Will they keep it going?
Have to be honest-I don’t really follow college football recruiting as closely as I used to. I know this year was a better year for the expert, and I know that part of why Nebraska hasn’t done as well the last two years is that their top recruits have left the program early (Cody Green, Todd Peat, Tyler Moore, Aaron Green, etc, etc). The success or failure of a recruiting class will depend on how many of the top recruits max out.
I’m a little surprised that Nebraska as a state doesn’t have more than one signable player for Bo Pelini. I know it’s not 1985, and that you have to import players, but it goes back to what I raised in January: does Pelini have the mentality to develop blue collar players from small high schools and get the most out of them? You don’t have to be an elite athlete to start at linebacker in the Big 10. Go out to Tecumseh and find someone who can dominate on special teams, an area where you really lagged behind in 2012.
While Nebraska football has suffered more than its share of bad losses over the last ten years, 2001 Colorado and 2012 Wisconsin both have similarity in that, both the 2001 and 2012 teams overachieved due to favorable schedules: namely, hardest games at home (Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Texas Tech in 2001; Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State in 2012), traditionally good opponents having done years (Kansas State in 2001, Michigan State and Iowa this year). So, after a devastating loss to end the year, Husker fans should wonder if 2013 will feature results similar to 2002.
Record-wise, I don’t think Nebraska will have a year like 2002 in 2013, mainly because that team lost the talent and leadership of Eric Crouch, which covered up a lot of Frank Solich’s flaws. That year also featured a tougher schedule early, tougher than this team will face with five home games to start the year (thanks, Southern Miss). But the issue of complacency remains, and for all the work that Taylor Martinez has set about improving his game, his attitude has never said, “I lead from the front.” Also, this team’s best leader, Rex Burkhead, is sadly moving on.
So, will 2013 be a let down? My personal prediction is that Nebraska will be no worse than 9-3 after they play Iowa, barring major injury of course. But should fans expect 11-1? Even if Penn State falls off the face of the earth by next November, Michigan State and Iowa will improve, and UCLA has been revitalized under Jim Mora. It’s not going to be easy.
What will determine the Huskers success in 2013 is how hungry they are in spring practice. Watch the video below for a few examples of where the Huskers may be lacking.