Eleven college football seasons have come and gone since the last time the Nebraska Cornhuskers appeared in a BCS bowl game. That timespan seems like an eternity when you consider the fact that Nebraska is the fourth winningest FBS college football program in history. Of the top ten winningest FBS teams, only Nebraska and Tennessee have failed to reach a BCS bowl game in the last decade.
That could all change this season, as the Cornhuskers return one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, led by senior quarterback and fourth year starter Taylor Martinez.
Martinez is coming off easily the best season of his Nebraska career. He completed over 62 percent of his passes in 2012 for 2871 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 INTs. On the ground, Martinez was the team’s second leading rusher, racking up 1019 yards and ten touchdowns.
Joining Martinez in Nebraska’s offensive huddle in 2013 will be the team’s leading rusher from 2012, Ameer Abdullah, as well as the top three returning receivers Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner. Together, the three of them accounted for over 60 percent of Nebraska’s newfound aerial attack.
Since the glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s, a once proud and boisterous fanbase has gravitated into a divided state. Some of the fans have high if not national title hopes heading into every season. Some understand that their team is only capable of nine or ten wins a year and accept it. Others, especially heading 2013, are weary of how an inexperienced defense could derail any hopes of a major bowl bid.
Taking into account what returns on offense combined with a favorable schedule to start the season, I feel like things could fall into place for this Nebraska team, possibly giving the Huskers a chance to play for a national title.
Yes, I said it. A National Title.
Despite Martinez’s propensity for turnovers, the fact remains he is a fourth-year starter in a college football world where that is almost unheard of. His grasp of the Nebraska offense combined with the playmakers that return around him make it easy to predict a repeat of last year’s offensive showing — potentially with less turnovers. Should this happen, all the Husker defense a.k.a. The Blackshirts has to do is be average most weeks. This bodes well for a defense that isn’t expected by many to be the difference in most games.
Looking at the Nebraska schedule, their toughest matchup through the first seven games will be a home game against UCLA, a team with an NFL-caliber quarterback who beat them last season. Should Nebraska win that one, they could easily be 7-0 when Northwestern comes to Lincoln on November 2nd. By that time, it is very likely that this young defense will have shaken the jitters and by ready for a high-powered and complex offense like Northwestern.
After Northwestern, Nebraska will wrap up the season against four teams who will likely have a hard time stopping them on offense. Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa also play traditional pro-style offenses most of the time. Bo Pelini’s defenses at Nebraska have historically had much more success against pocket quarterbacks than mobile ones. The most mobile signal caller they’ll face during that stretch is Michigan’s Devon Gardner, who by no means is a game breaker.
Run the table and the Huskers will find themselves in the Big Ten Championship game for the second consecutive year. On paper, it looks like there is a distinct possibility that they would be facing another undefeated team — Ohio State. I think the two teams match up well with one another and Nebraska will have a puncher’s chance to knock off the Buckeyes on a neutral field.
Regardless of what happens around the rest of the country, the BCS “system” is going to have a hard time keeping an undefeated Big Ten champion out of the national title game. That team could very well be Nebraska and at least for one season, the glory days of Husker football could be back.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON AUGUST 9, 2013
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