Countdown to 2012 - Eight conference games and how to win/lose them

INDIANAPOLIS, IN See this silver ball? Nebraska fans want this silver ball. With this silver ball comes a plethora of roses and a return trip to Pasadena. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

With EIGHT, YES EIGHT DAYS til the kickoff the '12 Nebraska Football season, we take a look at all eight Big 10 Conference games Nebraska will play in this campaign.

There are several opinions about how Nebraska will fare with their conference slate. Some are saying 4-4, some (me included) say 5-3, and others have higher expectations. While the whole schedule will be hard to run, there is a way that the Huskers can win every game on their schedule.

Game 1: Wisconsin Badgers

How to win: Stop the run on Defense. Danny O'Brien will have figured out something in this offense, but to win the Badgers will go to the tried and true cause of Montee Ball behind the earth movers on the offensive line. Knowing that Bo Pelini, John Papuchis and Rick Kaczenski have been tinkering with a 3-4 look in front, it may not be out of the realm for Vincent Valentine to be plugged into NG if he's ready to go.

How to lose: Not to learn what happened last year. Offensively, it was arguably the worst game Tim Beck called last year, followed with the year's worst performance of Taylor Martinez. This defense can be scored upon, but it takes both Beck and TM to be on the same page.

Game 2: Ohio St. Buckeyes

How to win: Take the offense down the field early and get the air out of Ohio Stadium early. Last year, the fuse was lit by the Diamond Formation and the explosion was one Bucky could never recover from. With the ability to duplicate that, getting the advantage on a Saturday night in Columbus will be key

How to lose: Getting caught up in the moment. It's gonna be Urban's big coming out party. Braxton Miller is healthy and Jake Stoneburner is now a Wideout. The Ohio St. offense torched the Nebraska D for 40 minutes last year before Miller went down. However, give Bo Pelini a mulligan and he (usually) learns his lesson.

Game 3: Northwestern Wildcats

How to win: With 2 weeks to prep for the game in Chicago, Nebraska is sure not to take the Wildcats for granted again.. right? Right? Ryan Field should be PACKED with Red. There shouldn't be a repeat performance with that type of support.... right?

How to lose: Not slowing down the Northwestern offense. Kinda weird I know, but there wasn't much last year Pat Fitzgerald's team could do wrong in Lincoln. If there is a hiccup here, it won't be a good week at North Stadium

Game 4: Michigan Wolverines

How to win: This is the tough one of the bunch. Michigan's defense was staunch last year, while at the same time running for almost 240 yards against Nebraska, with Fitz Toussaint going for 140 himself. It was close last year at halftime, and Denard Robinson is known for a stinker once a year, maybe it's his lone trip to Lincoln?

How to lose: Turn the ball over like last season. Tim Marlowe fumbling a kickoff with Taylor putting the ball on the turf helped turn a one score game into a romp. This game should be for the B1G East lead (can't believe I remembered that!) so there's nothing to hold back.

Game 5: Michigan St. Spartans

How to win: Remember last year when Kirk Cousins was picked on time and time again by the Blackshirt secondary? That is what should happen with the Spartans playing their third game against preseason top 15 teams in-conference in a row. I honestly just have no idea how they will score this year.

How to lose: For all the question marks on offense, Sparty's D is no joke. 10th in FBS in points allowed last year, it's expected for a group led by William Gholston to be even saltier. Combine this with Nebraska putting in a lot of energy against the Wolverines the previous week, and things could spin out of control fast. This is the road game Nebraska hasn't been able to avoid with Bo as the HC. Can they buck the trend in East Lansing?

Game 6: Penn St. Nittany Lions

How to win: Coming home will be good for Nebraska as they will be playing a Penn St. team that should be beaten down this far into the season. With the seemingly never-ending Sandusky scandal trashing what season is left, the Lions should be down enough for this not to be a game to worry about.

How to lose: With the above being said, if Bill O'Brien has gotten Penn St to a fairly good season, this could be a very dangerous team. Nothing like a team that can't make a postseason (for a while) to burst a bubble of someone fighting for a B1G title game berth.

Game 7: Minnesota Golden Gophers

How to win: It's Minnesota, who should be better than they were last year but at the same time just not good enough to sweat. However, bowl eligibility will probably be on the line for Jerry Kill's gang. This is also Rex Burkhead's Senior Day, so there will be a lot of emotion as #22 is sent off. That is more than enough motivation to go out and send Rex and every other senior on the roster off a winner

How to lose: That emotion could also work against Nebraska though, as all that emotion could drain this team. However, if there is such a thing as a lock for Nebraska's home conference slate, this is it. Minnesota is getting better, but not there yet.

Game 8: Iowa Hawkeyes

How to win: This game could be for a trip to Indy for Nebraska and a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Even if not, Iowa will be struggling to make a bowl game, and if making sure your rival stays at home instead of playing in the TicketCity Bowl is good enough, well there ya go.

How to lose: The Hawkeyes, however, seem to be a different beast in Iowa City in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. By this time, injuries could have taken their toll on the Huskers, and if it's hit the OL, this could be bad. If you trust Nebraska on the road, they should take this game.

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