Okay, so I'm going to change up the format from the previous posts. I was trying to get a little too cute with them, and if there's one thing I'm not, it's cute. Here's just a straight up look at each game on the slate for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Who They Play
8/30 Florida Atlantic
The Owls were 6-6 in 2013, but won their last four games of the season and scored an average of 37.8 points in those last four games. Oh, wait, the combined record of those last four opponents was 11-38. If you think FAU has a chance in Lincoln, you're either a diehard Owl fan (if there is such a thing) or you're crazy...I suppose those are one and the same, though.
9/6 McNeese State
These guys are an FCS team that started 2013 with a 53-21 thrashing of South Florida. That's bad, because South Florida had only two wins last year, and one of them was not against the Cowboys. Don't confuse McNeese Sate with some other run-of-the-mill FCS teams, though; this one went 10-3 last year and has been a solid program at that level. Cody Stroud played out his eligibility at the quarterback position, and his departure has opened the way for former Kansas State QB Daniel Sams. Because Sams is moving from FBS to FCS he will be allowed to play right away, but I don't expect him to bring victory for the Cowboys.
9/13 @ Fresno State
Derek Carr took this team to 11-2 last year, but has since moved on to the NFL. Taking his place will probably be Brian Burrell, even though the senior played in just five games in 2013, completing 7 of 12 passes for 51 yards. Mountain West Connection has a good look at the Bulldogs after the spring game and think the running game could be "dynamic".
9/20 Miami (FL)
One of the historically good programs has had its ups and downs in recent years, but went from six and seven wins in 2011 and 2012 to a respectable nine wins in 2013. Al Golden seems like he can be the guy to restore some swagger back to the "U". However, the team will face some adversity right from the get-go with QB Ryan Williams tearing his ACL back in April. The 'Canes will now turn to unproven guys in redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and sophomore Gray Crow. The good thing for Nebraska is that this game is not a bowl game, where the Huskers haven't been too successful against Miami. The bottom line, though, is that someone is going to win. You heard it here first, people; someone is going to win.
Nathan Scheelhaase is gone, but welcome Wes Lunt. In 2012, as a freshman at Oklahoma State, Lunt played in seven games and threw for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns for the Cowboys. Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit was able to get a little more out of Scheelhaase, but it was too little too late. With the potential of three full years to work with Lunt, Cubit could help get the Illini back to respectability...maybe even as soon as this season, but just not against the Huskers in Lincoln.
10/4 @ Michigan State
At present, Michigan State is an elite football program. Nebraska is a decent football program. Advantage: elite football program.
10/18 @ Northwestern
Look out, Huskers, here come the 'Cats! In three contests against Northwestern the Huskers are 2-1, but each game has been decided by three points or less. Northwestern has this habit of hanging around and being a pain in the ass; just ask Wisconsin. The two quarterback system is gone and leaves the team in the capable hands of Trevor Siemian. Since he won't have to share time with anyone else, expect the passing game to heat up and try to take advantage of a Nebraska defense that had a lot of issues in 2013.
Nebraska blanked the Scarlet Knights 28-0 the last time these two programs got together...in 1920...when the team's nickname was Queensmen. Is it weird that I think that sounds better than Scarlet Knights? Who cares! They should bring it back! Other than that, I know virtually nothing about Rutgers football, so I'm going to let SB Nation's Bill Connelly do the talking.
I think the question here is "How badly will Purdue lose?"
11/15 @ Wisconsin
And Wisconsin just scored again. Ooh, 2012 slam! According to the guys over at Bucky's 5th Quarter, there is a chance that Tanner McEvoy could be a threat to Joel Stave's status as the starting quarterback in Madison. One thing Wisconsin never has to worry about is the run game. Whether they have one strong back carrying the rock or they do it by committee, that ground game is going to get you. Wisconsin probably won't gain 539 yards as they did at the end of 2012, but Nebraska's going to have to play an almost perfect game defending the run...and they'll have to do it in Camp Randall.
So we all know that Minnesota stunned Nebraska for the first time since 1960 a year ago, but that was in Minneapolis. Playing in Lincoln is very difficult for teams not named UCLA. I predicted this game to be a toss-up in my Minnesota schedule preview because the Gophers will probably be at 6-1 going into the game against Illinois. All Minnesota has to do is take two of the remaining games to hit eight wins, and there is a chance that Nebraska could be one of those wins. If Mitch Leidner and David Cobb can pound the ball on the ground like last year, the Gophers could walk away with their second historic victory over the Huskers in consecutive years.
11/28 @ Iowa
Nebraska may have had the slim yardage advantage last year, but Iowa was able to take three Husker turnovers and turn them into points. It's so very hard to admit that Iowa could actually be a very good team this season. I don't want to get too far ahead with our previews here, but with Jake Rudock playing solid football, and an offensive line that can get the push for guys like Mark Weisman and Jordan Canzeri, the Hawkeyes could be positioned to get into the Big Ten Championship Game by the time they welcome Nebraska to Iowa City.
Outlook for the Huskers
- Sure Things -- Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, Illinois, Rutgers, and Purdue.
- Probable -- Northwestern.
- Toss-ups -- Fresno State, Miami, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.
- Thanks for Playing -- Michigan State.
Eight wins seems appropriate, but there is a chance for a ninth mixed in with those toss-ups.