This post sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011
How much faith do you put in the last game of the 2009 season? How much better can the offense be in 2010? How many games will Nebraska win, and where will we end up?
As the preseason predictions started to come in, I started to wonder just what the heck these college football pundits were smoking as the Huskers started to show up in top ten ratings. Phil Steele really grabbed my attention by putting Dear 'Ol Nebraska U at #5. So finally I went and started to look at this season a little closer. And suddenly I started to see what the prognosticators are looking at.
Western Kentucky? 20 game losing streak. Idaho? Well, they jumped up and improved from 2 wins to 8 last year...but they're still a WAC team. Washington? Lost 7 games last year. South Dakota State? Last time they played a game in Nebraska, they lost 34-17 to UNO in 2003.
The Missouri game is in Lincoln. Kansas has a new football coach. Colorado doesn't have a new football coach. Neither does Texas A&M. Oklahoma State has a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. Texas doesn't have Colt McCoy...and this game is in Lincoln. (And we remember what happened the last time Nebraska faced Texas...)
Do you see a game that Nebraska can't win? Nope. Do you even see a game that Nebraska won't be favored to win? Not sure I even see that.
Suddenly, those high rankings start making sense. If you put your faith in how Nebraska finished last season, starting with the Oklahoma game, you see a team that could go 12-0 in the regular season schedule. It's been a while since Husker fans have been able to say that.
But I also remember what happened against Texas Tech and Iowa State. Just because Nebraska LOOKS like they'll be favored to win those games, there's no assurance they WILL win those games. If the injury bugs smites the Big Red, all bets are off.
I think there's an excellent shot that this Husker squad wins the North and heads back to Jerry World...and if I had to guess, they'll probably face up against Oklahoma. If Oklahoma is as good as I think they'll be again this season, I think Nebraska stands an excellent chance of playing in Glendale. Probably on New Years Day in the Fiesta Bowl...but if all the cards fall correctly, maybe it's a week later.
And ohhhhhhh, won't THAT be fun!
As a guy who's been a consultant for over 20 years, and done my share of project management, I know that one of the secrets to success is to set expectations low and deliver high. That philosophy translates to the rest of my life and it's why I typically try to stay a somewhat cynical about Nebraska football until the season actually begins.
Having said that, it's hard not to get excited about what's coming. Like Mike said, if you look at the schedule, there isn't an opponent that Nebraska can't beat.
There are some dangerous opponents. Washington will be a tougher game than most expect. Texas will have the best defense the Huskers face all season - it will be difficult scoring against them and that's why they'll continue to be a contender as they rebuild their offense in 2010. Missouri's offense should be pretty good, and it's a good thing Nebraska gets them in Lincoln. Texas A&M's offense should be pretty good, and that game will be dangerous. If the Huskers are undefeated at that point, it'll require some excellent coaching by Bo Pelini to keep their minds even and focused on each game rather than believing whatever press they'll be getting at that point.
The offense must be better if we're going to have a great season. I'll believe the defense is better than last season when I see it - not before, so we will need to score points to win some of our games, particularly Washington, Texas, and Texas A&M.
I would be amazed if Nebraska doesn't win the Big 12 North. I don't think it's an absolute certainty, but the Huskers are the most complete team and the schedule is relatively easy. That puts us into the last Big 12 Championship game, probably against Oklahoma. Winning that will be a toss up.
Win it, and Nebraska should make the national title game. Lose it, and I'm still willing to bet the Huskers will be in a BCS bowl.
So - bottom line - what's my expectations for 2010? Big 12 North champs, Big 12 champs, and BCS bowl game.
I guess I didn't set them very low, did I?