By: Ryan Clark
In 2018, the Huskers went 4-8 (3-6 in the conference), including six straight losses to start the season. In fact, if you count the last four games of the 2017 season, Nebraska lost 10 games in a row, a school record. Then, for the first time since 1962, no Nebraska player was drafted by the NFL. The offense (25th in the country) was never the problem. The biggest issue might have been their run defense, which gave up an average of 5.0 yards per carry (107th in the country). New defensive line coach Tony Tuioti was brought in to fix this. Tuioti came from Cal, where the defensive line only allowed 3.61 yards per rush.
For this year’s squad, the Coaches’ Poll has Huskers just outside the top 25. Not bad for a team that’s coming off a 4-8 year. There is a lot of optimism surrounding this year’s team, and for good reason. QB Adrian Martinez is a legitimate Heisman contender. Coach Scott Frost has said the team will go as far as Martinez takes them. Wideout JD Spielman has been named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, and linebacker Mohamed Barry (2018 Husker defensive MVP) was added to the Lott IMPACT Award watch list.
So, what does the season hold for Nebraska? Let’s take a look at the crystal ball:
Week 1 (Aug 31) – vs South Alabama: Martinez throws for three scores, including two to Spielman, and runs for another, while Barry and defensive end Ben Stille have South Alabama’s hapless QB seeing stars, as the ‘Skers pound the out-manned Jaguars, 45-9. Record: 1-0.
Week 2 (Sep 7) – at Colorado: Martinez is unstoppable in this one, as he throws for 280 yards and runs for over 100. Nebraska exacts some revenge on their old Big 12 rival, and leave Boulder with a 38-20 victory. Record: 2-0.
Week 3 (Sep 14) – vs Northern Illinois: The last time these programs met was two years ago, and the Huskies shocked the nation by winning 21-17 in Lincoln. That was then. This is now. Martinez & Co kennel the Huskies, 41-17. Record: 3-0.
Week 4 (Sep 21) – at Illinois: The way I see it, the Illini have maybe four winnable games on their schedule this year. This one won’t be one of them. Nebraska hammers Illinois 48-7. Record: 4-0.
Week 5 (Sep 28) – vs Ohio St: Two undefeated teams go to war in what surely will be an epic game. Nebraska’s defense really hasn’t been tested to this point. Like last year, both defenses will struggle to get the offense off the field, and also like last year, the Buckeyes’ defense is just a little better than Nebraska’s. Ohio St. wins this one, 41-34. Record: 4-1.
Week 6 (Oct 5) – vs Northwestern: The Huskers’ defense is still recovering from the loss to the Buckeyes, and it shows. Martinez keeps the offense humming though, as Nebraska escapes with a 31-27 victory. Record: 5-1.
Week 7 (Oct 12) – at Minnesota: This one might be for the B1G West. Gophers coach PJ Fleck has really done a nice job in recruiting and rebuilding this once-proud program. Now, beating Minny is no longer a gimme. The Huskers find this out the hard way. On a day where nothing seems to go right for the Huskers, Minnesota walks off with a 31-21 home win. Record: 5-2.
Week 8 (Oct 26) – vs Indiana: The Huskers use the bye week to heal and regroup. In this matchup, Nebraska is just better at almost every position. Nebraska takes this one, 34-17. Record: 6-2.
Week 9 (Nov 2) – at Purdue: The Huskers hit the road for this one. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is one of the more underrated coaches in the country, and will have the Boilers ready. Brohm dials up a couple trick plays that work. A late Martinez interception seals it for Purdue, 23-20. Record: 6-3.
Week 10 (Nov 16) – vs Wisconsin: An angry and hungry Nebraska team comes in this bye week feeling like they have something to prove. The Badgers are coming off a very physical game against Iowa. Wisconsin seems to have had the Huskers number since they joined the B1G, but not today. Nebraska takes out some frustration on the Badgers, and cruise to a 28-13 victory. Record: 7-3.
Week 11 (Nov 23) – at Maryland: The Huskers are just 2-2 on the road so far this year, but all four of them were winnable games. The Terrapins don’t pose much of a threat in this one, as the out-manned Terps get overwhelmed by the Huskers, 37-9. Record: 8-3.
Week 12 (Nov 29) – vs Iowa: Nebraska finishes the regular season with the Hawkeyes, a team that has beaten them four years in a row now. The Sea of Red is an intimidating venue to play in, and they take the Hawkeyes out of this game entirely. Nebraska wins this one handily, 31-17, in a game that statistically wasn’t this close. Record: 9-3.
So, there you have it. The crystal ball has foreseen a 9-3 (6-3) regular season record for Nebraska. Unfortunately, they will not be able to play for the B1G championship this year. They might be 1-2 years away from something special though. If there’s a team from the West division that can challenge the big boys from the East, it’s going to be Nebraska. But, given their 9-3 record this year, the crystal ball forecasts the Huskers playing their bowl game against:
Outback Bowl (Jan 1) – vs Florida
Ok, the crystal ball is getting a little hazy by this time, as it couldn’t decide between Florida and LSU, but the Gators ultimately got the nod. Martinez shows why he’s a Heisman candidate in this one, as he keeps the Gator defense guessing all day. Don’t get me wrong, Florida belongs in this game, but the day will be Nebraska’s. The Huskers take this one, 34-24. Final record: 10-3.