Brian: Well, it’s time for the season of uncertainty to come abound. 2016, we may have no damn idea what happens, but we’ll all be here for it.
Greg: Uncertainty almost always leads to good things. Like...lower expectations leads to lower disappointment. Like fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.
Ty: As I wrote in this piece last year, I became gradually more optimistic. I’m not sure how this year will go.
Andy: I am in complete “prove it to me” mode at this point. 6-7 to 7-6 expectations lead to fewer crushed dreams and an alcohol bill that isn’t devastating. Well, quite AS devastating, anyway.
Jill: I hope the main problems we saw last year were a lack of buy-in and trust. That makes it easy to be optimistic. If only I could forget that Purdue loss. Ughhh.
Joe: Well, every day that goes by seems to paint a darker picture. This summer hasn’t been a good one, mainly because of Foltz, but injuries, suspensions and transfers haven’t helped. I can’t wait for the games to start honestly, as are we all.
Best Case Scenario For 2016 Nebraska Football:
Mike: 12-0 and heading to Indianapolis. There, I said it. Nebraska was ohh-so-close to winning just about every game (except one inexplicable game) and frankly, it doesn’t take many plays going differently to win them all. Even at the Horseshoe; the Buckeyes only have six returning starters. Don’t write that game off as an automatic loss for the Huskers just yet. If Ohio State has a down year, someone will take advantage...and why not the Big Red?
Cobcast Ryan: 12-0, B1G Champs, Playoffs, National Champss
Ty: Is there any possible best case besides B1G Champs and at LEAST making the playoffs? I think realistically, however, best case is winning the B1G west (very doable) and making the conference title game.
Greg: Best case is beating OSU in the regular season, winning the west (I want Tweedy to produce a documentary after the season called “How the West Was Won”), and winning in Indy. I think we’re still outside the playoffs, but we’re conference champs, baby!
Andy: While not quite as weak as last year’s powder puff lineup, the 2016 schedule ranges from “downright sad” to “slightly above mediocre” beyond OSU. So, I’ll put on my rose-colored glasses along with a mesh Jarvis Redwine half-jersey and say 11-3. (11-1 regular season, B1G title game loss, sound thrashing in the Rose Bowl)
Nathaniel: Big West Champions, appearance in the conference title game and a Rose Bowl win.
Jill: Well, we have a QB entering his 4th-ish year as a starter, oodles of WR talent, dependable depth in the backfield, and an offensive line that is inexperienced but has a fair number of recruiting stars working their way into the lineup. On defense, we could create an entirely new scheme of all linebackers? Nebraska is also catching some marquee competition at a “good” time with Oregon and Ohio State not being the powerhouses they were a year or two ago and Wisconsin lost their defensive coordinator.
Iowa is still Iowa so I expect them to lose to the Cyclones and begin to reminisce about 2015 early this season. I guess I can talk myself into double-digit wins as a best case to go with a West Division title. I still can’t talk myself into a B1G title but ask me again if Parella turns out to be as much a miracle worker this year as Trent Bray was last year.
Jon: Wow. I thought I was a homer. Best case is Nebraska winning the Big Ten West, going to the championship game, losing, and making a decent bowl.
Joe: I’m with Jon. Making the Big Ten championship would count as a big step, anything more would thrill me.
David: I don’t think some of you get how best case scenario’s work. The BEST case scenario for Nebraska is that Mike Riley has his Bob Stoops moment and takes this team to the National Title. Tommy Armstrong wins the Heisman Trophy and NU reels in its best recruiting class in about 30 years. That’s the best case scenario. But I don’t think that’s what you were asking. The answer to that is that I think this could be a 10-2 regular season team. Depending on when those two losses come, a trip to Indianapolis is very much in play. NU runs the ball a lot more. The natives settle down a bit.
Brian: A 10 win season, a B1G title berth and a Monday bowl game on January 3rd or thereabout is not a bad season. There is a time to play & coach to your capabilities, and this is the time for this team and staff.
Worst Case Scenario For 2016 Nebraska Football:
Mike: After last year, I really hate to even think about this possibility, and I’m afraid to even go there. But if I’m truly honest, I can see eight games where Nebraska can conceivably lose in 2016.
