Thursday, July 16, 2009

NU Pre-View: Nebraska 2009

Baseball is past the All-Star Break, so obviously it's time to be thinking about college football. Here is my far-from-definitive preview of the season. It's done in two ways. First, I break games into categories - Better Win (BW), Should Win (SW), Might Win (MW), and Won't Win (WW). Better Win games are the cupcakes, games you assume NU will win. Should Win are games which could cause problems, but generally you expect NU to win most, if not all. Might Win are games which really could go either way, and you'd expect NU to split through the season. Won't Win are games where a Nebraska win would be a huge upset and cannot reasonably be expected.

I'm also going to give a "Fearless Forecast" as to the outcome of each specific game. We'll see at the end of the season how things shake out.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls are a respectable team, one that was bowl eligible last year and brings back a solid quarterback in Rusty Smith. Plus, this will be Zac Lee's first game at the helm of the Nebraska offense. The game is a bit of a banana peel, but the 'Huskers talent superiority should ultimately win out. SHOULD WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

ARKANSAS STATE - Another bowl-eligible team last year (although they didn't get an invite), the Red Wolves have a respectable defense, but are likely to struggle offensively against the Blackshirts. BETTER WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - WIN

@ VIRGINIA TECH - Don't look now, but Nebraska's most talented 2009 opponent might be the Hokies, not the Sooners. Tech's defense should be outstanding, and Tyrod Taylor has had a year to mature and become a leader. It doesn't help that Zac Lee's first road game is in Blacksburg. WON'T WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Loss

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE - A bit of a trap game between Virginia Tech and Missouri, but the 300th sellout celebration and the super-cool throwback uniforms NU will be sporting should keep the 'Huskers focused enough to dispatch the Ragin' Cajuns. BETTER WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

@ MISSOURI - The first of three pivotal swing games for Nebraska this season. With the departure of Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin, this game represents NU's best opportunity to take some momentum back from the Tigers. Columbia is a tough place to win, but Missouri's talent drop and a get-well game against ULL put Nebraska in a great position for this game. SHOULD WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

TEXAS TECH - Coach Leach, I have some bad news. Michael Crabtree ain't coming through that door this year. Of all the teams in the Big XII, the Red Raiders are poised for the biggest fall, and NU fans might be able to get a little redemption for the 70-10 game back in '04. SHOULD WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

IOWA STATE - A few years ago, Dan McCarney had the 'Clones in a position to be the best team in the Big XII North, if only he could have recruited a kicker. After the disastrous handling of hiring and firing Gene Chizek, Iowa State is now in consideration as the worst program in the conference. This one could get ugly. BETTER WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

@ BAYLOR - Game Two of the pivotal series of games for Nebraska this year. The Bears have a lot of speed and a lot of talent on that team, and Waco will be a hostile atmosphere second only perhaps to Lubbock. Nebraska has better overall talent, but this is a game that could get away from NU in a hurry. MIGHT WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

OKLAHOMA - OK, we get it, Sam Bradford is good. And he's a little ticked off about the whole "getting embarrassed by Florida" thing. While the Gators showed that Bradford handles pressure poorly, the Sooners simply have too much firepower for a rebuilding 'Husker squad. WON'T WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Loss

@ KANSAS - This game could not come at a worse place in the schedule, as it is THE pivotal game of the season. NU's struggles in Lawrence have been things of legend lately (did KU just score again?), and this game will likely be for the out-and-out North Division championship. KU has a senior quarterback and, while I'm not sure of their overall talent level, the Jayhawks will make things very difficult for Nebraska. MIGHT WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

KANSAS STATE - All you 'Clone fans can be thankful for the Purples. Had the soap opera in Manhattan not being transpiring, we'd all be talking about Iowa State as the joke of the North. But ISU can't hold a candle to the mess Ron Prince made of Bill Snyder's legacy. Bring the Purple Savior back was probably their best alternative, but remember that Snyder was losing a lot of games at the end of his tenure as well. Another game that could get ugly quickly. BETTER WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

@ COLORADO - Back in '04, the Buffs brought hammers to Lincoln to put the nail in the coffin of Nebraska's consecutive bowl streak. This year, Nebraska could be bringing those same hammers for Dan Hawkins' career in Boulder. I thought he was a great hire, but his "style" simply hasn't translated into talent. Colorado should be a premier program in the conference, but Ralphie is a long way from that. SHOULD WIN
FEARLESS FORECAST - Win

That leaves four "Better Wins," four "Should Wins," two "Might Wins," and two "Won't Wins." If we assume NU wins all the BW, almost all the SW, splits on the MW, and none of the WW, that puts NU at 9-3 for the 2009 campaign.

The Fearless Forecast is a little bolder, at 10-2. I am assuming wins at Baylor and Kansas, and when looked at individually I still go back to those picks. But both those game terrify me, and it is awfully ambitious to think NU will be able to put everything together enough to run that table.

So, my official prediction is 9-3 for the 'Huskers this year, which is more than respectable. This year's schedule is more challenging than last year's, and to improve on the regular season record with a more difficult schedule would be a real accomplishment for Nebraska.

Is it September 05 yet?

GBR, baby.

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