The Nebraska Cornhuskers will enter the 2011-2012 NCAA Football season as a prohibitive favorite to win the Big Ten Legends Division.  In early college football futures Nebraska is at 18-1 as a potential National Champion. 

 

Key Issues on Offense

Despite rumors of a transfer, talented redshirt sophomore Taylor Martinez will run the Nebraska Cornhusker offense next season. Martinez is a special talent who can make big plays with his arm or using his legs.

Speaking of legs, the ‘Huskers will also have to replace Roy Helu, Jr. in the backfield. The starting nod will likely go to talented junior Rex Burkhead, who proved himself several times last season when Helu was unable to play.

Both Martinez and Burkhead may struggle a bit next season, however, as Nebraska will be replacing 3/5 of its offensive line, including All Big-12 right guard Ricky Henry. Look for position battles during the spring and fall as the Cornhuskers attempt to rebuild their line.

Tim Beck, formerly the running backs coach, will take over as offensive coordinator. He has familiarity with the offensive system, so this should be a fairly smooth transition.

Overall, Nebraska returns six starters on offense. The ‘Huskers should be fine at the skill positions, but the offensive line is a major concern.

Key Issues on Defense

Taylor MartinezNebraska is going to be very solid on defense, as the Cornhuskers return eight starters from a unit that only allowed 17.2 ppg. The key loss will be cornerback Prince Amukamara, a projected top-ten NFL Draft pick.

The defensive side of the ball has two new coaches, as Corey Raymond and Ross Els will lead the secondary and linebackers, respectively. I would expect head coach Bo Pelini is confident that these hires can maintain his defensive expectations.

Look for the ‘Huskers to remain near the top of college football in defense, with a slight drop (perhaps) in the secondary.

Recruiting

According to most experts, Pelini hauled in a top-20 signing class. On offense, look for five-star running back Aaron Green to share carries with Burkhead in the fall.  We could also see the beginning of a major quarterback battle with the arrivals of Jamal Turner and Bubba Starling of Lincoln. Turner could see some action next year at receiver or in a Wildcat setting. Nebraska also did well on the offensive line, and it will be interesting to see if they have any true freshmen in the running for starting positions.

On defense, the star recruit is cornerback Charles Jackson. He is likely to contribute to the secondary right away, and could lesson the impact of the loss of Amukamara.

Schedule

The Legends Division is weak, with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Northwestern joining the Cornhuskers. Iowa and Michigan State must both visit Lincoln next season, so a 5-0 division mark is not out of the question. I believe Nebraska will be in the Big Ten title game.

BCS Championship aspirations, however, may very well die over a two-week period beginning on October 1. Nebraska will make its first Big Ten visit to Camp Randall on that day, and then must prepare for a showdown with Ohio State in Lincoln the next weekend. A 1-1 record would be outstanding, but I would lean toward 0-2, taking the ‘Huskers out of contention. A visit to Penn State in November will also be a major roadblock.

BCS? Maybe. BCS Title? No

Nebraska has the talent to win the Legends Division of the Big Ten, but the schedule simply does not support a BCS Championship bid. The offensive line is a major concern, and one never knows how new coaches will actually perform once the season begins. I view Nebraska as a 10-2 regular season club, losing two of three to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State. Afterwards, the Cornhuskers would likely face Ohio State again in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Don’t throw your money away on this 18-1 shot at Bodog.

Thanks to yahoo.com, espn.com, rivals.com, si.com, and huskersgameday.com for all records, statistics, and recruiting information.