Welcome to the Big Ten.
For years, Big Ten fans have longed for the opportunity for their team to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, one of the most popular teams in all of the midwest. Can they hang with the big boys? On the surface, it certainly appears so. Though they are a different brand of football, Nebraska’s option offense will bring another potent ground attack to the Big Ten conference. New offensive coordinator Tim Beck is expected to pick up the intensity on that side of the ball for the Huskers, who also return three of the nation’s top defensive prospects in Jared Crick, Lavonte David, and Alfonzo Dennard.
Understandably, the Huskers saw a decrease in production from their defensive line without Ndamukong Suh last year, but for 2011, the defensive front line should be an area of great strength. Every starter and backup will return this season except for Pierre Allen, who has moved on to the professional level.
The key for the Huskers is going to be at the quarterback position. Freshman sensation Taylor Martinez showed he can definitely make plays with his legs, but if the Huskers get down quickly, can he bring them back through the air? In all of last season, Martinez only threw 34 more passes than he had rushing attempts, and 12 rushing touchdowns compared to 10 through the air. Nebraska fans will not have too much to worry about in this regard, as their offense is “Taylor” made for Martinez’s skill set.It’s been speculated though that Martinez will have serious competition this Spring with Cody Green and Jamal Turner, who is generating a ton of hype among Nebraska circles right now.
Despite Nebraska’s extreme popularity already, they will be more heavily scrutinized than ever. Where a game previously against a team like Oklahoma or Texas was considered huge, one cannot even quantify the magnitude of Nebraska’s schedule this year, which features, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa already. They are certainly not getting anything handed to them in their new conference.
If the Huskers can get consistency from the quarterback position (meaning the Taylor Martinez of the first 7 games last year) they could come into the Big Ten and win it outright right away. They are a very deep team from top to bottom, and they have the personnel to hang with all of the running that goes on in this conference, specifically on the defensive line.
A huge factor in Martinez’s consistency will be the play of the offensive line. The Huskers will lose three key components of their offensive line. Can the Huskers live in the spotlight, and if they can, how long can they do it?
It will be surprising if Nebraska doesn’t feel some of the pressure of moving to a prime time conference. They have an extremely tough conference schedule and the uncertainty facing their quarterback situation is troubling right now. That being said, Nebraska is one of the Big Ten’s newest teams and already one of its top contenders for a BCS bid.
Watch out for the Nebraska Spring game on April 12th.
Projected Finish: 10-2