Friday, August 20, 2010
Is Nebraska overrated?
By ESPN.com staff
I don't think so, and neither does Bruce Feldman, who lays out a good case for why Nebraska is a preseason top 10 team after winning 10 games a year ago:
From Feldman's post today:
@pleasehammer am I crazy or are the Nebraska Cornhuskers way overranked? Terrible offense. Lost best DE in ages. Pretty good rest of defense does not equal top 15, right?
Crazy? Nah. A little off? Yeah, I'll go with that. They're going to be very good up front on D even without Ndamukong Suh. DT Jared Crick is a stud and they also have two very good corners. Also, I wouldn't call their offense terrible by any stretch. They're going to be very strong on the O-line with four starters back and they have some capable RBs led by Roy Helu Jr., who is coming off a season where he ran for 1,147 yards. I'm not sold on the QB play being good enough to be a top-five team, but we'll see. They do also return their top three returning receivers.
I hear complaints from opposing fans like "pleasehammer" all the time about the Huskers, and to follow up on what Bruce wrote, I also point doubters to Nebraska's schedule last season. There's no excusing the 31-10 loss to Texas Tech in Lincoln. That was a bona fide butt-kicking.
But the Huskers were a few more plays away from finishing 13-1.
- There's the disputed second against Texas in the Big 12 Championship (which, by the way, was the right call by officials) and Longhorns kicker Hunter Lawrence sneaking a game-winning, 46-yard field goal inside the upright for a 13-12 win as time expired.
- Virginia Tech (which finished the 2009 season ranked No. 10 in both polls) beat the Huskers in Blacksburg 16-15 on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor with 21 seconds to play.
- And the legendary 9-7 home loss to Iowa State in which the Huskers had more turnovers (8) than points. Iowa State didn't turn the ball over once. That's obviously a terrible performance by the Huskers, but four of those eight turnovers were fumbles inside the Iowa State 5-yard line. Take one away and that's a win.
- Meanwhile, none of the 10 wins they did get were big-time nail-biters. They dominated Oklahoma's offense for 60 minutes, and Colorado -- the next-closest opponent, cut the margin to eight points only after a touchdown at the gun. The Huskers' offense struggled for three quarters at Missouri, but anytime the offense and defense combine for 27 points in the fourth quarter, you deserve to win.
Yeah, coulda, woulda, shoulda. I get that.
But Nebraska easily could have won more than 10 games last season, especially the pair over very good teams. Replacing the lost starters on the nation's best defense won't be a given, but the Huskers coaches feel confident in the players who are stepping in. It might not be as good, but like Bruce writes, if the offense is better than it was last year -- and it should be -- the defense won't need to keep offenses in the single digits as often as they did a season ago.