Another season is upon us and with it brings the eternal hope of our triumphant team grasping the Crystal Football. Yes, I will be deluding myself for at least one more year because the CFP trophy pales in comparison to the Crystal Football.
This year is a transitional year for the Huskers, and as such expectations will be measured. The simple fact is changing coaches rarely works out for the best immediately. Things can be better and things can be worse, but very rarely can they be the best.
What do we know?
Not a lot about what we’ll see on Saturday’s. We know that the team will look different than last year, but that the current roster will dictate a number of similarities. We know that Mike Riley is changing the style of the program. We know that this program means a lot to everyone involved.
Yeah, I know I’m a sap about Husker sports.
Most previews start out with a bit of a refresher on the last season, and who am I to break tradition. Since this is a ratings website, let’s look at what the huskers did last year from my stand point. My own algorithm rated the Huskers 27th in the nation. I think that is reasonable based on the results posted by the team. The Bo Pelini normal of 4 losses held up again. The high point of the season was the win against Miami and the low was Wisconsin again. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s continued demolition of Pelini defenses is probably what sealed his own fate. I was on the fence about the firing. On one hand, we were getting routinely taken to the woodshed by a division rival. That’s not going to garner you many friends in Lincoln. On the other hand, the team was 15 points from being 12-1. So what was the right answer? I don’t know. I don’t know that there was one.
The section where we just want to move on to today!
That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
The New Year. The New Staff. The New Team.
So we have a new staff, a new team, and zero losses for at least another couple of days. That brings the happy right back today. The questions that we have in both this team and this staff won’t be answered on Saturday, nor this year. That is still years away, but right now there is cause for optimism in Nebraska.
The losses are obvious. A coaching staff, a first round talent, and a running back who ranks among the best to ever play at Nebraska. The gains are unknown. The incoming class looks decent, but who can judge this early? Yet, optimism is there. Perhaps because we hear and see good things from the program and the media. Perhaps because we remember who is still in the program and what they bring to the table. Perhaps because it’s football and it’s Nebraska.
The schedule looks fairly manageable. Brigham Young comes to town on Saturday for what should be a tough opener. Both teams currently reeling a bit from significant losses, but the advantage looks to be Nebraska’s if only slightly. We go to Miami in what will most certainly be a hype filled weekend. Wisconsin and Michigan State come to Lincoln, and the Badgers are going through a coaching transition of their own. Nebraska will look to repay a loss to the Gophers on the road, and Iowa will be in Lincoln. Northwestern has given Nebraska more than a few white knuckle moments, but Nebraska has normally come out on top even if it did require a Hail Mary to do so. The other games are South Alabama, Southern Miss, Illinois, Purdue, and Rutgers. By the strange oddity of Big Ten scheduling, Nebraska still hasn’t played Indiana.
The road will probably be bumpy at times. That’s usually a given for teams in the Huskers’ position. I think 7-9 wins is probably a fair guess based on the schedule.
It’s always a question mark with college football. Most players take a year or more to develop into a reliable option at any position and that means that turnover is a problem for every team. This years Huskers should be a comparatively experienced group and were it not for the coaching changes and the loss of Abdullah, it would be considered one of the more exciting teams of recent note. I believe that we’ll see much of what we expected from this team.
I await Saturday with significant interest.
I believe the strength of the team will be on offense as it was last year, but that the difference between the two sides will be much less than that team. The 2014-2015 group was statistically the 14th best squad at scoring points and the 51st at stopping them by my own metrics. This year I would expect the defense to stay level or improve slightly and the offense to regress.
The goal of the team will always be conference and national championships. To beat the teams in front of you. That’s what the reality is for Nebraska. The times may have changed, but this is still Nebraska. Excellence is expected. I have seen the best team of a generation wear red. I have seen coaches and players lift three crystal footballs. My goal for this year is leave every game without being embarrassed. This team doesn’t need to win every game for that to happen. They just have to show up and compete.