Predicting the Cornhuskers' 2014 Season
Then UCLA happened. And South Dakota State, of all teams, created question marks on defense. Along the way Taylor Martinez got hurt, the Huskers got thumped by Minnesota, Michigan State and Iowa. The only thing that kept a sweet taste in our mouths was a gritty Gator Bowl win over a wounded bunch of Georgia Bulldogs.
Now here comes 2014. People wondered if Bo Pelini’s job was on the line. A couple of tweets and a cat at the spring game took care of that. But make no mistake, the pressure is always on in Lincoln; and any kind of slip up could have Huskers fans really seeing red.
So what does the season have in store? There are so many questions marks before we get to August 30, but let’s get out the Magic 8 Ball and see what happens:
8/30 vs. Florida Atlantic
This season’s sacrificial lamb to open the season at Memorial Stadium is Florida Atlantic. The Owls finished 6-6 last year and got drubbed by Miami (Fla.), Auburn and, um, East Carolina. They did end the season with four straight wins, including at Southern Miss, but as soon as the first game jitters are out of the way no one on Tom Osborne Field will give a hoot about these Owls.
9/6 vs. McNeese State
Next. No, seriously, this is the type of game where in the past we would see three quarterbacks and four running backs get significant playing time. This will be the Cowboys' opener. They did make it to the Division I playoffs a year ago, and beat South Florida, but if this has the Déjà vu feeling of South Dakota State I might hurl something at my TV.
9/13 at Fresno State
I can just see Lee Corso turning to me and saying, “not so fast my friend." This is where it gets interesting. Nebraska travels to the Valley, where they take their Bulldogs football seriously. Some big-name programs have flown from Fresno licking their wounds in the past. This will be intriguing because the game is a 7:30 local kickoff, which means 9:30 Central Time. Fresno State won the Mountain West a year ago and finished 11-2. All-everything quarterback Derek Carr is now an Oakland Raider (poor guy) and Fresno State will come into this game battle-tested (against USC and Utah). This is the kind of game Nebraska has lost in the past. I think/hope it is turning that corner.
9/20 vs. Miami (Fla.)
This is the one Nebraska fans have been waiting 30 years for. Miami comes to Lincoln. Let me repeat that: Miami comes to Lincoln. Think of all of those Orange Bowls Nebraska lost in the Orange Bowl and we said “think of what would happen if we got to play that game in our stadium.” Now we do. Granted it’s not for a national championship, but Husker Nation will treat it like one. I won’t even bore you with stats and players and blah, blah, blah – this one is for Dr. Tom, and Turner, and every player who ever had to suffer a loss at the hands of the Hurricanes.
9/27 vs. Illinois
If Nebraska isn’t suffering from Hurricane Hangover, this should be a walk in the park to open Big Ten Conference play. Illinois’ only conference win last year was against Purdue. Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt will try to put some fight back in this Illini (if he wins the starting job), but they simply don’t have what it takes to win in Lincoln.
10/4 at Michigan State
If I’m right, the Huskers will be 5-0 as they head to East Lansing. Michigan State could be undefeated as well (but they do play at Oregon). This will be a classic Big Ten showdown under the lights at Spartan Stadium. But Connor Cook is back along with many of his favorite targets in the passing game. The Spartans are experienced on both sides of the line. If the Huskers can avoid the devastating turnovers that buried them in Lincoln last year there could be a shot, but I just don’t see it happening.
10/18 at Northwestern
After six grueling weeks, Nebraska gets a off week before traveling to the high school stadium better known as Ryan Field at Northwestern. I’m going to say the Huskers get another road win, but this has trap game written all over it. It’s the last of five-straight night games. The next two games on the schedule are Rutgers and Purdue. Northwestern has had Nebraska’s number the past few years. It’s homecoming in Evanston. The Wildcats have seniors in quarterback Trevor Siemian and rising star running back Treyvon Green. So I’ve just listed all these reasons the Huskers could lose, but to quote the great Lou Brown in “Major League", “I know he hasn’t done real well against this guy but I got a hunch he’s due.”
10/25 vs Rutgers
Welcome to the Big Ten, Scarlet Knights. Now come to Lincoln, get your butt whooped and head back to Jersey. Have you seen a positive story about this team, or this school, since the announcement was made they were slinking into the B1G? The latest not-so-fun fact is they had to kick a quarterback off the team after he was charged with nearly beating a man to death in Minnesota. There’s nothing funny about that, so I will just move on.
11/1 vs Purdue
This should be a walkover. Last year in West Lafayette was an old-school Husker beat down. Smash them in the mouth with running back after running back and dominate on defense. The Boilermakers haven’t made many strides from 2013.
11/15 at Wisconsin
This could be THE GAME to decide the Western Division. I know Huskers fans don’t want to hear this, but I think Wisconsin is our new Texas. You know, that team we just can’t seem to beat. Yes, Big Red rang Bucky’s bell in Lincoln in 2012, but then there was the rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game. I still have nightmares of Melvin Gordon running up and down the field against the Blackshirts. Have I mentioned he’s still in Madison? Wisconsin has several question marks at quarterback, wide receiver and defense, but they should have those figured out by the time Nebraska comes to Camp Randall. This is turning into a great conference rivalry. Let’s just hope the Huskers don’t get embarrassed again.
11/22 vs Minnesota
I’m still trying to figure out how the Huskers lost last year in Minneapolis. They were coming off a huge win at Purdue and went up 10-0 in the first quarter. Then the wheels came off. This year the Gophers come to Lincoln in the middle of a BRUTAL stretch of games (Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin). Their leading rusher is back from last season, but I’m guessing the Gophers will be the team caught catching their breath this year.
11/28 at Iowa
Ah yes, Iowa. The tradition of wrapping up the regular season on the day after Thanksgiving. Last season Nebraska was the biggest turkey of the holiday weekend, getting pummeled by the Hawkeyes on national TV in Lincoln. Embarrassing. Is there any reason to think it will be different this year? If the Huskers don’t fix the problems Iowa exposed, especially up front, this will be another Black Friday.
At 9-3, with losses to Wisconsin and Iowa, I can’t imagine the Huskers finishing any better than second in the West and receiving another quality bowl bid.