PELINI'S LAST YEAR?
Following Nebraska's 33-0 manhandling of Arizona in the '09 Holiday Bowl that capped a 10-4 Husker season, NU head football coach, Bo Pelini proclaimed, "Husker football is back."
Pelini may have been caught up in the moment, but he may have had good reason to feel that way. After all, he had transformed a Husker defense that just a year before he arrived in '08, was one of the worst in all of college football. But by the end of '09, the Huskers had the #1 ranked scoring defense in college football.
From worst to first in just two years. Not bad.
Also that same year, Nebraska had come within one second of winning the Big 12 title, losing to Texas 13-12.
And the next year wasn't bad, either. There was another 10-4 season that once again saw the Huskers in another Big 12 Conference championship game, losing to this time to Oklahoma, 23-20.
Despite those setbacks, Husker football looked as if it was getting back on track.
But since that "shining" moment in the '09 Holiday Bowl, the Huskers have gone 0-3 in bowl games and have zero conference titles.
Oh yes, there was the matter of trasitioning from the Big 12 to the B1G. But many Husker fans thought even with the move, that the best was yet to come for Bo Pelini and Nebraska football.
But with six double digit losses over the next two years including meltdowns at Wisconsin and Michigan in '11 and last year's 63-38 blowout loss at Ohio State and the 70-31 meltdown against a then 7-5 Wisconsin team in the last year's B1G title game, football fans, not just Husker fans going in to this season, are still wondering what in the name of Kevin Cosgrove is going on?
How can this be? Has Pelini lost his mojo?
To some, it sure seems so. In fact, most of the preseason mags don't have NU in the B1G title conversation. Some even have the Huskers finishing third in the Legends Division. And did you see Sports Illustrated's Top 25 preseason rankings?
Nebraska is nowhere to be seen. Nowhere. Gulp.
And the lack of respect is understandable. The Huskers' penchant for self destruction and inept defenses have pushed Nebraska to the brink of irrelevance-at least by some of the so-called experts in the media.
SAME 'O SAME 'O?
So what's a Husker fan to do? Conventional wisdom says that it will be more of the same in 2013. More sloppy play, defensive meltdowns. Maybe an appearance in the conference title game, but with another loss. And to cap the season, the Huskers will suffer another defeat in a non-BCS bowl game. Sigh.
Bo's critics may be right. Time will tell, but for this long time Husker fan, I don't buy a bit of it. I'm not going to jump into the skeptic tank. Not this year. Not with this talent. Not with this coaching staff.
THE LAST SEASON?
Will 2012 be the last time Bo ever fields a Husker football team that self-destructs? One that can't win "big" games? One that leads the nation in turnovers? One that embarrasses itself on national TV? Will last season be Nebraska's last year of high hopes and faded dreams?
THE YEAR OF THE CORN?
This year will be Nebraska's year. First and foremost, Bo, while still learning his craft, can coach.
And after making much needed staff changes over the past three years, Bo now has a stable group of assistants capable of coaching winners. Everybody's on the same page this season. And the players?
This year's crop of Cornhuskers is going to surprise a lot of people, but not themselves or their coaches.
Look for the offense to carry the team early on, but once the defense (they may turn out to be the most talented group Bo's had at Nebraska) gains experience and confidence, look out. The talent on defense is scary.
Really scary. Speed, speed and more speed abounds.
And the offense? They won't self-destruct. What they will do is cause nightmares for most defenses. Just stay healthy, #3. Please?
Husker Dan's Preseason Pigskin Predictions:
1) Taylor Martinez will complete 68% of his passes this season.
2) He will be invited to the Downtown Athletic Club in December.
3) NU will win at Ann Arbor.
4) NU will down a good UCLA team at home.
5) Alabama and Ohio State will not play for the NC.
6) NU will meet Ohio State in the B1G title game.
7) NU will be a plus in Turnover margin.
8) Martinez will be All B1G again.
9) NU will win its first BCS bowl game since '99
10) NU will finish in the final Top Ten
And #11 (drum roll, please), NU wins its first conference title since '99. Am I dreaming? Maybe. Maybe not.
Stay tuned, Husker fans. The train is about to leave the station.
You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net