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Corn Nation Pre-Season Prediction Roundtable

Are we buying the preseason hype or keeping the optimism at arm’s length?

Jill Heemstra

Note: Most of these responses were written before the news of the NCAA investigation. Some people chose to modify their response, but some didn’t.

It’s almost game week! That means it is time for us to put our cards on the table and give our preseason predictions. Are we buying the bigger-faster-stronger hype? Do we really think that snapping the ball will become a boring, mechanical feature of Husker games? Do we think that special teams will actually spy the punter this year?!?

Read on to find out!

As always we would like to open the floor to any opening remarks regarding Nebraska Football and the 2021 season.

Akelo: I know the Husker faithful are a bit restless & angsty about our lack of on-field success the past 4 seasons. No one wants to see this team win more than Scott Frost. I trust him with every fiber in my being that he is working tirelessly around the clock to make sure that this thing gets back on track. You gotta be patient, block the Twitter trolls, and most importantly, BREATHE. Things will be taken care of. GBR!

Todd: Football season is almost here and I am excited! I love watching football and I can’t wait to see Nebraska take the field. A full spring, a full summer of working out, and a full set of practices leading up to the first game is something they did not have last year. My hope is that the team has made strides and are more prepared for the season than any other since Coach Frost has been back. They say talent is improved and there is more depth. If that is true, it will be fun to watch this team play!

Patrick: I’m ready for college football. Not sure if I’m ready for Nebraska football.

Jon J: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

Bri: While I’m trying to hold myself back, I can’t. Good things are coming this season. This is the year we see things click.

Jill: I want to stay in pessimist mode and I’m doing better than past years. The NCAA investigation news will help me avoid becoming too optimistic. I’m sure I’m going to go full Kool-Aid by the bottom of this roundtable, which will last until...the first play of the season is a swing pass that loses five yards.

Nate M: I’m hoping to be surprised in a good way. That’s it. I’m hoping to be surprised.

Nate P: After last season’s disappointment, I refused to drink any of the Kool-Aid this offseason. It’s going to take a lot more to impress me this time around.

Andy: For about 5 years running, while always wanting the best for the Huskers, I’ve been winning t-shirts, small amounts of cash and shots from an annual bet on total Husker wins by taking the under each time. I’m taking the over this year.

What player or players do you think will surprise the Nebraska faithful in a good way?

Akelo: Everything I'm hearing about Will Nixon sounds great. He tore his ACL during summer workouts last year & worked hard rehabbing to make it back. Coaches literally always bring him up as a player working hard in practice always making plays. People are stuck on Omar Manning & Samori Toure but I really believe Will will get ample playing time & make a splash. You can't stop his hustle.

Todd: One of the running backs! I’m not sure which one, but one or two will rise to the top and I believe will have a very good season. The offensive line should be good and Coach Frost has said he wants to see a more physical ground game. That makes me believe one of the fellas will get well over 1000 yards and another will pile up some good numbers too. It sounds like Stepp is impressing coaches right now and I have a sense that either Marvin Scott of Gabe Ervin will impress. On the other side of the ball, bring the Payne! Pheldarius is going to do his best imitation of Kenny Walker and Randy Gregory.

Patrick: Samori Toure. Nebraska’s history with wide receiver transfers is mixed at best. I think he will break the cycle and have a good year. He comes from a historically great and still great school that’s in one of the best if not the best conference in the FCC. I also like the state of Montana so that’s another reason why I’m picking him.

Jon: Adrian Martinez. This is his Joe Burrow year. He will become the quarterback Nebraska fans have wanted him to be.

Bri: I think it’ll be a receiver. I think, as fans, we have been reluctant to believe some of the receiver hype, as it has been unfruitful before. This is the year for Omar Manning and Samori Toure.

Jill: I like all of the answers above, but I’m going with Beef Jurgy (Cam Jurgens). It sounds like the snapping issues have been ironed out, in practice anyway.

Nate M: I think Nick Heinrich and Luke Reimer are going to blast onto the scene.

Nate P: I like what I am hearing about the receivers (especially Samori Toure). It should be night and day compared to last year. Hopefully they will be able to click this season.

Mike: If it’s not a wide receiver (my vote is Omar Manning), it’s either a 4 win (because the offense is going to struggle again) or 11 win season (because somebody else exploded).

Andy: The Blackshirts. They started having moments last year and with the combination of returning JR/SR experience and young freakish athleticism, the Husker defense restores the pride to a group that’s been much maligned for several years.

What Nebraska football players, if any, will be selected as 1st team, 2nd team, 3rd team or Honorable Mention All-Conference?

Cam Jurgens, Center.
Adrian Martinez, Quarterback. - I realize this means he’ll have to beat out Ohio State’s whomever, Penix at Indiana, Morgan at Minnesota, Tagovailoa at Maryland and Mertz at Wisconsin - so what?
Omar Manning, receiver
Austin Allen, tight end
Casey Rogers, defensive lineman
JoJo Domann, machine
Cam Taylor-Britt, cornerback
Connor Culp, kicker
Daniel Cerni, punter

Jill: Cam Taylor-Britt is the first name that comes to mind. There is also a lot of returning experience at safety, so it would be good to see Deontai Williams or Marquel Dismuke there. Also, this is the Big Ten. If we don’t get 2-4 linemen (offense and/or defense) on the B1G lists, we aren’t getting very far. I don’t care who it is, I just want several Nebraska names there at season’s end. There is a lot of promise and “hope” in the receivers and backs, but we still have no idea if any of them will emerge. If we see a Nebraska name or two on all-conference lists at the end of the year, I think that means the offense will be much improved. If Jon’s prediction of Adrian Martinez getting all-conference honors comes true, it means Nebraska’s offense had a very good year. I could live with that (but I’m not predicting it).

