Head Coach: Bo Pelini
2012 record: 10-4 overall, 7-1 Big Ten Legends
2012 Bowl result: Lost to Georgia 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 8 offense, 4 defense
Odds to Win 2014 BCS Championship Game: 60/1
Odds to Win 2013 Big Ten Championship Game: 15/2
Odds to Win 2013 Big Ten Legends Division: +290
Regular Season Wins: under 9.5 -120 / over 9.5 -110
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Last season, Nebraska finished the regular season 10-2 and won the Big Ten Legends Division. Unfortuantely, The only two losses came at UCLA 36-30 and at Ohio St 63-38. The Cornhuskers would have conference wins over Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan St, Michigan, Penn St, Minnesota, and Iowa. Unfortunately, the season ended on a sour note as Nebraska was obliterated by Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game 70-31, and then lost 45-31 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
Now, Nebraska looks to put the last two games of the season behind them with 12 returning starters including 8 on offense. They should be locked in a tight battle with Michigan for the Legends title.
Last season, under coordinator Tim Beck, the Nebraska offense was in the top 10 nationally in rushing at 253.4 yards per game and 28th in scoring offense at 34.8 points per game. Beck has 8 starters back on offense and there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off if at all.
Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez is one of those college players whom you think has been there for seemingly 10 years. Though he will always be a better rusher than passer, he actually improved his throwing stats markedly last year by changing his motion. Martinez completed 62% of his passes for 2,871 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Although six of his picks came in two games against Ohio St and Northwestern. He also had 195 carries for 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns. Martinez takes a lot of hits because he runs so much so the back-up is important. Senior Ron Kellogg III threw 9 passes last year with a touchdown and an interception. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong is also in the mix for the back-up but he is coming off a knee injury. Star recruit Johnny Stanton has drawn comparisons to Texas A&M’s Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Stanton will be the quarterback of the future.
Junior running back Ameer Abdullah took over for the injured Rex Burkhead last year. Abdullah ended up with 226 carries for 1,137 yards and 8 touchdowns, along with 24 catches, 178 yards and 2 touchdowns. Burkhead is now with the Cincinnati Bengals and he had 98 carries, 675 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 11 catches including two touchdowns. Sophomore Imani Cross had 55 carries, 324 yards and 7 touchdowns. Freshmen Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor will also get some carries. Seniors C.J. Zimmerer & Mike Marrow, and junior Andy Janovich will all see time at fullback.
Junior receiver Kenny Bell had 50 catches, 863 yards and 8 touchdowns. Senior Quincy Enunwa had 42 catches, 470 yards and a touchdown. Junior Jamal Turner had 32 catches, 417 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore Taariq Allen and junior Tyler Wulenwaber (who is coming off a knee injury) will also get some catches. Senior Jake Long is the tight end. He had 6 catches and a touchdown last year. Long replaces Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed who combined for 42 catches last year.
The veteran line struggled in pass protection but was one of the best in the country at run blocking. Senior right guard Spencer Long is a potential All-American. Senior left tackle Brent Qvale started 13 games last season. Senior Jeremiah Sirles returns at right tackle. Senior Andrew Rodriguez will also see time at tackle. Senior Cole Pensick played most of last season at gaurd but moved to center for the Big Ten Championship. He will stay at center in 2013. Mark Pelini, nephew of coach Bo, could also be in the mix at center, moving Pensick back to guard. JUCO transfers Matt Finnin and Chongo Kondolo add depth to the line.
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Last year, John Papuchis took over as Nebraska defensive coordinator after Carl Pelini left to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic. The results were mixed as the Cornhuskers were 58th in scoring defense allowing 27.6 points per game. The defense had it’s ups and downs, as they helped win low scoring games against Michigan and Iowa, but allowed at least 36 points in each of the 4 Cornhusker losses. Only 4 starters return, so the defense could be a question mark.
The defensive line struggled badly against the run. For example, Wisconsin shredded them like cheese in the Big Ten Championship game rushing for 539 yards and 8 touchdowns. Senior tackle Thad Randle had 21 tackles last year, but he was bullied too easily last year. Sophomores Kevin Williams and Aaron Curry will rotate at the other tackle. The pass rush must replace Eric Martin and Cameron Meredith. Jason Ankrah will start at one end after making 26 tackles, 6 for loss, and 2 sacks. Redshirt freshmen Avery Moss and Greg McMullen will rotate at the other end. JUCO transfer Randy Gregory missed all of last year with a broken leg, but has the potential to be a destructive pass rusher.
The linebackers must replace Will Compton, Sean Fisher, and Alonzo Whaley. Sophomore David Santos made 24 tackles last year, and can play either middle or weakside. Junior Trevor Roach will likely start in the middle, and redshirt freshman Zaire Anderson is coming off a knee injury. Sophomore Mark Pirman will start at the Buck. True freshmen Josh Banderas and Marcus Newby will also be in the mix at linebacker.
The secondary returns all of their top corners, led by senior Ciante Evans who made 56 tackles, 8 pass break-ups, and a pick. He played the nickel back last year and could do so again. Senior Andrew Green made 50 tackles last year and broke up 3 passes. Senior Stanley Jean-Baptise will rotate at the other corner with junior Josh Mitchell. Jean-Baptise broke up nine passes and made 2 interceptions, and Mitchell had a pick and broke up 5 passes. Juniors Harvey Jackson & Corey Cooper and sophomore Charles Jackson will look to replace strong safety Damion Stafford. Senior Mohammed Seisay and Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose will add depth to the unit and could see time at safety.
The Huskers must replace kicker/punter Brett Maher who averaged 41.8 yards per punt and made 20 of 25 field goals. Redshirt sophomore Mauro bondi will take over. He has a strong leg, and could develop into a good punter as well. Receiver Sam Foltz could also get a look at punter. The Cornhuskers struggled on punt and kick coverage last year and that needs to improve.
Abdullah averaged 21.2 yards per kick return and 13.1 yards per punt return. Kenny Bell will also return some kicks.
Nebraska opens with 5 straight home games against Wyoming, Southern Miss, UCLA, South Dakota St, and Illinois. UCLA is the only real challenge in those games. The Huskers then travel to Purdue and Minnesota. Nebraska hosts Northwestern before the showdown at Michigan that could decide the Legends title. Michigan State comes to Lincoln, and Nebraska the travels to Penn State. Nebraska hosts Iowa in the season finale, the day after Thanksgiving.
Home games against UCLA and Northwestern won’t be easy but Nebraska has a good shot at being 8-0 coming into the Michigan game. The Cornhuskers will likely be favored in every other game on the schedule besides Michigan. Nebraska avoids Ohio State but could potentially meet them in the Big Ten Championship game. Nebraska has questions in the front seven with a lot of new faces on defense. Still 10 wins in the regular seems about right for Nebraska.
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