Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Midseason review: Nebraska
By ESPN.com staff
Record: 5-0 (1-0 Big 12)
Nebraska had one of college football's most dominant defenses in 2009, but ranked 99th in total offense. The result: four losses and relegation to the Holiday Bowl following a heartbreaking loss in the Big 12 title game. Enter Taylor Martinez. Suddenly, Nebraska has one of the nation's most dynamic offenses, especially with the run. Part Oregon/Vince Young's Texas zone-read option, part West Coast quick passing (mostly the former), the Huskers rank seventh nationally in total offense, and second in rushing offense, but lead the nation in yards per carry by almost a yard per touch. Nebraska's 41.6 points per game ranks in the national top 10 to go along with a top-15 ranking in total defense. Through five games, Nebraska is undefeated and looks like a national title contender with 35-point blowouts against the two best teams it's faced this year, Washington and Kansas State. Martinez's excellence has overshadowed the Huskers two quality backs, too, in Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead.
Offensive MVP: QB Taylor Martinez – He's my pick as the midseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and for good reason. A redshirt freshman playing for the first time, he's injected himself into the Heisman discussion by averaging over 10 yards per carry, a full yard better than the next-best in college football. His 12 rushing touchdowns lead the nation as well, and of the 12, five are longer than 35 yards. The 12 touchdown runs have also averaged 34.9 yards, firmly entrenching Martinez as one of college football's surest big-play threats.
Defensive MVP: LB Lavonte David – Though the strength of the defense as a whole is probably the secondary, David, a junior, is a first-year starter progressing fast and building some buzz as one of the conference's best defenders after a breakout performance against Kansas State. He has 35 tackles in his past two games and averages 12 tackles per contest, most in the Big 12. He also has four tackles for loss, two sacks and four pass break-ups. Look for David to make plenty more plays as the season progresses. Plenty of players on the defense could make a case for this, including DeJon Gomes, Jared Crick and Prince Amukamara, who nobody seems to want to throw toward for some odd reason. But any improvement the Huskers show in defending the run may parallel David's growth as a player.