Nate M: I think the following will make one of the teams or get an honorable mention: Cam Taylor-Britt.

Brian J: Adrian Martinez, Samori Toure, Cam Jurgens, Luke Reimer, Cam Taylor-Britt

Mike: Cam Taylor-Britt is easy. I think NU will have at least two receivers get mentions (Toure and either Omar Manning or Zavier Betts), as well as JoJo Domann and probably one defensive lineman.

Andy: It must be close to opening day because this list is way too long but here we go:

Offense - Cam J, Adrian, Toure, Manning, Austin
Defense - Stille, Robinson, Jojo, Kolarevic, Cam TB, Deontai
Special Teams - Culp

What is your prediction for the four teams to make the College Football Playoff?

Jon: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and not Oklahoma because Nebraska will beat them in September and it will ruin their season. Fourth will be some team that’s there to be crushed, like Notre Dame. Then we’ll all bitch about expanding to 12, 16, or 32 teams.

Patrick: North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Weber State, & Montana State. Weber State will somehow beat North Dakota State for the title and bring happiness to the state of Utah.

Jill: Patrick is full of it. South Dakota State is returning everyone from their spring 2021 campaign in which they came within seconds of a national championship. I refuse to believe that playing another season only a few short months after a grueling playoff run will negatively affect the Jackrabbits.... Sigh. NDSU is ranked higher than SDSU in the preseason polls. I guess lots of years of overwhelming dominance get you the benefit of the doubt.

Nate M: Alabama, Ohio State.....trying to think outside of the box...Texas and Clemson.

Nate P: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, North Carolina (the toughest game on the Tarheels schedule is coming off a bye week at Notre Dame). Georgia plays Clemson at the beginning of the season and North Carolina will (likely) play Clemson at the end of the season, which should give the ‘Heels an advantage.

Brian J: Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson. While the same four teams may make the playoff from last year, I think we could see different results. Alabama and Ohio State have loaded rosters but they have bigger question marks at quarterback than Oklahoma and Clemson.

Andy: Oklahoma, Ohio St., Alabama, Georgia. A reloading Bama loses a regular season game costing them the division title but we all know what happens then.

Lastly, what is your win/loss prediction for 2021 if Nebraska plays all 12 games?

Akelo: BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo was recently in Lincoln, and he made an excellent point. When looking at a rebuilding team's progress, you have to look at their record against teams that have equal, or close to it talent. The only teams with noticeably better talent than Nebraska are Oklahoma & Ohio State. To make a long story short, I'm just hoping for 6-6 and a bowl game, but we have enough talent & depth to win 8 or 9.

Todd: I really don’t do predictions because I do not have anywhere close to enough information to make an intelligent guess. From my perspective, it will all depend on Adrian Martinez and his health. He is not going to start all 12 games. We’ll see which ones he misses and more important, how well his backup plays. My biggest concern going into this season is the number two quarterback. I have no clue how good he is going to be. My hope is that the team wins seven. Just as important, I hope that they compete in every game they play.

Patrick: I’m going with what Akelo said, 6-6. There is still too many unknowns for this year to really blow open for the Huskers. It could, but I will need to see the progress on the field first.

Jon: Todd - make an intelligent guess? WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? What kind of pansy attitude is that? Nebraska is going 9-3 in the regular season with losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. It’ll be a good year. It’ll be fun. I’m not even going to put disclaimers on this.

Bri: I want to say 8-4, but feel like there is going to be one loss that we should’ve won, so I am going with 7-5.

Jill: This is a killer schedule. 6-6 would actually require significant improvement over what we’ve seen the past few years. This team has played a lot of close games and lost because of penalties, turnovers and special teams miscues. If that is genuinely cleaned up, then I would buy 8 or even 9 wins, but we have zero evidence that this program has taken that step. I mean, Frost even said when they had Big Ten officials at a scrimmage, there were too many flags. There, I did it. I held the line. I refused the Kool-Aid. I hope you are all roasting me for it by season’s end.

Nate M: I’m hoping to be surprised but until I see things change I am choosing to expect more of the same. I’ll go with 5-7.

With that said, if you asking me the morning of Illinois it might be 7-5. I’m fighting that feeling though.

Nate P: I’m going with 7-5. Winning 8-9 games is always a possibility but I think there might be a situation where the Huskers lose a game they should have won.

Brian J: I’ve told anybody that will listen to me that Nebraska at a minimum should win 6 games with this good of a defense. But if the offense can show some consistency and be a statistically average division I offense, there is no reason they cannot win 9 games.

Mike: Nebraska has enough talent to win ten games. But they haven’t done anything close to that for so long, that’s expecting too much in 2021. I’m going with 7-5.

Andy: I’ve made an annual habit of going over the top, but when I say 9-3 for this season it doesn’t feel fueled by 92 proof rum and batshit optimism. I see the losses coming to Oklahoma (which will still be closer than people think and raise confidence levels), Ohio St & Wisconsin (which will sting on the heels of a run to 8-1 but be forgiven when they finally get over on Iowa in front of Nebraska’s loud crowd of the year).

Between testing numbers that popped some eyeballs and the NCAA sniffing about, it feels like the switch is getting ready to flip. Martinez has something besides blocking TE’s and a pile of slot receivers to whom to chuck the rock, an RB will step up, the O-Line is starting to look like an O-line again and there’s some athletic talent on the D side that’ll make announcers drop some dirty words by mistake. It’s gonna be fun. (Early Over/Under line on “Holy Shit!”’s from play-by-play announcers for 2021 - 1 1/2)