Peering Into My Crystal Ball

Jennifer MercerCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2010

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 30:  Eric Martin #46 of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers celebrates after a defensive play during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl against University of Arizona Wildcats on December 30, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Cornhuskers defeated the Wildcats 33-0. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Peering Into My Crystal Ball


I hope that everyone had a wonderful, and safe, 4th of July.  And since it is July, we’re close enough to the start of fall camp that now is as good of time as any to peer into my crystal ball and forecast how I think the Huskers will do through their 12 game regular season.  Keep in mind these are my thoughts so if you’re a fan from another Big 12 school, and you think differently, that’s absolutely fine—tell me about it in the comments section.

09/04/10 Western Kentucky.  Did you guys know that last season W. Kentucky went 0-12?  This isn’t really a game, it’s more of a glorified scrimmage against a team that, try as they might to win, face an uphill battle of such monumental proportions it makes Kansas State’s battle to look masculine in their gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) pride purple pale by comparison.  Western Kentucky might be the Hilltopers, but in this game they might as well be called the Whipping Posts because that’s about what they amount to.  W. Kentucky’s chances to come into Lincoln and pull off the upset…1% (or less).   

09/11/10 Idaho.  I think it’s great that the Huskers are playing a team from a state whose major claim to fame is potatoes.  Which is interesting because the time it takes to cook french fries, about 3 ½ minutes, is probably about how long the Vandals will be in this game.  I wish we could be playing Boise State here but I digress.  Don’t get me wrong, Vandals coach Rob Akey has done an admirable job making Idaho somewhat respectable in the WAC—they did defeat Bowling Green in dramatic fashion last season in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl.  But the level of competition from Bowling Green to Nebraska is akin to walking a flat surface to climbing K2.  Idaho’s chances to come into Lincoln and pull off the upset win…15%.

09/18/10 @ Washington.  This will be the Huskers first true test of the 2010 season.  Washington has a great QB in Jake Locker, he’s a senior, has a great arm and although he prefers to find receivers to throw to, he can take off and run if necessary which poses a problem for any defense.  How good can the Huskies be this season?  Well a serious run at a Pac 10 title is certainly within their reach.  Head coach Steve Sarkisian is building something special up there in Seattle and although they went 5-7 last season the moment everyone remembers was their unexpected upset of the University of Sleazy Cheaters, U$C.  The question for Washington is how good do they really want to be: Can they focus, week after week and bring it like they did against U$C, or will they play soft like they did against the Irish in ’09?  Chances of Washington winning…50%.

09/25/10 South Dakota State.  No offense to fans of South Dakota State, but I’m actually embarrassed that the Huskers are playing this game.  Holy buckets, even Bill Snyder, who is renowned for scheduling weak non-conference opponents, would decline to play these guys.  All I’m going to say is thank God the 2010 non-conference schedule is the last one created by former Athletic Director Steve Pederson.  The sad thing is if that clown Bill Callahan was still our head coach, and his incompetent BFF Kevin Cosgrove was still the (and I use this term loosely) defensive coordinator, we’d have an 90% chance of losing to the Jackrabbits.  And afterwards we’d be subjected to a press conference in which Cosgrove would whine about how, “…against a Pop Warner team like the Jackrabbits there’s only so much you can do.”  Again, I’m sorry to digress.  The Jackrabbits chances of winning this game 5%.  Nebraska could have a 60-0 lead—at half time.

10/07/10 @ Kansas State.  The Wildcats are the first conference opponent in Nebraska’s last season in the Big 12.  I’ll say one thing about Grandpa Snyder, he is able-somehow, to consistently put return guys into punt and kick-off returns that make them a dangerous threat to score a touchdown.  Brandon Banks fits that bill as well.  Kansas State also brings to the table a very physical, down-hill, running game which provides a unique challenge to stopping in the spread, pass happy Big 12.  There are two keys to beating KSU: 1) contain the QB and 2) out-physical them.  In Bill Snyder’s offense you need to stop the QB from being able to run because if his QB can run, then they can pick and choose when to throw and that makes them dangerous.  Last year, KSU came into Lincoln and scored three points.  This year they might fare a little better because of being at home, but in the end I don’t think they’ll win.  KSU’s chances at winning, 40%.

