This week, the void between the optimists and pessimists in the Husker fan base seemed to be even larger than ever. There are lots of valid reasons for both schools of thought. If you are a "glass half-full" fan, you can see five straight nine-plus win seasons, four shared or outright championships of a six team division in five seasons, and a prolific offense that racks up yardage and points consistently. If you are a "glass half-empty" fan, you see three conference title game losses and defensive breakdowns last season that were, well, Cosgrove-esque.
Both sides have a point. But are some fans on the negative side overreacting? Perhaps. I'm sure there are fans who are excessively optimistic, but frankly, if anybody is predicting an undefeated season for Nebraska, they are wisely keeping those opinions to themselves. Nobody is publicly speaking about Nebraska being ready to challenge Alabama for the national championship. Maybe they will, but that's probably premature to discuss at this point.
On the other side, the glass-half-empty gang is making it pretty clear that "half-empty" is looking at the situation through rose colored glasses. "Can't win the big game," they say. They also said that about Tom Osborne. Bo Pelini is no Tom Osborne, of course...the point is that just because he hasn't won it yet, that doesn't mean he never will. The defense was horrible last season, and has even less experience. True point, but maybe the younger players who were redshirting last year are better. Or maybe not. It's a concern, of course. It's uncertainty about the defense, not a condemnation that Pelini has forgotten to coach defense. He turned around Husker defenses in 2003 and 2008...maybe he'll do it in 2013. All we know for sure is the defense will be different.
The offense should be even better this season than in 2012. Yes, Rex Burkhead is gone, but he missed a large portion of 2012 anyway. Taylor Martinez is back after an improved 2012...could he improve even more in 2013? ESPN's Adam Rittenberg thinks that Martinez will be the Big Ten's best passer this season. Mainly, that's because the Penn State and Indiana quarterback situations are still in flux, but let's be straight...Martinez has plenty of weapons to exploit this season.
In fact, the offense is one big reason why Phil Steele picked Nebraska as his #6 surprise team in 2013. Another reason is the schedule. Wisconsin and Ohio State rotate off, and are replaced by
Indiana Illinois and Purdue. The most difficult road game is at Michigan, who has their own offseason questions. Steele has Nebraska winning the Big Ten's West division in 2013, and Steele's preseason evaluations are typically well-regarded.
With eight games, Nebraska seems well-poised to have a big year and in pretty good position to return to Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game. Is that a good year? I think it is, though I think all Husker fans would like more. Winning that trophy would make it a really good year, and winning a BCS bowl game would make it a great year.
Is that excessive optimism? Some might say it is, but I submit that if the defense can just be average in 2013, that might be enough for Nebraska to have a good, if not really good, year.
What's your take?