Aug 24, 2012

2012 Big Ten Previews: Nebraska with Corn Nation

We’re previewing the college football season with the help from SBNation.com. Today we discuss Nebraska football with Corn Nation.

Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title since 1999, and if the Huskers want to represent the Legends Division in the Big Ten Championship Game, they will have to weather a challenging mid-season stretch beginning with Wisconsin at home on Sept. 29. The six-week gauntlet also includes two difficult road tests at Ohio State and Michigan State, and a matchup in Lincoln against Michigan.

2011 Record: 9-4

2011 Bowl: Capital One Bowl, Loss vs. South Carolina, 30-13

2012 Bowl Projections:

History in Orlando:

01-01-91 Florida Citrus Bowl, Loss vs. Georgia Tech, 45-21
01-02-12 Capital One Bowl, Loss vs. South Carolina, 30-13

Q&A with Corn Nation

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Salt Creek and Stadium: Running roulette.

dpm917: New Adventures

Mike: Unfinished business.

Jon J: FCC fine.

If you could pin last year’s Capital One Bowl loss on one thing, what would it be?

Salt Creek: Loss of composure after the Hail Mary that shouldn’t have converted at halftime.

dpm917: Also, the lack of depth and inability to handle SEC speed and strength, especially after Dennard was kicked out of the game. Thought USC would have had trouble with their biggest playmaker also gone, but turned out to be just the opposite.

Mike: That Hail Mary. It turned the scoreboard and turned momentum.

Jon: What Mike said.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

Salt Creek: Ohio State. If this team can go into the Horseshoe and come out with a win, it’s going places.

dpm917: I’d make a strong case for Michigan St. as well. Assuming health, it will probably be the most talented team Nebraska plays, it’s in East Lansing and it’s a divisional game. Not sure it’s the toughest, but it probably is the most important.

Mike: Wisconsin. The Badgers still have Montee Ball and the B1G trophy. I think Michigan caught a few breaks last year, Michigan State’s offense is decimated, and Ohio State still needs another year of seasoning.

Jon J: The National Championship game. I can’t believe we made it, but I’m worried we don’t have the horses quite yet to beat USC.

Bigger impediment to Rex Burkhead’s Heisman campaign: new starters along the offensive line or midseason revelation that he is some kind of half-man, half-untackleable-smashing-machine?

Salt Creek: OC Beck has indicated he wants to pass the ball more. While Burkhead would be the checkdown receiver in most cases, Martinez has shown a difficulty to find his checkdown receiver.

dpm917: Yeah, if he is outed as half man, half robot and then rendered ineligible, I think that would be a significant blow to his Heisman campaign. I actually think an improved passing game could help Burkhead on a couple of different levels. It should open the running game more and allow Rex and co. to have some room to make plays that perhaps haven’t been there as much as NU fans would like the past few years. Also, there were several plays missed last year by Taylor’s inability to find Rex in that checkdown situation Salt Creek described. If all the work that Martinez put into his passing game is beneficial, Rex could be as big a recipient of that improvement as anyone (see the game tying touchdown play vs. Ohio St.). The development of the offensive line will certainly play a significant role in that as well.

Mike: As much as I love Burkhead, he won’t have the highlight reel long touchdown run that the other Heisman candidates will He’s solid, dependable, but not flashy enough to be a serious Heisman candidate.

Jon: Nebraska doesn’t have an offensive line that will overpower our opponents the way they used to, so the only way that defenses will be kept honest – kept from keying on Burkhead is by offensive production being distributed to other players, particularly the receivers. Bottom line – if Nebraska is going to be successful it will be because a variety of players are contributing. Therefore, no real Heisman campaign for Rex.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Salt Creek: Best case, Nebraska runs the table and has a date with the SEC champion LSU in the 2013 MNC game (and wins, of course). Absolutely worst case, coming off an upset loss against Southern Mississippi, Nebraska completely falls apart during the UCLA game and never recovers, ending up 1-11 (we’re not losing to Idaho State) and missing the post-season for just the third time in four decades of play. (Or whenever that bowl record started.) Realistic worst case is that Nebraska ends up 7-5 and loses whatever bowl game they get picked for. We spend another long off-season in discontent.

dpm917: Best case, they take care of business at home (something they haven’t done since 2001), split the Ohio State and Michigan St. games and face, presumably, Wisconsin in the B1G championship game at 11-1. Win that and head to the Rose Bowl with an outside chance at the title game. Worst case: the offensive line doesn’t develop, the defense can’t find ways to replace the production of David and Dennard and can’t stop anybody and struggle to a 6-6ish record. Bo Pelini faces serious questions about his job and his patience (most specifically with the media) faces its biggest test to date.

Mike: Best case is like Salt Creek says: run the table and head to Miami to play an SEC team (Alabama?) for all the marbles. Worst case? There are no off-dates with the conference schedule that Nebraska faces. Well, except for Minnesota and maybe Penn State, post sanctions. So a loss to UCLA in the non-conference schedule sets up a disappointing run as the Huskers lose to Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Iowa…sending shudders of five years ago as the Big Red goes 5-7…and that’s home for the holidays, probably with a coaching search.

Jon J: This is a trick question because there is no difference. I want to go to a bowl game with my wife. She says she won’t go without the kids. The kids will want to bring a girlfriend, boyfriend, other friends, and I end up being extorted to take 20 people. I can’t afford that. I stay home, swearing at and throwing things at my TV. Again. It’ll be the same way forever, you know, which means if I’m ever going to get to a bowl game, I’m going to have to fake my own death and go by myself.

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