10/16/10 Texas.  I’m going to state this right off the bat: Nebraska will more than likely lose this game.  That’s right folks you heard it here first—a Nebraska fans saying we’re probably going to lose to Texas--again.  Nebraska will lose because one, or more, of the following will occur: 1) one of our players will make a bone-headed error late in the game: see Correll Buckhalter, Terrence Nunn, Adi Kunalic and/or Jammal Lord, 2) late in the game Texas will be on the beneficial receiving end of several very questionable pass interference calls and/or 3) the clock operator will simply add as much time as needed for the ‘Horns to win.  All angry, hateful and bitter anti-Texas sentiments aside, this will be, for the money spent on a ticket, the best game we’ll see in the Big 12 this year.  The ‘Horns have a tall order replacing Colt McCoy who started for four years.  I’m not buying the Garrett Gilbert for Heisman stock just yet.  I think he’ll be a fine QB when it’s all said and done but ’10 will be his first season as the de-facto starter and first year starters at QB always struggle. And I’m also not buying the notion that Texas’s defense will be down after losing Sergio Kindle and Earl Thomas among others.  Texas’s defense will be just as strong, just as fast and just as physical as it has ever been.  Texas recruits their own state extremely well and fortunately there is enough superstar talent coming out of the high school ranks every year to keep other schools, like Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M stocked to the brim with elite prospects.  Chances of a Texas win…70%.

10/23/10 @ Oklahoma State.  The ’10 Cowboys of Oklahoma State, I believe, are headed for the bottom of the Big 12 south standings.  If you haven’t sold your T. Boone Pickens stock yet you better get on it before it crashes.  Oklahoma State lost Dez Bryant and Zac Robinson to the NFL/graduation and those two guys were the team and the offense.  I believe it was their game against Colorado last year that Zac Robinson was hurt and couldn’t play.  The #2 QB started the game and he did not look good.  OSU still won, but looked really shaky in doing so.  In summary, having to replace key skill position players who were multi-year starters, combined with a defense that’s merely average equals about a fourth place finish in the Big 12 south.  The question is, can the OSU running game pick up the slack?  There’s certainly some talent in the backfield to do so, but without the threats of Bryant and Robinson opening up the running lanes will it happen?  This will be another interesting game for the Huskers and it represents a unique challenge because if you take the Cowboys lightly you will lose.  Chances of an Oklahoma State win…35%.

10/30/10 Missouri.  This is, for all intents and purposes, for the Big 12 north title.  Blaine Gabbert is a fine QB who did well in his first full season as the #1 guy and he’ll get better in his 2nd full year as a starter.  And hopefully there won’t be another monsoon in this game.  I look for Missouri to come into Lincoln with their A+ game and give the Huskers a hard time.  Blaine Gabbert will find some open receivers and he will have some success, but I don’t think he’ll have the kind of success necessary for the Tigers to come into Lincoln and win.  The key for the Tigers will be their ability, or lack thereof, to run the ball between the tackles.  If Missouri can run the ball they have a legitimate shot.  In fact, Missouri is probably the only team in the north that actually has a shot at beating Nebraska this year.  In the end though, the game is in Lincoln and Missouri typically does not play well there.  Chances of a Missouri win…40%.

11/06/10 @ Iowa State.  This is the game I want Nebraska to win 100-0.  All this off-season I’ve had to hear about how the Huskers lost to the Cyclones at home.  Yes, when your team goes minus 8 in turnovers there’s a 99% chance of a loss.  What’s weird is that even with all those ridiculous miscues, if WR Niles Paul hangs onto the ball, Nebraska scores a TD and wins the game despite going (what would have been) negative seven in turnovers.  Bottom line, if ISU were to lose eight turnovers to Nebraska they’d lose by 70 points minimum.  I expect the ‘Clones to start the game fired up, ready and imagining they can win; but it will not happen.  The chances of them being on the receiving end of another -8 performance by the Nebraska offense is about as small as a grain of sand.  I think head coach Paul Rhoads has done a great job in Ames.  I think if he stays at ISU they could become a consistent 7-8 win squad with maybe a 9 win season sprinkled in every now and then.  But let’s not kid ourselves people, that win last year at Nebraska was a fluke, an aberration, an anomalous event that defied all logic and reason.  If there’s one game on the Huskers schedule that could properly be called a revenge game this is it.  Chances of an Iowa State win…20%.

