Phil Steele is known as a guy who writes a TON, and I mean a METRIC TON of information in his Season Preview books. Today, he let us know what he thinks about the Nebraska Cornhuskers chances this season.
That's a pretty big amount of #content for you to digest, so I'll be your Cliffs Notes for this dissertation.
Nebraska has had a long history of success winning B2B National Titles in '94 & '95 and finishing ranked in the Top Ten 8 of 9 yrs from '93-'01. The Huskers have not finished in the Top 10 since (14 yrs). They went through a regrettable 4 yrs from '04-'07 (27-22) when Bill Callahan tried to switch them from their power option rushing attack to a West Coast passing attack. In Pelini's first year, NU made my Most Improved List and did not disappoint going 9-4. The Cornhuskers made the switch from the B12 (members s/1928, known as B8 until '95) to the Big Ten in '11. They have gone 22-11 in conference play incl 10-6 on the road (10-4 if you take out Madison trips). Four loss seasons would be a common theme in the Pelini era, however, as the team finished with 4 losses in all 7 of his yrs.
- Ironically, the last time the Huskers finished in the Top 10, that is the same amount of time that Nebraska has not won a Conference title.
Surprisingly, NU fired Pelini who finished 66-28. Barry Cotton was the interim HC for the bowl, NU lost 45-42 to USC. Out of the blue they hired Mike Riley from Oregon St who is the anti-Bo as he likes to throw the football and is much friendlier with the press.
- Barry Cotton? Is that his new Vegas stage name? Barry loves those Vegas buffets?
In '13 Tommy Armstrong took over for the injured Taylor Martinez and st'd 8. Armstrong (966, 52%, 9-8, 202 rush) was 7-1 as a st'r despite NU being -13 TO's in their L/6 gms. LY Armstrong battled Johnny Stanton (PS#33) who former OC Beck said had the "it" factor, along with PS#32 true Zack Darlington (IFS)..... l. Mike Riley used mostly pro-style QB's at Oregon St so I would expect much-improved passing numbers.
- Seems like Steele missed the statement when Riley wanted to try to go with more dual-threat QB's, which is possible cause Phil can't remember everything for every FBS/FCS team.
LINEBACKERS - In '13 NU had to replace 3 LB's who were the #1, #4 and #9 tkl'rs (62 car sts lost). PS#17JC Zaire Anderson only st'd 5 gms as a rFr, but was their #5 tkl'r. LY the unit ret'd intact but then Michael Rose-Ivey (PS#47, 7 st, 66 tkl '13) was OFY in Aug. Trevor Roach, who had 12 tkl in his 3Y here, st'd 6 and was the #4 tkl'r. Still, it was a more exp'd group and it was surprising they all'd 26.4 ppg up from 24.8 in '13. TY the losses are heavier as they lose Anderson (12 st, #1 tkl'r, 13 tfl, 3rd Tm B10), Roach (63 tkl, 7 tfl), and Austin Williams (13 tkl). They return their #6 and #7 tkl'rs and 5 of the top 8 along with the return of Rose-Ivey. While not as exp'd, this group of blackshirts could be just as good
- Steele is going off of numbers, and numbers wise the Linebacking crew wasn't terrible. But there is a reason that Mike Riley is out recruiting the snot out of LB's right now. This was also written before David Santos split town.
In Pelini's first year, NU made my Most Improved List and did not disappoint going 9-4. The Cornhuskers made the switch from the B12 (members s/1928, known as B8 until '95) to the Big Ten in '11. They have gone 22-11 in conference play incl 10-6 on the road (10-4 if you take out Madison trips). Four loss seasons would be a common theme in the Pelini era, however, as the team finished with 4 losses in all 7 of his yrs.... Surprisingly, NU fired Pelini who finished 66-28.
- These do not run concurrent in the preview, but kind of.. well, whatever.
In 2015 Riley inherits 12 ret st'rs but will be switching up the offense. They draw Mich St out of the East and have a tough non-conf at Miami, Fl. Still, if they can adapt to the new offense quickly, my main set of PR's actually calls for 7-1 and a trip to the Big Ten Title game. Despite just 12 ret st'rs, Mike Riley has a talented team in his first year.
- This is a pretty bold statement by Steele, but he's not terribly out of line in thinking it so far. Iowa loses their starting QB (also Iowa) and Wisconsin has a lot to replace from Gordon leaving. There is Minnesota at their house, but otherwise Steele loves Nebraska going with 1 loss in Conference play, meaning they (probably) lose at the most 3 games heading into the bowl game.
For those that wish to read the whole breakdown, you can get it on Steele's site today only right here. Otherwise, you're stuck waiting for the book to hit news stands.
Barry Cotton, y'all.