2012 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Preview
At many Football Bowl Subdivision programs in the United States, a nine-win season would be cause for rejoicing. At the University of Nebraska, it represents a clear-cut disappointment. These are the standards that exist for the coaches and players who represent the Cornhuskers. In 2012, an anxious Big Red Nation is hoping that it can rise to the top tier of the Big Ten Conference.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has been quite consistent in his tenure in Lincoln… consistently okay. He hasn't done a poor job, but he certainly hasn’t impressed college football observers, either. The Huskers have lost four games in each of Pelini's four seasons at the helm. Nebraska has also failed to win a single conference championship under Pelini. It reached the Big 12 Championship Game in 2009 and 2010, coming close on each occasion before falling to Texas and Oklahoma, respectively. In Nebraska's first year as a Big Ten program, the Huskers got roughed up even more than they did in the Big 12. The Huskers did beat Michigan State and Ohio State, but Ohio State was not the juggernaut the Huskers expected them to be, due to the fact that the Buckeyes were hit hard by the series of scandals that pushed out head coach Jim Tressel. Nebraska got clobbered by Michigan and Wisconsin, failing to come remotely close to the top-tier teams in the league. A shocking home loss to Northwestern only underscored the extent to which Nebraska has lost the measure of reliability that made it such a feared program in the past. It’s worth noting that in the Huskers' 2010 season, a home loss to a bad Texas team (one that failed to make a bowl game that year) gave them a lesser bowl bid than they otherwise would have attained. Elite teams cannot lose at home to mediocre opponents (last year's Northwestern squad went 6-6 in the regular season), so it is true that Nebraska is not an elite team.
How will the Huskers change their present-day reality under Pelini? Two words: Taylor Martinez. The slight but slippery running quarterback can be a devastating playmaker, but his inconsistent passing and noticeably subpar technique have prevented Nebraska's offense from being as potent and as balanced as it can – and probably should – be. If Martinez becomes a polished passer with sound instincts and airtight fundamentals, Nebraska can give Michigan a strong run for the Legends Division title, which is what the Huskers must achieve before they can dream of a conference championship at the Big Ten's title tilt in Indianapolis.
Nebraska's defense can stand in the ring and trade punches, even though it slipped at times last season. The true measure of the Huskers' quality will be determined by the performance of their offense, and that goes to the quarterback. Pelini and Martinez have had a contentious relationship in the past, but their run-ins occurred during Martinez's freshman season. Martinez is now a junior, and his rapport with Pelini has improved to a considerable extent. If Nebraska's quarterback is up to the task, its coach will reap the benefits as well. Most importantly, a program with a big brand name will be able to say that it has fully returned to the place it feels it belongs.
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