Cobcast Ryan: We lose to Ohio State in the season, beat them in the B1G Championship for the redemption, Playoffs, National Champs.
Ty: Wasn’t last year worst case? After winning nine games in seven straight seasons, we win five and make a bowl game because ESPN has more bowl games than there are .500 teams to fill them? Sliding bassackwards into a bowl game for the second straight year is my worst case.
Greg: I don’t want to say that last season was salvaged by a bowl game, but going to the off-season with a W sure felt better than a loss to...ummm...shit...that team we should beat and beat soundly but Tommy had a bad game...oh well - they don’t matter. I say worst case scenario involves another sub-.500 season and NO bowl game. I would be able to hear the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth here in Illinois...because I would probably be the one wailing and gnashing.
Andy: OK, we need to stop with the “oh so close to greatness last year” talk at this question. Close losses to horrific Illinois & Miami are not points of pride and neither is getting an ass-kicking from Purdue, backup QB or no. The post-season showed MSU & Iowa to be paper tigers. And UCLA wanted to be at the Foster Farms Bowl about as badly as I want to be at a fucking wedding on fall afternoons near kickoff so let’s quit pretending we won the Rose Bowl Lite.
The WR’s are the best in the Big 10 but, aside from the LB’s possibly, no other position is close to the top. Tommy will be Tommy again (see almost any practice update), Riley & Langs will panic and abandon the run at horrible times and we’re basically replacing both lines.
5-7 is a very real possibility, but let’s say that academics come through again and we defend the FFB trophy and call it another 6-7. (Was that worst-case enough?)
Nathaniel: Things unravel after a blowout loss to Oregon and the Huskers finish 7-5 or 6-6
Jill: This team might have been close to winning a lot more games last year, but a lot of those were games that should have been relatively easy wins. A repeat of last year or worse is absolutely on the table despite all the offseason fluff about “buy in” and “trust”.
More worst case: Westerkamp’s groin injuries get worse, DPE never gets back to form, both lines show their inexperience with blown plays and penalties every week, the interceptions continue to add up, no running back is dependable enough to game plan around, the Blackshirts never do find a pass rush, the secondary’s problems were about coaching and not personnel.
Jon: Going 6-6 and making it to a minor bowl where we lose and therefore don’t make improvement on last season. Everyone questions whether Riley is the right guy for the job, and the screaming gets so load it hampers recruiting.
Joe: Worst case is that you have Armstrong go down, have to burn O’Brien’s redshirt and finish with a similar record to last year. And then the recruiting class falls apart.
David: The worst case is pretty grim. Injuries and frustrations pile up. Emotions boil over and the team fractures as the calls for the freshman QB get loud. A 3-9 season makes the seat under Riley very, very hot.
Brian: The worst case scenario is Mike Riley getting fired for not getting to a bowl game. But, some of you would love that to prove that you were right about Riley. A new coach comes in, one that you won’t trust because Shawn Eichorst hired Mike Riley and the bullshit all starts over again.
Nebraska’s Most Valuable Player Will Be:
Mike: If Nebraska has a successful season, people will vote for Tommy Armstrong, but I think the real answer is probably an I-back: either Terrell Newby or Mikale Wilbon.
Cobcast Ryan: Nate Gerry, Jordan Westerkamp and Dicaprio Bootles.
Ty: DeMornay Pierson-El. He’ll contribute as a returner, wideout, H-Back.
Greg: Most Valuable Player will be TA2 if the “best case scenario” unfolds as I laid it out previously. If the Huskers are successful, it will be because of the strides in Tommy’s game, and how the offensive game is called. If the season has a close resemblance to last year, my guess would be Nate Gerry. I’ll even say that Josh Banderas has the potential to be that guy.
Andy: I’ll have to give it to the WR’s as a group. Another year of spotty pass defense coupled with a gravely inexperienced defensive line will lead to some shootouts which will require fireworks from these guys to bail us out a few times if we’re to get back to the 9-win plateau. Westy, Reilly, Morgan, Moore, Pierson-el. That group is our gold standard for 2016.
Nathaniel: DPE. Such a special player in manner aspects.
