Big Ten Preview: Huskers look to make strides in Frost’s second year

Many have said the day Nebraska football died was November 23rd, 2001 at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado, when the Colorado Buffaloes annihilated Frank Solich’s Huskers 62-36.

Ask many fans now, they might believe the rebirth of Nebraska Football was December 2, 2017 when Scott Frost was hired as head coach at Nebraska, succeeding the Mike Reilly erro-I mean era. Some anticipated the rise of Husker football from the ashes to be quick.

The Honeymoon was short-lived.

In 2018, Nebraska started the season 0-6 with blowout losses to Michigan and Purdue, as well as an embarrassing loss to Troy in Lincoln. However, the Huskers finished strong, ending the year 4-2, with only one possession-losses to #6 Ohio State in Columbus and Iowa in Iowa City.

Nebraska’s head coach Scott Frost hoists a football in the air after defeating Michigan State 9-6. The Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Michigan State Spartans play a college football game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, Saturday, November 17, 2018. BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

The strong end has lead to endless fanfare and hype about Nebraska in 2019. Many oddsmakers having Nebraska under 20/1 odds to win the national championship and many writers are projecting them as Big Ten West Champions in the preseason.

While some point to Frost’s 2-year run at UCF, this is a reminder that the Big Ten is not the AAC. You have to have a complete team that compliments each other and is tough. While this could change by season’s end, Nebraska isn’t there yet, but they will be improved.

Who They Lose

The Huskers had a relatively small graduating class in 2018, graduating only 18 seniors, which shows they are still a young ball club. Offensively, the departures of Stanley Morgan Jr., and Devine Ogzibo will sting for a little bit, as well as the loss of 3 offensive linemen, Jerald Foster, Conrad Cole and Tanner Farmer.

Defensively they lose captains, linebacker Luke Gifford and defensive linemen Mick Stoltenberg. Nebraska also loses linebacker Dedrick Young II and defensive backs Aaron Williams, Antonio Reed and Tre Neal as well.

Who They Return/Gain

A lot of the preseason hype surrounding Nebraska belongs to sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, who many are hyping as the best quarterback in the conference. While Shea Patterson and Nate Stanley might have something to say about that, there’s no doubt Martinez has a good chance to be special.

Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald

Huskers also return contributors Maurice Washington Jr., and Greg Bell at running back and JD Spielman, Jack Stoll and Kade Warner in the receiving game.

Defensively, the Huskers bring back leading tackler, linebacker Mohamed Barry, as well as linebacker Tyrin Ferguson, defensive back DiCaprio Bootle and defensive lineman Khalil Davis. Huskers also return interceptions-leaders Lamar Jackson and Deontai Williams.

Toughest Game

The Big Ten gods gave Nebraska a break this season with all of their marquee games at home against Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa all at home. But the Buckeyes will be a daunting task for Nebraska, even if the game is at Memorial Stadium.

The Ceiling

This is one of the more, if not the most, favorable schedules Nebraska’s had since they joined the Big Ten. They’re able to clip a couple of the big ones at home against OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern and perhaps get a big win at Purdue. A wide-open West division allows them to reach Indianapolis.

9-3, Big Ten Championship Game Appearance, Bowl game in Orlando or San Diego

The Floor

The sophomore blues hit Martinez and he struggles mightily in his second campaign as the Huskers signal caller. Nebraska continues to get thrown around on the offensive and defensive line, but they made enough progress in the off-season to eek out a bowl berth in Detroit, Dallas or NYC.

6-6, Bowl Games in Dallas, Detroit or NYC

The Bottom Line

Nebraska will make a bowl game this season, there’s too much talent on the team not to make one, even with injury. But this talk of Nebraska being the Big Ten Champions and national title contenders is absurd. A big reason why 9-3 is my ceiling is because of Nebraska’s lack of line play. To win in the Big Ten consistently, you need physical play from the offensive and defensive lines to begin with, and the Huskers just do not possess that.

Despite that, there is enough talent at the skill positions to win 7 or 8 games, and Nebraska fans should be pleased with that. Trying to recapture their glory days is not going to be an overnight event. But this season should be viewed as a stepping stone to that.

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