Team: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Head Coach: Bo Pelini (5th year)
2011 Record: 9-4 (5-3 Conference)
Overall Head Coaching Record: 39-16
The Nebraska Cornhuskers open up 2012 with nonconference games vs. Southern Miss, at UCLA, vs. Arkansas St. and vs. Idaho St. With offensive firepower in QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead, the Huskers should easily take care of these four opponents, even if it does mean several 70-63 shootout victories. Coach Pelini has no time to relax come week 5, the start of the Huskers’ B1G slate. Nebraska starts out with games vs. Wisconsin, at Ohio State, at Northwestern and vs. Michigan. Boldly, I predict the offensively-loaded Cornhuskers taking down the B1G-favorite Wisconsin Badgers to start their B1G season.
As I stated in my Illinois Fighting Illini Preview, I credit Russell Wilson with the majority of Wisconsin’s 2011 success. The Russell Wilson show at UW was a very unique situation, and Wilson proved to hold rare talent and leadership skills. Danny O’Brien, 2012 Maryland QB transfer with immediate eligibility and expected starter at Wisconsin, does not have the same skill set or leadership ability as his predecessor in Wilson. The drop-off at talent and intangibles at the QB position will undoubtedly hurt Bielema’s Badgers. As a result, I project loss #1 for the Badgers to come week 5 vs. a tough, experienced Cornhuskers team.
As to why I see the Spartans defeating the Huskers in East Lansing in week 10, the answer lies in Nebraska’s young defense. Nebraska ranked 7th in total yards allowed in 2011 and lose their top two defenders in 2012. As much offensive experience and talent as the Cornhuskers may have this year, their young defense and hothead QB (Martinez) will make their mark at some point…
According to Rivals.com, the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ 2012 recruiting class is ranked 25th in the nation and 3rd in the B1G. Scout.com rates 3 of the 17 Nebraska commits as 4-star rated players. Highlighting this group is 4-star WR Jordan Westerkamp of Montini High School in Lombard, IL. In fact, my high school (St. Francis in Wheaton, IL) is in the same conference as Montini, and I had the privilege of playing against Montini and watching Westerkamp in action. Although nearly switching his commitment to Notre Dame at the last minute, Westerkamp brings speed and unique athleticism to the Huskers’ receiving core in 2012.
Additionally in Nebraska’s 2012 recruiting class, the linebacker position was addressed, and rightfully so. Last year’s stud linebacker Levonte David will be missed, and the Huskers signed four LB’s in this 2012 class. Expect the Cornhuskers to be forced to rely on several of these youngsters to step up and learn just how physical the B1G can be…
Nearly all of the key departures for the Huskers come from the defensive side of the ball. The Huskers lose B1G Linebacker of the Year Lavonte David, B1G Defensive Back of the Year Alonzo Dennard and two-time all-conference recipient DT Jared Crick. If the accolades don’t speak for themselves, I’m not sure what else to say. Although I predict the Huskers to go 10-2 with their only two losses coming against the Buckeyes and Spartans, the inexperience on defense could very well catch up to them and disrupt their path to a BCS-bowl in 2012.
Overall Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 6-2
Offensive Team MVP: QB Taylor Martinez
Defensive Team MVP: DL Cameron Meredith
Week 6 Cornhusker-Buckeye Brawl Score: Nebraska 24 Ohio State 34
Previous B1G Summer Previews:
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Illinois Fighting Illini