Jill: I hope it is Danny Langsdorf. If he uses deploys his armada well, a high-scoring offense that can chew clock when needed will protect the Blackshirts and make Banker’s crew look respectable.
Jon: Probably Nate Gerry. If Nebraska has a decent season, it will be because the defense stopped being terrible. Tommy Armstrong is the more likely candidate just because quarterback.
Joe: Tommy Armstrong. With an assist by Sam Foltz, who’s memory will motivate the entire team.
David: The offensive line. I cheated a bit, sorry. But if they become a solid unit, I think there is real opportunity for this team to have a great year. Same goes for the defensive line.
Brian: Which ever of these 3-4 Running Backs that get can show the most complete game out of the backfield in running, catching footballs and blocking. The fan base will clamor it’s the one that can get the most yards carrying the football though. And that’s fine, but in the end, it has to be a complete back.
The Game Nebraska Will Lose That They Are Supposed To Win Will Be:
Mike: I don’t think Nebraska “Will” lose any games at this point. But one that concerns me (other than the usual suspects) is Wyoming. The Cowboys’ struggles last year might be explained by quarterback play, and the best quarterback Wyoming had only lasted 13 plays before breaking his clavicle. If he’s healthy, they could be much improved. Craig Bohl has extra motivation for this game, and his reputation at North Dakota State stands on it’s own.
Cobcast Ryan: This won’t happen, this ain’t the Pelini Huskers, it’s the Riley Huskers. It’s America’s Huskers. It’s a return to greatness. Get on board the Husker train to Champ town, population: 2016. Get scared Saban, Get scared Meyer, Dantanio, and Dabo because Tommy Armstrong is coming to wherever you are and throwing bombs for points. SO MANY POINTS.
Ty: That damn Thanksgiving Weekend game always scares me, I guess that comes from growing up in Boulder and being scared to face a year of Buffs fans being di- sorry- jerks about the previous loss (I still hear 62-36 in my sleep, * shudder *). We know Iowa was good last year, but I don’t see it continuing. I think we’ll go into that weekend as favorites, but it’s always a troubling game.
Andy: Indiana 58 Nebraska 55. Sudfeld is gone but Devine Redding and their top three receivers return. This game terrifies me.
Greg: I don’t see anything on the home schedule that is a game we should win but don’t. And there are some road games that Nebraska COULD win, but are going to be closely contested. And they won’t lose two in a row on the day after Thanksgiving. So that leaves Andy’s premonition of the Indiana game. And even then, I think they still win that. But I would consider that the most likely to get burned on.
Nathaniel: The Northwestern game worries me a bit especially since Nebraska will be breaking out the surrender whites for that game.
Jill: Northwestern and Indiana concern me since NW is always a tough game for the Huskers and Indiana’s offense could light up the scoreboard if our defensive woes continue.
Jon: Indiana. Minnesota. Northwestern. Purdue.
Joe: Northwestern, for reasons I can’t explain.
David: Nebraska will win at Northwestern. They’ve played the Wildcats better in Evanston than they have in Lincoln for whatever reason. They’ll also win at Iowa, because the home team is incapable of winning in that series. The game that scares me is Minnesota. Coming off back to back taxing road trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State, the Gophers coming into Lincoln will bring a physical game right at Nebraska. If NU’s not up for the challenge, it could be a long day in Lincoln.
Brian: Jesus, I dunno. I will say Indiana, who is making that game sound like a career changing game for Kevin Wilson if they do win that one. I could also make a argument that it’s Minnesota given that it’s the same team they handled up North last year and the game is in Lincoln.
The Game Nebraska Is Not Supposed To Win But Will Anyways Is:
Cobcast Ryan: We are supposed to win every game and we will. We are the greatest. We are the Muhammad Ali of college football, the Jay Z of the NCAA, we are the alpha and the omega.
Ty: I made a point to find tickets to the Michigan State game last year. I was in the north stands. I’m so glad I made that choice! I’m going to take Oregon. No matter what happens going in to that game, I think we’ll be slight underdogs, because ESPN, but we’ll win it. From there on out, I don’t know that we’ll be “supposed” to lose one.
