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It is hard to believe Nebraska last finished in the Top 10 in 2001. In the previous forty years before that they finished in the Top 10 in some kind of poll thirty times and the Top 5 eleven times. Since joining the Big 10 Conference in 2011 their conference record is 43-41 and in the last four years they are 12-23. Can the 2021 team be the first Cornhusker team to post a winning record since 2016?The bulk of a decent defense is back and they have five sixth year seniors returning. That is a good place to start. The offense still has question marks and seems to lack an identity. The Nebraska mystique is gone and that is something that is very hard to get back.
Offense: The fate of the offense likely begins and ends with Sr. QB Adrian Martinez. He has been a mixture of brilliant at times and mediocre at others. He needs to become reliable if Nebraska is going to move up the ranks. The Huskers running back situation is murky at best and no one showed much in the spring. That issue has to be solved. The receiving corps has the coaches buzzing about how good they could be so that is a plus. The offensive line which was a Nebraska staple in the glory years might be starting two freshmen tackles. The offense has been subpar the last two seasons and needs to improve.
Defense: On this side of the ball, there is much more optimism. The defensive line has gotten bigger and stronger and should be good in stopping the run. The linebackers led by versatile JoJo Domann are experienced and should be a strength. In the secondary All-Big 10 2nd teamer Cam Taylor-Britt is the best cover guy and their are two sixth-year seniors at the safety position in Deontai Williams and Marquel Dismuke.The defense looks to be the strength of the team.
9/18 at Oklahoma
11/13 S.E. Louisiana
The highlight of the non-con schedule is a trip to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners in a renewal of one of the greatest rivalries in college football history. The two teams have taken different paths the last 20 years and Oklahoma looks to be much better in this one. The other two games are must wins.
8/28 at Illinois
9/25 at Michigan State
10/16 at Minnesota
11/6 Ohio State
11/20 at Wisconsin
The conference schedule is difficult but there are a few opportunities for the Huskers. They open on the road in a late August game at Illinois which is a game they desperately need to win. Then they have a road game against a rebuilding Michigan State team that gives them a chance to go 2-0. The other road games at Minnesota and Wisconsin are not impossible but won’t be easy. The home schedule includes a must win against Purdue and four difficult tests against Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa. Those four games will likely decide how the conference season goes.
Summary: It is a big year for Coach Scott Frost as he was brought in with a lot of fanfare and so far has a 12-20 record to show for it. It might be put up or shut up time for him. The schedule is hard and the offense is questionable. A bowl game is a possibility and there are games that are there to be won if things fall the right way. But winning the West division is still down the road.
Predicted Finish: 4th place in the West Division
Overall Record: 6-6
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