.

But, of course, Trojan fans will also follow the why not us trend with whoever their future head coach may be.

Jim Tressel and Ohio State have finally won a Rose Bowl, but it was against Oregon, not USC and they still lost to the Trojans at home earlier in the year, leaving many to wonder if the Buckeyes have what it takes to play with the big boys.

How about Florida?

Well with Urban Meyer waffling, the loss of Tim Tebow, All-American tight end Aaron Hernandez leaving as well as super Defensive End Carlos Dunlap, the Gator's might not even be the favorite to win the SEC East next year.

TCU and Boise State will probably be shafted for their weak conferences even though they both have a ramped up out of conference scheduling next year.

The Broncos play both Virginia Tech and Oregon State next season, which could both help and hurt their cause.  If they get through the non-conference unscathed then they are probably on the fast track to the National Championship game, lose one though and they are out.

The Horned Frogs face a similar quandary with games against Oregon State and Baylor, both on the road.

Enough about non-automatic qualifiers though, the BCS teams with shots at filling in the power vacuum are as follows, Iowa, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and LSU.

All teams I am convinced that Nebraska could play tough given the chance.

However, the national landscape is not nearly as important as the conference set up for the Huskers.

Nebraska, despite being less than adequate on offense for most of the season, is one of only a handful of Big 12 teams with returning playmakers on offense.

Zac Lee and Cody Green both come back, but then again so does most of the offensive line, Rex Burkhead, Niles Paul, Brandon Kinnie and Roy Helu Junior.

The only other team with a similar amount returning next season on offense is Texas A&M.

And Mike Sherman still needs to find a defense.

In the Big 12 there is no clear-cut favorite, Landry Jones and the offense have a pulse, but it is light.

The Sooner offensive line was porous at best this season and they lose outstanding players such as Chris Brown and Adron Tennell.

Ryan Broyles is back but half the starters on defense will be gone.

This all adds up to what may be a rebuilding year for the Sooners. Ironic that their rebuilding year will probably yield better results than last seasons 8-4 effort.

Texas loses Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley. In other words, their offense.

They also lose three of five starters on the offensive line, possibly four if Kyle Hix declares for the draft.

With a sophomore quarterback at the helm and little running game to speak of in the last few years, Texas better hope that their offense finds a fill-in for playmaker Jordan Shipley or it could be a long year for the Longhorns.

With so many question marks regarding these two teams it opened the door for Texas Tech, but with Mike Leach gone and Tommy Tubberville probably toning down the Red Raider offense, they have lost significant steam going into the off-season.

Missouri would like to step up, but Danario Alexander is gone with no foreseeable replacement to his play making ability and it seems that the Tiger defense may be gone with Weatherspoon entering the NFL via graduation.

Next up to bat would most likely be Texas A&M, but massive staff changes have been made in the off-season, including some changes to the offensive side of the ball.

Jerrod Johnson is good, but can their defense resemble a defense this season? That's the real question.

Then comes the might Cowboys of Oklahoma State, which is losing their heart and soul Zac Robinson as well as Dez Bryant to graduation and the NFL, respectively.

Perrish Cox is gone and that means so is the Cowpoke's passing defense.

Next up is usually Kansas, but Mark Mangino is gone. Turner Gill is a fine coach, but with no Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Jake Sharp or Kerry Meier it will take a while for the former Husker player to piece together anything that may resemble a Big 12 team.

Insert Nebraska.

A team that went 10-4 last year despite winning two of those games for three quarters and fourteen minutes. Take away the turnover fest of an Iowa State game and you may be looking at a 13-1 squad.

Not too shabby for a team that lost its starting quarterback, two best receivers and top contributer at running back the year prior.

Exit Ndamukong Suh.

Enter Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler

Exit Phillip Dillard

Enter four-star JUCO commit Lavonte David and Eric Martin

Exit Larry Asante

Enter P.J. Smith

Exit Matt O'Hanlon

Enter the more athletic Eric Hagg.

Also, remember that Dejon Gomes, runner up for the newcomer of the year award for the Big 12 in defense in 2009 will be coming back as a reliable nickel corner.

Nebraska's defense may not be as daunting as Ndamukong Suh was last year, but shouldn't miss much of a step with the amount of players returning on defense.

But what about the offense?

With a year of starting under his belt and no guarantee of the same in 2010, Zac Lee will have to pick it up after his surgery because Cody Green may just overtake him in his time off.

Don't forget about redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez or Kody Spano, who may have been number two if not for a knee injury that took him out of the 2009 season.

But, for a second, forget about the quarterback battle. Because last season, Nebraska won ten games without a playmaker at quarterback.

This coming season, players like Roy Helu Junior, Rex Burkhead, Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie are going to be called on to be the playmakers on this offense.

And if the Holiday Bowl was any indication, they are all up to the task.

As you can see there is a power vacuum in the Big 12, heck there is one in the nation next season. If Nebraska wants to improve its national standing and recruiting they must seize this opportunity.

If Nebraska wants to return to national respectability and compete for a national title, 2010 is the year they must jump into the fray.

And it's possible.

In fact, I would have to say it's probable.  Nebraska may have one of the most favorable schedules in the Big 12 next season with big road games against Washington, Texas A&M and Colorado capping off the difficult part of the schedule.

Nebraska, could make that leap and leave programs like Kansas and Texas Tech behind in the land of mediocrity.

It's imperative that it come this next year though, for it is but a small window of opportunity for the Huskers.

Bo, now is the time for success, now is the time to rise into the top ten and stay there where we belong.  

Now, is the time of the Huskers!


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