Andy: Riley teams always seem to pull one huge upset on their way to another 6-6 season, but the only “huge” one on the board this season is Ohio St. and I don’t see that happening on the road this year. That means someone unexpected taking a weak schedule and storming to an unexpected start. Wisconsin has a brutal schedule. Minnesota does not.
The Gophers are this year’s Mich St. They will come to Lincoln 9-0 and monstrously overrated at #5. Nebraska 33 Minnesota 29. OH MY GOD!!!
Greg: It’ll be so sweet when they beat Ohio State.
Nathaniel: Beating Iowa at Kinnick
Jill: I still have a hard time envisioning a win at Columbus. Iowa is going to recede back into the dark corners of whatever back room they argue about Kirk Ferentz’ buyout in. Wisconsin is going to have a hard time replacing Dave Aranda (defensive coordinator now at LSU) and Joel Stave (I know, I could hardly type that with a straight face). That leaves Oregon as our underdog uprising. If Minneysoda gels behind their experienced quarterback and new offensive coordinator the battle for the broken chair could be surprisingly good too.
Joe: Again, I agree with Jon, but I think it’s kind of sad that this is a game we are “supposed” to lose. Never again.
David: Michigan. Think about it.
Brian: I’ll say that it’s going to be Oregon. The ones bathing in their saliva to call Riley another Callahan have eyes locked on that game right now. Big time home game vs. a Pac 12 team, ala USC was in Bill’s last season. The Huskers should be 3-0 after that one in my eyes, there is no reason not to be.
A Successful Season Is:
Mike: I’ll disagree with Gerry DiNardo. Getting to a bowl game in 2016 would not be a successful season at Nebraska. That’s bare minimum IMHO for Nebraska in 2016. Defining a “successful” season as one where the coaches don’t get fired afterwards is a pretty low bar. I think if Nebraska is thinking about Indianapolis and a New Years Day bowl game in November as realistic possibilities, then that’s probably a successful season for Nebraska in 2016. Frank Solich and Bo Pelini made the conference championship game in year two. Bill Callahan did it in year three. Nebraska needs to be in that neighborhood this year; not saying they must get there this year. But it’s got to be a realistic proposition this November.
Cobcast Ryan: Breaking every NCAA record.
Ty: Conference Championship game. IMO, we don’t have to win it, but we need to be there and compete. It can’t be like it was against Wiscy in 2012.
Andy: I’ll shoot a little higher than Dinardo and say 9-3 regular season and something along the lines of the Holiday Bowl. That would show both improvement and that multiple losses to god-awful teams is not a new habit.
Greg: West Champs. Big 10 Champs. New Years Day Bowl Game. Top Ten. And I want to be able to say that we were robbed by the playoff selection committee.
Nathaniel: Big West champions.
Jill: Returning to the 9-10 win mark and winning the B1G West would soothe the natives for a season.
Jon: An improvement on last year’s record. That’s it.
Joe: Winning record and a top 20 recruiting class. Slow and steady.
David: Not stubbing your toe. Taking care of business at home. Establishing an identity on offense (even if it’s only for a year). The young lines show marked improvement from Fresno to Iowa. POB maintains his redshirt. Make the crowds in Madison and Columbus anxious deep into the 4th quarter.
Brian: One that gets Nebraska to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. Anything past that is gravy bought by house money.
An Unsuccessful Season Is:
Mike: Worrying about being bowl eligible after the Ohio State game.
Cobcast Ryan: Not beating Alabama by 4 touchdowns.
Ty: Not making the conference title game. I think most will agree that’s why we hired Riley was to get us back to that level. However, if we are close, or only don’t make it because we lost to Iowa in November, then it might not be completely unsuccessful.
Andy: More of the same as last year. A few more close losses to bottom-feeders to go with our big upset, 5-7 or 6-6 for the regular season, and worst of all, a further acceptance among many that this isn’t so bad and that we just need to realize that we can’t compete geographically anymore (big sigh).
Greg: Losing to Iowa, period, Ty. A bowl game isn’t enough. It’s why I don’t think our season was “saved” by making a bowl game last year. I have already explained why I am grateful we went there, as it gave hope. And hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies. We can’t suffer blowouts anymore. We can’t suffer close losses to bad teams. Want to right the ship? Want to return to college football’s top tier? You have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, and do so convincingly. Then you get a steal against Oregon at home. And you go to the horseshoe (a burger made famous in Illinois) and surprise the college football world. Then you go to Indy and do that which no one expected and win the whole damn thing!
