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Nebraska season review

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There were books written about Bo Pelini and hundreds of T-shirts sold with his name and likeness featured before he coached his first game at Nebraska. Nebraska's fans hoped Pelini would restore the order that seemed so lacking in Bill Callahan's coaching tenure.

Pelini didn't disappoint in an 8-4 season where the Cornhuskers appear to be making steps forward. Black shirts were distributed to an improving defense that played better as the season progressed, keyed by a defensive line that was one of the best in the conference.

Quarterback Joe Ganz picked up where he left off last season, developing into the most underrated quarterback in the conference. But what marked the Cornhuskers' growth late in the season was a ball control offense that enabled them to rank second nationally in average time of possession.

Pelini battled with his temper in sideline outbursts early in the season, but seemed to curb it as the season progressed. It was easy to see why as the Cornhuskers claimed five of their last six games to qualify for the Gator Bowl in an impressive finish.

Offensive Player of the Year
Quarteraback Joe Ganz. After starting the final three games last season, Ganz picked up with the top statistical season for a quarterback in Nebraska school history. Ganz finished the season with 3,332 passing yards and 3,589 total yards -- both Nebraska single-season records -- as he ranked 13th nationally in total offense, 14th in pass efficiency and rifled 23 touchdown passes.

Defensive Player of the Year
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. No player blossomed more under Pelini than Suh, who had struggled through a underachieving sophomore season last year. Under the new coaching staff, Suh developed into a dominant inside player who led the team in tackles, tackles for losses, interceptions and sacks.

Turning point
The Cornhuskers transformed their season in the latter stages of a disappointing early loss to Missouri. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson decided to junk a power running attack in favor of a spread attack that would better accentuate Ganz's natural abilities. The Cornhuskers thrived with the new offense, winning five of their last six Michiaen route to a Gator Bowl berth.
What's next
The Cornhuskers can build immediate momentum for next season with a victory in the Gator Bowl, which would be their first since beating Michigan in the 2005 Alamo Bowl. The next goal will be to winnow a field of four contenders who will vie to replace Ganz at quarterback, the biggest question immediate positional concern for next season.