It’s that time of year again. Husker faithful across the nation are waking up to the sounds of Hail Varsity blaring from their alarm clocks and tuning into their local radio stations to get the latest gossip on the upcoming Nebraska football season as they head off on their morning commutes.
With the Huskers kicking things off in three weekends’ time, pour yourself a glass of Big Red Kool-Aid and take a gander at how our staffers at Husker Hype think the season will shake out for the Huskers.
Brandon Cavanaugh – Lead Writer
Prediction – Overall 9-3; Conference 7-2 (6-0 Big Ten West)
I can’t help but look at this as Mike Riley’s true first season at Nebraska. Say what you will about the first two, he finally has the tools to make this his team.
With that in mind, I enjoy how Nebraska starts the season with the 2016 Sun Belt co-champions, but I don’t see Arkansas State posing too much of a threat. Willie Taggart has energy flowing through the Oregon locker room and an offense that will truly challenge the Huskers’ new 3-4 defense.
I can’t see the Big Red pulling out this win against the Ducks. Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, Northern Illinois faces a no-win situation. Either the Huskers have a ton of momentum or they’re going to be righteously upset.
Rutgers is still a dumpster fire and Illinois has a couple of talented players but no actual “team”. Wisconsin matches up very well again this year, but I see Tanner Lee being the difference against a Jack Cichy-less Badger squad to continue the Huskers’ undefeated Big Ten run. Ohio State remains too talented, but Nebraska should be able to at least keep the final tally respectable.
Purdue has David Blough and that’s about it. Much like the Northern Illinois game, this tilt is perfectly placed regardless of what happens in the contest prior giving Nebraska a solid win. Northwestern has one of the Big Ten’s best backs in Justin Jackson, but I think Bob Diaco clamps down on him and forces quarterback Clayton Thorson to make the big plays. I’m not totally sold on him just yet, though. A tough win, but a win just the same.
Minnesota is my trap game. I still see Nebraska winning, but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Gophers play like their hair’s on fire. I don’t expect Penn State to be pretty. I see this as Nebraska’s biggest test and going against the kind of talent the Nittany Lions possess, a close game should be considered progress.
Iowa has a salty defense but after last year’s debacle, I can’t help but think there will be some special tricks ready to leave the Hawkeyes’ heads spinning. Not having C.J. Beathard should provide the Blackshirts with an opportunity to have fun as well.
Losses: Oregon, Ohio State, Penn State
Mild Take: People will complain about: Nebraska’s run-pass ratio regardless of what it is, check downs, passing on third down, the screen game whether it works well or not and Danny Langsdorf in general.
Hot Takes: Mike Riley will be signed to a significant extension that sees Nebraska crack open its piggy bank. The Huskers then finish with a top 15 recruiting class.
Adam Sutton – Writer
Prediction – Overall 9-3; Conference 6-3 (5-1 B1G West)
Nebraska, while in a “reboot” of sorts, still easily handles Arkansas State and Northern Illinois. The real test to begin the season is the week two trip to Eugene when Nebraska takes on Willie Taggart’s squad. A high scoring affair, Nebraska is able to get the last defensive stand to prove a lot of people wrong. Talk of Tanner Lee spreads throughout the country.
Heading into Big Ten play, Nebraska sits at 3-0 with only a couple of banged up players. After wins against Rutgers and Illinois, the Big Red squeaks by an extremely tough Wisconsin team. They limp back into Memorial Stadium against a healthy Ohio State team that’s looking to recreate last year’s traumatizing score. This time, however, Nebraska holds them under 40 points…but still loses by double digits.
After Ohio State, the Huskers go on to win against Purdue and Northwestern, only to stumble against a hungry Minnesota team fresh off two losses before running into a wall against Penn State. Bob Diaco (frustrated by the previous missteps) and Danny Langsdorf (motivated by revenge) are able to win the Big Ten West by letting hell rain down upon Iowa.
Losses: Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State
Mild Takes: Tanner Lee stays another year. Chris Jones gets first-team All-Big Ten honors after returning from injury against Rutgers.
Hot Takes: Stanley Morgan, Jr. tops 1,000 yards, wins the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff award.
Josh Stevenson – X’s and O’s
Prediction – Overall 9- 3; Conference 6-3 (5-1 Big Ten West)
The games against Arkansas State, Northern Illinois, Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue all look like contests where the Huskers should have a very distinct talent advantage. I don’t see Nebraska struggling in any of those. Chalk up five in the win column.
Oregon, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa will prove to be more difficult opponents. To my eye, the Huskers have a moderate talent advantage against all of these with the exception of Oregon and possibly Wisconsin.
