Three games into the 2008 college football season, and Nebraska Cornhuskers fans aren’t quite sure what to make of their team just yet.
Bo Pelini has definitely energized the defense and made the unit more aggressive, but many were expecting bigger improvements given the opponents NU has faced. What was thought to be a weakness going into the season (the defensive line) has proven to be a strength, and what was expected to be a strength (the offensive line) hasn’t been.
In fact, the Nebraska running game has been underwhelming through the first three games. So where do the Huskers go from here?
Looking down the schedule, a case can be made where Nebraska wins six of its remaining nine games, including home victories over Virginia Tech and Kansas. A 9-3 season would be well-received in Husker Nation, and Bo Pelini would retain his status as a state icon. But a case can also be made for NU winning only four of the nine games (Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, and Colorado), resulting in a 7-5 record.
The Huskers’ ABC prime-time matchup with Virginia Tech a week from Saturday is a crucial game for the Big Red. A loss to the Hokies, followed by games against Missouri and at Texas Tech, could result in Nebraska with a 3-3 record after six games. This scenario would put an end to the Bo Pelini honeymoon phase.
Good news for Husker fans, though: Virginia Tech is beatable. Missouri and Texas Tech, on the other hand, will put intense pressure on Nebraska’s defensive unit and will require the Huskers' offense to score a lot of points to have a chance to win.
One sure path to keeping the score lower is for NU to produce a stout running attack. The Huskers have the running backs and the mobile quarterback, but will the offensive line step up when called upon? Nebraska should have a record of 4-2 at this point in the season.
The second half of the season features perennial cupcakes Iowa State and Baylor, as well as a road trip to national title contender Oklahoma. The Huskers will go 2-1 over this three-game stretch.
NU finishes the regular season with Big 12 North matchups against Kansas, Kansas State, and Colorado, with the possibility of going 3-0 in these games. NU will be bowling again regardless of the KU game result, with the Holiday, Alamo, and Cotton Bowls as potential suitors.
So what will it take to get Nebraska back on track and competing in the Big 12? Run the ball and stop the run...one of the oldest football clichés around.
Hard to tell if the Huskers truly have a running game, considering the opponents they have faced. The next three weeks will determine if they do, as the degree of difficulty increases dramatically.
Nebraska football fans, as knowledgeable as they are, know the Huskers aren’t where they need to be. Hopefully, over the next few games, Nebraska will get back to where it once belonged.