We have reached the top 10 teams in the nation and the cream of the crop is starting to rise. Here is team #7 and the 2010 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Preview. All part of our 31 teams in 31 days college football season preview from Maddux Sports college football handicappers.
No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers
2009 record: 10-4
2009 Bowl Game: 33-0 win over Arizona in Holiday Bowl
2009 ATS: 9-5
Returning starters: 15 (9 on offense, 6 on defense)
The Cornhuskers are returning nine starters on offense, and they are looking to build on their 2009 numbers. Senior quarterback Zac Lee threw for 2,143 yards and 14 touchdowns. He completed 58.6 percent of his passes, but also threw 10 interceptions. He needs to cut down on the turnovers in 2010.
Nebraska’s top running back Roy Helu ran for 1,147 yards last season and scored 10 touchdowns on 220 carries. He added 149 yards through the air, catching 19 balls and averaging 7.8 yards per reception.
The Cornhuskers have a strong receiving corps led by senior wideout Niles Paul. He caught 40 passes for 796 yards and four touchdowns. Fellow senior Mike McNeill hauled in 28 passes for 259 yards. He also scored four times, but averaged only 9.3 yards per reception to Paul’s 19.9.
One of the most important things for the Huskers is that the line stays mostly intact. The team only loses center Jacob Hickman. The returning players combine for 75 career starts and they might well be the best offensive line in Nebraska in a long time.
The Huskers are loaded on offense and they are hoping that everything will come together in the 2010 season. They definitely have the talent to win the Big 12 and could even go undefeated, if they can combine their offensive talent to put up strong team numbers.
Last year, the individual performances didn’t translate to team success, as the Huskers ranked only 75th in scoring offense and 99th in total offense in the nation. This year the team hopes improve on those totals, and the talent level on the team looks like they will succeed.
The defense loses one of its biggest weapons, No. 2 draft pick Ndamukong Suh. The defensive end had 12 sacks and 12 tackles for a loss in 2009. He was also Nebraska’s top tackler with 85 tackles. However, the defense is much deeper than last season and they shouldn’t suffer too much.
Junior tackle Jared Crick had 9.5 sacks in 2009, made 5.5 tackles for a loss, and broke up four passes. He could be the next star on the Huskers’ defensive line. And even if some of the linemen struggle, the team is deep enough to have someone ready to step in at every position.
The Huskers have a similar situation at linebacker with Will Compton and Sean Fisher leading the way. Their third linebacker spot is a hybrid between safety and linebacker, and senior Eric Hagg will play this position. He was on the field a lot last season and we should see more of the same.
The Huskers have two new safeties stepping in, but both have some experience. Senior strong safety DeJon Gomes has six starts in his career, and sophomore free safety PJ Smith made 15 tackles and broke up a pass as a redshirt freshman last year.
Alex Henery handled kicking and punting duties in 2009, and he was a real weapon for the team. He averaged 41.4 yards last season and forced eight fair catches. He made confusing offenses start within their own 20-yard line 30 times.
He was strong in the kicking game as well. He made all 38 of his extra points and connected on 24 of his 28 field goal attempts. Henery was perfect form 39 yards and under, and made two of his five attempts from 50+ yards. His season long was 52.
Niles Paul returned 38 points at an average of 10.7 yards and he took the ball to the house in a 28-20 win against Colorado. He also returned kick returns and averaged 27.9 yards per attempt.
Against the spread
The Huskers went 9-5 against the college football odds in 2009. They went 3-3 when favored at home and 2-2 when favored on the road. They had a 2-0 record ATS as the underdog, 1-0 at home and 1-0 on the road.
Nebraska went 4-5 when playing other teams from the Big 12, and had a perfect 5-0 record in non-conference play. They are 16-11 under third year head coach Bo Pelini and 62-61-1 in the last ten years.
You can bet on it
Bet the Cornhuskers at Kansas State on October 7. They posted season highs in points and yards in 2007 and 2008 against Kansas State. They scored only 17 points last season, but still came close to covering the 16 point spread. In the last matchup between the teams at Kansas State, the Huskers won 56-28 with a 610-247 advantage in total yards.
Favor the fade
Fade the Huskers at Oklahoma State on October 23rd. Nebraska figures to be laying some decent wood on the road after playing their biggest game of the year against Texas the week prior. Coming off a win Huskers line could be inflated in this flat spot.