So the AP Poll came out and agrees with just about every other preseason prognosticator for college football: Nebraska is a Top 10 team.
The consensus is that Nebraska will win the North Division of the Big 12. Some learned fellows even put Nebraska as a dark horse to win it all. The Sporting News labels junior defensive tackle Jared Crick the best player this coming year in any position. Isn't there a Heisman winner returning this year, or something like that?
I'm a life-long Nebraska fan. I've spent many seasons defending the team's rankings, their pre-conference schedules, their rightful spot as National Champions (I'm looking at you Penn State and Michigan) and even their designation as one of college football's all time greatest programs.
So with all of this fluster over the 2010 edition of the Huskers I just have to say:
Ever since head coach Bo Pelini declared Nebraska "back" after the 33-0 shellacking of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl it seems like everyone who has a professional opinion on college football agrees.
And I want to believe. I seriously want to believe.
But let's take a look at the cold, hard facts:
- Nebraska defeated exactly 0 teams in the final AP or Coaches Top 25 for 2009 and had a middling final strength of schedule at number 52 in the nation.
- Nebraska could have started off conference play in an insurmountable hole if not for an otherworldly 27 point fourth quarter come-back at Missouri.
- There is uncertainty at QB, a somewhat important position in the offense.
- The Huskers lost the greatest defender in college football over the past decade - perhaps the best tackle ever - in Ndamukong Suh.
- Humiliating home losses to Iowa State and Texas Tech marred last season's campaign.
- Over half of Jared Crick's sacks for the year occurred in one game, against a very bad Baylor offensive line.
Sure, the Cornhuskers showed some real progress towards the end of the year with a strong performance against Texas in the Big 12 championship game and the blow-out bowl victory. And it's a standard belief that a coach's third year in a program is usually their break-through year - if they ever have a break-through (now I'm looking at Bill Callahan).
Fortunately the Husker's coaching staff has the mindset and ability to keep expectations in check. Pelini's tough, prove-it-to-me attitude permeates the entire culture of the program and he appears generally unimpressed with the preseason platitudes surrounding the Cornhuskers.
I'd love to see a national championship on Nebraska's way out the Big 12 door. But I'd settle for a one less loss than 2009 and one step closer to a return to a BCS bowl.