Next up is the team from my home state of Nebraska, whom I saw in person four times last season (Washington, Ohio State, at Minnesota and Northwestern). Bo Pelini’s Huskers went 9-4 with a 5-3 record during their inaugural voyage through the Big Ten Conference. As always, the Husker Nations’ goals are high entering the season.
In 2011 the Big Red went to its fourth straight bowl game under Pelini falling 30-13 against South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Pac-12 fans have seen plenty of Nebraska since December of 2009 with the Holiday Bowl against Arizona and three match-ups against the previously mentioned Huskies. September 8 expect the Rose Bowl to be plenty red when they play at UCLA 4:30 pm on Fox.
Junior Taylor Martinez begins his third season at quarterback for the Huskers. Last season, he threw for 2,089 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The back-up situation will be more interesting with sophomore Brion Carnes and true freshman Tommy Armstrong battling for that position. Carnes had limited action last year, completing both of his passes for 26 yards.
Senior Rex Burkhead returns to anchor the rushing attack for Nebraska after a 1,357 yard season, picking up 4.8 yards a carry and scored 15 touchdowns. Martinez was second on the team with 874 yards and nine TDs. After Burkhead, sophomore Ameer Abdullah will be the guy getting the touches in Tim Beck’s offense. He had 150 yards on only 42 carries, reaching the endzone three times.
The Huskers lost Brandon Kinnie from last year’s receiving corps, but he was fourth on the team in yards gained and third in receptions with just one touchdown. Sophomore Kenny Bell figures to be a big part of the offense after he caught 32 passes for 461 yards with three touchdowns. Junior Quincy Enunwa emerged last season as a threat in the passing game with 293 yards and two TDs.
Other names to watch in the passing game are sophomore Jamal Turner, senior tight ends Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton, plus watch out for Burkhead out of the backfield.
On defense the “blackshirts” will try and replace departing linebacker LaVonte David who was drafted by Tampa Bay. Last season, he finished with 133 tackles with 5.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, and two interceptions in 2011. Senior middle linebacker Will Compton will be one of the leaders on defense after an 82 tackle season and 6.5 TFL.
Senior’s strong safety Daimion Stafford and free safety P.J. Smith will patrol the middle of the defensive backfield along with JUCO newcomer Mohammed Selsay. Stafford had 80 tackles last season, third-best on the team, and 10 pass break-ups. Smith recorded 33 tackles plus an interception.
Another weapon to watch is senior kicker/punter Brett Maher who was first team/won awards in the Big Ten for both.
After their first season through the B1G, Nebraska should be better equipped to handle the grind that the conference is come November. Non-conference opponents other than UCLA is the opener against Southern Miss then Arkansas and Idaho State the next two weeks following the Cornhuskers. With Wisconsin plus Michigan coming to Lincoln, the Huskers will have a shot to win the Legends division and will go bowling.
2012 Nebraska Cornhuskers Schedule –
Southern Miss 9/1
Arkansas State 9/15
Idaho State 9/22
@Ohio State 10/6
@Michigan State 11/3
Penn State 11/10