Nebraska should have better functional depth at critical positions, better energy on defense and personnel who match what Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf are trying to do. I’m bullish on the Huskers’ ability to perform well in these games but I don’t see them winning all five. NU will put four in the win column and one in the loss column against these teams.
Ohio State and Penn State are the biggest challenges on this schedule. Ohio State has been recruiting in the top 10 for years now and they are coming off of a playoff appearance last year. With that level of talent, an experienced quarterback and Urban Meyer at the helm, I’m not seeing how Nebraska can match up yet.
Penn State might be more of a toss-up in my mind if they were playing in Lincoln, but with running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley back on offense, I think the Huskers’ inexperience in their new system is likely to be exposed. I see the Huskers at 0-2 in these final two matchups.
Losses: Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State
James Stig – Writer
Prediction – Overall 9-3; Conference 7-2 (6-0 Big Ten West)
A tune-up against Arkansas State will be necessary as we get to see Tanner Lee in action for the first time. Traveling on the road to Oregon, the Huskers will have a pretty tough battle. I give the edge to the Ducks, but only by a few points.
Consecutive wins against low-tier talent teams such as Northern Illinois, Rutgers and Illinois leave the Huskers at 4-1 against a likely undefeated Wisconsin team. A highly-anticipated home matchup, the Huskers should beat the Badgers this time around.
While Nebraska gets one back from Wisconsin, Ohio State is just too talented for the Huskers and their only downside is a passing attack which ranked 81st in the country last year.
In the second half of the year, I envision wins against Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa. Northwestern and Iowa will both be close matchups, but Memorial Stadium crowds give the edge to the ‘Skers.
Penn State is a potential playoff team and despite a possible Chris Jones appearance, the Nittany Lions are too much to handle.
Losses: Oregon, Ohio State, Penn State
Mild Take: Tyjon Lindsey makes the Freshman All-Big Ten team and Tanner Lee is projected to go in the top three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft by November.
Hot Take: Nebraska shuts Iowa out en route to the Big Ten championship game. The running backs combine for 1,500 yards and the wideouts combine for 2,750 receiving yards.
John Swedlund – Lead Editor
Prediction – Overall 10-2; Conference 7-2 (6-0 B1G West)
I may regret this in December. I think I’m the one drinking the special Kool-Aid from a big gulp at the tailgate right now. After pouring over the schedule and digging into others’ claims to why Nebraska wins the Big Ten West, I simply can’t justify letting Northwestern’s hype claim the top spot over Nebraska.
Much like last year, I think the Huskers get off to another strong start with wins over Arkansas State, Oregon, Northern Illinois, Rutgers and Illinois. With regards to Oregon, the Huskers went toe-to-toe with them physically last year and took the game away in the fourth quarter. With the Huskers’ offense picking up a beat, an entirely new coaching staff in Eugene and 20,000-plus west coast Nebraska fans traveling, I see Nebraska walking out of Autzen Stadium with the win, taking the series 2-0.
After rewatching the Wisconsin game, I think Nebraska gains an edge this year thanks to Lee. His ball placement and release will arguably be the best in the Big Ten and I think the Huskers have sufficiently closed the talent gap with the Badgers. Lee finds those wide open receivers this year and takes the home game against Wisconsin.
The Huskers put up a fight against the Buckeyes during the following week, but after a physical game against Wisconsin, I believe Ohio State takes the only home game from Nebraska this year. Buckeye fans can thank new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and the sheer amount of depth Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has stockpiled for the win.
Licking their wounds and resting up after their bye week, the Huskers take care of Purdue and win a close game against Northwestern. They also help P.J. Fleck remember that he’s rowing the boat in year one at Minnesota, not year three,and beat the Gophers handily.
To close the season, the Huskers will travel to Happy Valley and scare the Lions but come up short thanks to almost all of PSU’s team returning from last season’s squad and being much more polished.
Much to my friend Rob’s chagrin, the Huskers rebound against a tough Iowa on Black Friday featuring an overhauled linebacking corps led by Dedrick Young and Chris Weber that holds Iowa’s offense to under 305 total yards.
Losses: Ohio State and Penn State
Mild Take: De’Mornay Pierson-El returns to his old form and takes two punts back for touchdowns. The running backs account for a combined 600-plus yards receiving and tight end Tyler Hoppes gets drafted in the late rounds of the 2018 NFL draft.
Hot Take: Tanner Lee tosses for 3500 yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions and completes 63 percent of his passes. He also sees how deep the 2018 team is and returns for his senior season.
How well do you think the Huskers will do this season? We will store these predictions and update our thoughts every week with more in-depth breakdowns and score predictions.
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