Nathaniel: Too many unforced errors leading to more unnecessary losses and a 6-6 record.
Jill: Another season of barely (or not) being bowl eligible and inexplicable losses to bad teams. Anything under 8 wins, even if blowouts are avoided, is just not acceptable. I realize the talent level isn’t where it should be on the depth chart, but this is the B1G West. No one else’s is either.
Joe: Less than 9 wins and losing out on all the 4 and 5 stars we are in on.
David: What Joe said.
Brian: Being out of the chase for Indy by the time they get to Kinnick. I can live with losing to Iowa for the division, because it means you were in it till the last day. But if something happens that kills Nebraska’s chances before then, it will probably be self-inflicted.
The Final Record & Bowl Game Will Be:
Cobcast Ryan: 15-0 National Champions. The rename the trophy to the Nebraska “Unicameral” National Championship Trophy. We will call it the “Unicam-nat-tro” for short.
Ty: I want us in the Belk Bowl because the Faux Pelini twitter thread would be epic. Nonetheless, I think the Huskers lose two this year. One will be the conference championship, the other I don’t really know. After a bowl win, we’re 12-2. We win the Orange Bowl. (Note: I did not become more optimistic as I went on. I realistically have thought this should be a much better year. A New Year’s Six bowl MIGHT be reaching, but...)
Andy: 8-5 - call it a 7-5 regular season followed by a rousing victory in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. I would love to be surprised by one of these 10-2 or 11-1 seasons, but with that many new starters on both lines, it’s going to have to come by surprise. OK, where’s Cobby? I might have to start biting corks out of bottom shelf swill before the sun goes down and that crazy bastard always makes things interesting. He also draws police attention away at closing time when he starts causing problems outside and in the streets.
Greg: A 9-win season regular season (loss to Wisconsin but Wiscy loses three conf. games - have Sparty, UM, and OSU before Iowa and us - sending NU to Indy) with a loss in the B1G championship and a win in a bowl game played between Christmas and New Years. Yeah...we’re getting there.
Nathaniel: It all hinges on the Oregon game. Realistically I can see the Huskers going 9-3 and winning a California bowl game for the second year in a row.
Jill: I expect a couple losses even if this team plays to potential. The defense is just too much of a question mark for me to think otherwise (sorry Ryan). A key injury or brain fart will lead to another. I’ll pick 9-3 and I am being more optimistic than I feel.
Mike: Last year, I was the pessimist in August, predicting the Huskers to go 7-5 in 2015. I’m going in the same direction for 2016. It’s an easier schedule, granted, but there’s another factor that’s got my attention. It’s what I didn’t recognize until last October when I experienced it firsthand. I call it “The Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Riley Factor” - it’s that sound that Husker fans make when a pass falls incomplete on third and two.
It comes from the recognition that Riley will lose a couple of games in 2016 that Nebraska has no business losing. The flip side is that Riley’s also usually good for an upset, so those losses to Indiana and Maryland will probably get offset by a road win in Mad-town.
Jon: 8-4 regular season with a loss in the bowl game.
Joe: I’m gonna say 8-4 record with a WIN in the bowl game.
David: I’m feeling like 9-3 is about right. They’ll split the Wisconson/Ohio State road trip, which likely means a win in Madison, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. The Outback Bowl feels about right to me, I think, that’s vs. an SEC team, let’s say Florida for fun.
Brian: 10-4 season. Losing to Ohio State in Indy, and winning a bowl game. Jordan Westerkamp finally gets that 1000 yard season that fries every #RUNTHEFUCKINGBALL guy. Some studs come out of the Defense in a Davis twin & Lamar Jackson. And then the third day after the season ends, folks start in with the 2000 word thinkpieces talking about the Tanner Lee vs. Patrick O’Brien vs. Tristan Gebbia Quarterback battle. And in one of those, someone will pine and wish that Ryker Fyfe had eligibility to show that five hearts is better than four stars.