Before the season started, the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team was getting a lot of love by preseason magazines and polls alike.
Many projected the Huskers to be a top 10 team as well as rather large favorites to win the Big Ten in their inaugural Big Ten football season.
Six games into the season, a team so full of huge expectations and promise is now in a much-needed bye week before tackling their season ending six-game stretch.
Now with the dreadful news that preseason All-American Defensive Tackle Jared Crick is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, the Huskers are in need of the bye week to not only lick some wounds they received in a humbling loss at Wisconsin, but also narrow escapes and struggles against literally every opponent they have faced this year.
Before the season started, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said this was potentially the best defense that Nebraska would field since the Pelini brothers have been roaming the sidelines in Lincoln. A pretty heady comment, considering the 2009 Husker defense led the nation in scoring defense.
So how out of line was Carl Pelini's comment? Well, consider the following statistics gathered from the official NCAA college football statistics database.
Total Defense: 59th in the country, 372.67 yards per game (8th in the Big 10)
Scoring Defense: 65th in the country, 27.17 points per game (9th in the Big 10)
Rush Defense: 80th in the country, 167.83 yards per game (10th in the Big 10)
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Pass Defense: 37th in the country, 204.83 yards per game (7th in the Big 10)
Some fairly humbling and shocking numbers, and a huge slap in the face for a proud and storied Blackshirt defense. Not hard to understand why Bo Pelini has not handed out the storied Blackshirts this year to a single member of the defensive unit (although Lavonte David should be holding all eleven at this moment).
Now while we can look at all the doom and gloom that we see on the defensive side of the ball, we do have some sparkling things to discuss on the offensive side of the ball.
The Huskers just completed the biggest comeback in the entire history of Nebraska football after coming back from a 27-6 deficit, at home, to the Ohio State Buckeyes just this past Saturday.
Not only did the defense come up with some critical turnovers and critical stops, but the offense simply turned a switch and began clicking on all cylinders against a very good defense from Ohio State.
The offense was clicking so well that they finished the game on a 28-point run of unanswered points against the Buckeyes to complete the biggest comeback in Nebraska history.
Taylor Martinez was accurate and tossing the ball around the yard as if he were Vince Ferragamo. Rex Burkhead was bulling over opposing defenders like he was Mike Rozier. Quincy Enunwa, Kenny Bell, Kyler Reed, Brandon Kinnie and Jamal Turner were playing like—well, pretty much like no other receiving corps in the history of Nebraska football.
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Not only were they making scintillating catches against the aforementioned solid defense from Ohio State, but they were laying some critical and bone-jarring blocks in the secondary, keying some of the gashing runs from Burkhead and Martinez.
Needless to say, the Tim Beck "experiment" has been a pretty darn good success thus far. After sporting two of the more dreadful offenses in Nebraska football history in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Tim Beck has completely turned around the offense to garner a spot as the 26th-best scoring offense in the entire country.
So what is the ending story for this year's edition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers?
Hard to really say right now. The loss of Crick is a devastating blow. Especially for a defense that is nearly as skeptical as the 2007 Kevin Cosgrove-coached outfit that has gone down as the worst in Nebraska history.
Thankfully, the offense has shown that it can score some points and can win a shootout. The Huskers should also be thankful that they really only face a single explosive offense on their remaining schedule—the Denard Robinson-led Michigan Wolverines in the Big House come November 19th.
The goal for this football team is to appear in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. That goal is still in sight. While the final five games are going to be tough considering all the defensive woes that this team faces, there isn't a single team remaining on the schedule that the Huskers can't beat. That includes the high-powered, Robinson-led Michigan team.
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First thing's first. Time to utilize this bye week to get some players healthy and to make solid use of this two weeks and the virtual bye week in preparation for a woeful Minnesota team the Huskers face in their return to the gridiron on October 22nd.
Then the Michigan State Spartans come calling to Lincoln in what will be the latest "must-win" for the Huskers in a critical five-game stretch of must-wins.
Time to fix the defense, Brothers Pelini. Time to rev up this offense even more and to keep adding wrinkles that open up mismatches for a set of very special specialty players at the running back, wide receiver, tight end and quarterback positions.
Time for the Huskers to live up to some of the preseason hype.
11-1 or bust. Indianapolis, here come the Huskers.