In the USA Today's recent preseason polls the Nebraska Cornhuskers begin at ninth in the nation. No, not the Big 12, the nation.
It is no secret that Nebraska has fallen on difficult times as of late, but the addition of coach Bo Pelini and a stingy defense has given Husker fans hope for 2010. A hope that hasn't been real since 2001 when most believed Frank Solich would capture his first national title.
The hope is a subtle one. It's a hope, that if breathed on could fall flat on its face. It's a hope that could be lost in week three against a man named Jake Locker and team of up-and-coming Huskies.
But it's also a hope that could build strength, desire and tenacity with a win over Texas in October. All of this hope comes with a preseason ranking of ninth in the nation.
Last time Nebraska was ranked in the Top 10 at the beginning of the season was in 2002 when Jamal Lord lead the Huskers to a paltry 7-7 season, the first non-winning season since the 1960's. Since then Nebraska has been in the preseason Top 25 only three times finishing out of the Top 25 twice.
Last year Nebraska was ranked 24th to begin the season, they fell out of the Top 25 for six weeks until being ranked 22nd going into the Big 12 Championship game. After they dismantled Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday Bowl the Huskers finished the highest they have since the 2001 season: 14th.
Coming into 2010 Nebraska still has yet to beat a Top 10 team since 2001, and hasn't beaten a Top 20 team on the road since 2000. All of the sudden, without any victories of marquee nature Nebraska finds themselves in the Top 10 going into the 2010 season.
The question on most of the nation's mind is: Can Nebraska handle success?
Nebraska will most likely play only one Top 10 team in the regular season this year (Texas), unless Missouri goes on a run to begin the season and Texas A&M sharpens up an awful defense.
Last year Nebraska experienced relative success early in the year, and promptly lost two of the most pathetic games I've seen in Bo Pelini history. A blowout loss to Texas Tech and an eight turnover debacle against Iowa State.
The question then becomes how does Nebraska handle success that is given to them instead of earned?
Question marks abound on this Nebraska team, the quarterbacks, offensive line and safeties on defense are all cause for concern, yet ESPN picked Nebraska to 11-1 in the regular season.
So what is it that Nebraska fans and ESPN sees that isn't visible on paper?
What they see is coaching consistency. One cannot look at what Bo Pelini has done and wonder if he can win games without superior talent. He was outmatched against both Texas and Oklahoma and he had opportunities to win both games, and save for a kick out of bounds and a horse collar tackle he would have.
Then we saw what Pelini's coaching could do to opposing teams with less talent in the Holiday Bowl a few weeks later when Nebraska outcoached, outmatched, and outgunned the Wildcats of Arizona.
If you're a believer this year it isn't because of personnel or talent, but because of what Pelini has shown he can do in his coaching style.
However, be careful Husker fans, because Pelini coaches best when the odds are against him. He's expected to win this year, but hopefully he doesn't know that.
If Nebraska can win when expected this season, and they handle success better than a year ago. Watch out nation, you could be seeing red a lot sooner than you thought.