11/13/10 Kansas.  The Kansas Jayhawks will be a very solid team in the Big 12-just not for a couple of years.  Former Nebraska QB Turner Gill left the cold plains of Buffalo for the cold plains of Kansas.  He inherits a team that lost the triumvirate of Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, in addition to RB Jake Sharpe.  In essence Kansas will need to replace those play-makers in addition to learning new schemes on both sides of the ball—which does not bode well for the blue boosters in Lawrence.  I will say this, starting in ’11 it will be much easier for me to root for Kansas due to Turner Gill’s being there and not having to play them every year.  Now the Jayhawks do have a 250 pound running back in Toben Opurum that gave Nebraska fits last year.  The kid is a power running bullish type who should be able to provide KU with some punch on the ground.  Also, Kansas is going to have to get better along both interior lines if they want to ascend into the upper reaches of the conference.  Chances of a Kansas win 37.87602%.

11/20/10 @ Texas A&M.  This game has every potential to be a buzz-saw type of game for the Huskers.  A&M has the talent to win on any given Saturday.  The question, at least as I see it, is how will their QB (Jerrod Johnson) play week in, week out this season?  Most of us remember his stellar performance against Texas last year.  Unfortunately most of us also remember the unexpected loss to Colorado.  How can the Aggies get the snot knocked out of them by a mediocre team like Kansas State and then come back and knock the snot out of a quality team like Texas Tech?  A&M is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma.  They have everything: the tradition, the facilities, the fan support, the money, location--they need to be a consistent force to win the Big 12 and to be in the talk for potential national title contenders every season.  But they are a consistently mediocre football team and I’m wondering why.  Any Aggie fans that read this, you’re more than welcome to offer an explanation.  Chances of a Texas A&M win… 50%.

11/26/10 Colorado.  Oh man, what’s that awful smell, is that Ralphie being BBQ’d?  No, it’s just Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins’s butt being roasted from sitting on the hot seat.  Seriously though, Colorado makes their final trip to Lincoln as Big 12 members this season and this game should be epic. On paper there’s no way Colorado wins this game.  However, the games are played on the field and in that regard, the Buffaloes have a chance—slight though it may be.  The Buffs have a quality RB in Rodney Stewart and when they are focused, like they always are against Nebraska, they can play some decent football and actually beat someone (cough…Texas…cough…A&M…cough).  I firmly believe that Colorado’s continuing mediocrity is because they really only care about beating two teams: Nebraska and in-state rival Colorado State.  For the rest of the teams on their schedule, the Buffs merely go through the motions and that’s why they are a perpetual 5-7 or 6-6 ball club.  I think that when the ’11 season dawns that Dan Hawkins won’t be there.  Of course with them defecting to the Pac-10 and having to pay exit penalties to the Big 12, I doubt they have the financial resources to pay those fines and buy out the remaining contract for Hawkins--which would be the only reason Hawkins would be retained for ’11 after another 6-6 season.  Chances of a Colorado win…30%.

In summary, Nebraska could be 12-0 heading into the final Big 12 title game--it is possible, but not very likely. 

I see Nebraska’s 2010 season, with all things being relatively equal, as such:

* One sure fire loss (Texas)

* Three that could go potentially go either way (Washington Missouri, Texas A&M)

* And the rest where the Huskers should win. 

Best case scenario is, I think, 11-1 while worst case is another 9-3 season. 

It is entirely possible though that the Husker could beat Texas, Washington, Missouri and A&M, all the potential trap/tough games, and then slip on the proverbial banana peel(s) against Iowa State, Colorado and/or Kansas State. 

The biggest question for Nebraska this season is how much better, if any, will the offense be?  If the Husker offense sputters in 2010, like it did in 2009, expect another 9-3 season.  However, if the Husker offense starts rolling ’10 could be a very special, and memorable, season.