Nebraska Football: Why the Huskers Could Prove Preseason Expectations Wrong
An unofficial poll of 24 Big Ten Media members has Michigan selected as the favorite to win the Legends Division of the Big Ten Conference.
Nebraska was selected to finish third in the Legends Division behind Michigan and Michigan State.
Many Nebraska fans are losing faith in the team’s ability to compete for a championship. Most of the blame is centered on quarterback Taylor Martinez’s ability to lead the team.
If you are one of the members of Husker Nation who is losing faith in the Big Red, don’t abandon the ship just yet. The Cornhuskers may surprise people in 2012.
Here are some reasons why the Cornhuskers could prove preseason expectations wrong in 2012.
Michigan Has All of the Pressure
Last season, Nebraska was the center of attention in the Legends Division of the Big Ten Conference. This year, everyone is talking about Michigan.
When there is pressure to succeed, sometimes college athletes have a hard time living up to expectations. We will see how Michigan deals with the pressure of being the favorites in 2012.
It does not help that Michigan has a brutal schedule. The Wolverines play Alabama, Air Force and Notre Dame in their non-conference schedule. The week before they head to Lincoln to face the Cornhuskers, Michigan has to play its rival, Michigan State.
It will be interesting to see if the Wolverines' star quarterback, Denard Robinson, can remain healthy through such a difficult schedule.
If something were to happen to Robinson, it would open the door for Nebraska to the Big Ten Championship game.
16 Returning Starters
Nebraska lost some key starters from its 2011 team. The Cornhuskers should be able to overcome the absence of defensive tackle Jared Crick and cornerback Alfonso Dennard, but the loss of linebacker Lavonte David will leave a hole in the middle of the Blackshirt’s defense.
Nebraska does return 16 starters from its 2011 team. The one thing that the Cornhuskers lacked last year was depth. Having 16 starters back in addition to numerous players who saw playing time last year will help Nebraska compete in a physical Big Ten Conference.
Leadership in Martinez and Burkhead
The one topic that head coach Bo Pelini preached at the Big Ten media days was leadership.
The 2012 Cornhuskers have leaders in the locker room who can lead the younger players through difficult situations. Running back Rex Burkhead has always been known as one of the team’s leaders, and according to Pelini, quarterback Taylor Martinez is also ready to take on a role of a leader of the Cornhuskers.
Last season, Nebraska was inconsistent on offense. A lot of that had to do with the team becoming familiar with offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s system. Now that Burkhead and Martinez have had two seasons to learn the system, look for a more consistent offense from the Cornhuskers.
More Physical Defense for Big Ten Play
If you look at Nebraska’s 2012 recruiting class, the one thing that stands out is that the Cornhuskers focused on stockpiling talented players on the defensive side of the ball.
Two players who will contribute immediately for the Cornhuskers are linebacker Zaire Anderson and cornerback Mohammad Seisay. Both players are junior college transfers. Nebraska does not recruit junior college players to sit the bench.
Last year, Nebraska’s defense wore down at the end of the season. The 2012 team does not have the star players that the team in 2011 had, but it does have more depth. The depth will help keep the players fresh at the end of the season and able to be physical with other Big Ten Teams.
Usually, when expectations are low, the Cornhuskers perform well. I know the water looks rough ahead, but don’t abandon the ship quite yet. Let’s see how the 2012 season shapes up before we as fans start criticizing the Cornhuskers.
Follow me on Twitter @HuskerMagic