National analysts and pundits heap praise on Jared Crick and Prince Amukamara. The season’s first USA Today Coaches’ Poll ranks Nebraska ninth. The Cornhuskers are being tabbed as national champion dark horses.
Is all of this hype warranted?
Nebraska’s 2009 offensive woes and losses in defensive personnel have been well documented. The Cornhuskers are quite content to let the nation think what they may, positive or negative. Their schedule suits them nicely for a memorable season.
Let’s examine just who on Nebraska’s slate offers them anything from a sure-fire win to a nail-biter or even a loss.
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SDSU went 8-4 last season, including a 61-48 shootout against eventual Divison I-AA runner-up Montana. Unfortunately for SDSU, this is not Division I-AA.
Running back Kyle Minett is the heart and soul of the Jackrabbits’ squad. He is even a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top offensive player in all of Division I-AA.
That said, a cupcake’s a cupcake. Score one for Nebraska.
Willie Taggart brings a squad that has yet to win a game in Division I-A. Former Hilltoppers head coach Dave Elson was promptly shown the door, and Taggart, the former Stanford running backs coach, has been brought in.
Western Kentucky’s chances in the Sun Belt Conference may have improved in 2010, but a trip to Lincoln isn’t going to boost morale to start the season.
Nathan Enderle, a North Platte, Nebraska native, gets a chance to play in Memorial Stadium—more than likely not in the colors he had originally envisioned.
The Vandals are actually a scrappy bunch, and Enderle’s no slouch himself. While capable of putting up a fight, Idaho’s chances of coming out of Lincoln with a win are slim to none.
If Dan Hawkins is still with this team by the time they reach Lincoln on Nov. 26, it may come as a shock.
With Hawkins sporting a record of 16-33 as the head coach of Colorado, fans have become angry, if not apathetic, and boosters want either results or a change of scenery in Boulder.
The Buffaloes celebrate their 1990 national championship’s 20th anniversary on Oct. 2 this year when Colorado hosts Georgia. The game may also be Hawkins’ last stand.
Second-year head coach Paul Rhoads is no fool. Defeating Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since 1977 took every bad break the Cornhuskers had in them.
He knows that not only will Nebraska be interested in having a win over the Cyclones; they want to win the turnover battle as well.
A trip to Ames is often a game that could spring a trap. Rhodes even has a very talented quarterback in Austen Arnaud, but a two-game winning streak over the Cornhuskers isn’t in the cards.
Three things are nearly guaranteed when the Kansas Jayhawks visit Lincoln for more than likely the last time for a while:
Head coach Turner Gill will be applauded by the Cornhusker faithful;
The Jayhawks will give their all to put Nebraska on the mat and pull out a victory over their coach's alma mater;
Nebraska will win.
Kansas suffers far too many losses in personnel to make a game of Gill’s first trip to Lincoln as an opposing coach. On the bright side for Cornhusker fans, they may have a new favorite Big 12 team in 2011 immediately. Assuming the conference remains intact, that is.
Last year’s drenching in Columbia was circled and underlined by both Tiger and Cornhusker fans. After trading blows of inefficiency on offense due to several factors, Nebraska’s Zac Lee rivaled thunderbolts with passes that would eventually strike down Missouri.
This year, former Cornhusker quarterback commitments Blaine and Tyler Gabbert travel to Lincoln. The weather might be nicer, but the Cornhuskers look to put Gabbert and his cohorts through the wringer again. The Missouri-Nebraska Bell looks to stay with the Cornhuskers for an extended period.
Many Cornhusker fans look to Stillwater as one of Nebraska’s potential “trap games” in 2010. OSU has a two-game winning streak over the Cornhuskers. The last two times Nebraska has visited, they have also lost.
The crowd may be the Cowboys’ biggest weapon against Nebraska this year with the loss of such key players as Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant. Oklahoma State usually gives the Cornhuskers all that they can handle, and personally I expect that trend to continue.
In the end, though, Nebraska should be able to walk into the Cowboys’ house and walk out with a win.
This game is a tricky one. Running back Daniel Thomas managed 99 yards against Nebraska’s stifling defense in 2009 at 5.2 yards per carry. With the shuffling up front and expectations of Jared Crick and the Blackshirts’ rush defense, Thomas’ abilities allow the Wildcats to think upset.
Added to Thomas’ talents, Bill Snyder’s team faces the Cornhuskers as an ESPN Thursday night telecast. Contests such as these usually prove to be extremely exciting and have provided wild finishes and unforeseen outcomes.
Here is where most fans and analysts agree on either the potential for a slip-up by the Cornhuskers or an eventual loss.
A&M’s reputation for the 12th man and quarterback Jerrod Johnson’s abilities are an intimidating combination. The question is, which Johnson will show up?
He has shown flashes of brilliance at times, confusing decision-making at others. To make matters worse, up to three freshmen may start on his offensive line.
That aside, the Cornhuskers will have to remain composed and play focused to walk out of College Station victorious.
The defining moment for the 2010 edition of Nebraska football closely resembles 1997’s. The Cornhuskers and Huskies both know that the Battle in Seattle holds high stakes.
If Nebraska triumphs, the cornerstone is laid for a legitimate BCS Championship run. If Jake Locker and the Huskies are the victors, they could be well on their way to a Cinderella season.
Both teams will have their boxing gloves on for this one. The team that gives that first inch may very well end up taking an entire mile.
Oct. 16 means quite a bit to Cornhusker fans, if that wasn’t already apparent.
Nebraska followers want to see their team win every game, just like every other fanbase. A win over Mack Brown’s Longhorns in Lincoln during their last season of Big 12 play would be especially satisfying though.
Even though Texas loses players at key positions such as Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, and Sergio Kindle, they remain stacked with talent. It’s no secret that the Longhorns have had Nebraska’s number either. If the old “Sooner Magic” of Nebraska’s rivalry with Oklahoma could be bottled, one might think that Texas bought in bulk.
The 2009 Big 12 Championship Game is still fresh in the minds of both Nebraska fans and players. The day that the game’s date was announced, it was the hottest ticket in town. Hotels are booked solid for miles around Memorial Stadium.
Texas comes into this game having lost only once to the Cornhuskers since the inception of the Big 12 conference. To Nebraska, nothing would be sweeter than to put this game in the win column during their farewell tour. To the Longhorns, being the fly in Nebraska’s ointment yet again would be amazing.
Both sides are well aware of the stakes. The hype will only intensify as the game gets closer. Will it cause either team to slip up beforehand?