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Nebraska Cornhuskers season preview

8/10/2014

Previewing the 2014 season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers:

2013 overall record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)

Key returnees: Ameer Abdullah, RB; Randy Gregory, DE; Kenny Bell, WR; Corey Cooper, S; Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB.

Key losses: Quincy Enunwa, WR; Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB; Ciante Evans, DB; Spencer Long, OG; Jeremiah Sirles, OT

Instant impact newcomer: Colorado transfer Alex Lewis could start at left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 290-pounder started all 12 games at guard for the Buffaloes in 2012 before transferring and running into legal problems.

Projected starters

Offense: QB: Tommy Armstrong Jr., Soph., 6-1, 220; RB: Ameer Abdullah, Sr., 5-9, 195; WR: Kenny Bell, Sr., 6-1, 185,; WR: Jamal Turner, Sr., 6-1, 190; WR: Alonzo Moore, Soph, 6-2, 195; OT: Alex Lewis, Jr., 6-6, 290; OT: Zach Sterup, Jr., 6-8, 320; G: Jake Cotton, Sr., 6-6, 305; G: Mike Moudy, Sr., 6-5, 305; C: Mark Pelini, Sr., 6-0, 290; TE: Cethan Carter, Soph., 6-4, 240.

Defense: DE: Randy Gregory, Jr., 6-6, 240; DE: Greg McMullen, Soph., 6-3, 280; DT: Vincent Valentine, Soph., 6-3, 320; DT: Maliek Collins, So., 6-2, 300; LB: David Santos, Jr., 6-0, 225; LB: Josh Banderas, Soph., 6-2, 235; LB: Zaire Anderson, Sr., 5-11, 220; CB: Josh Mitchell, Sr., 5-11, 160; CB: Jonathan Rose, Jr., 6-1, 195; S Nathan Gerry, Soph., 6-2, 205; S: Corey Cooper, Sr., 6-1, 215.

Specialists: K: Drew Brown, Fr.; P: Sam Foltz, Soph.

Biggest question mark: Can Armstrong develop into a top-rate quarterback? He showed flashes of potential after being thrust into the role in 2013 following the loss of Taylor Martinez, including a strong performance in the Gator Bowl win over Georgia. But he also struggled at times with his accuracy. The Huskers appear to be well stocked at most other positions but need consistent play from under center.

Most important game: Nov. 15 at Wisconsin. Nebraska is behind the eight ball when it comes to the schedule, compared to the other West Division contenders. Not only did the Huskers draw a road game at Michigan State as a crossover, they also have to go to Wisconsin and Iowa. There's a good chance Nebraska will have to win this game in Madison to stay in contention for the West title. They didn't fare well the last time they played in Camp Randall, and they gave up 70 points the last time they faced Wisconsin (in the 2012 Big Ten title game).

Upset special: Week 3 at Fresno State. The Bulldogs are a dangerous team and the atmosphere should be wild. Going to Fresno a week before hosting Miami seems to spell trouble.

Key stat: Nebraska is minus-23 in turnover margin the past two seasons combined. Until the Huskers get their turnover problems solved, they're going to have a tough time taking that next step to being a championship team.

What they're wearing: Pelini himself modeled the new Nebraska alternate duds by showing up in full uniform at a team meeting. The Huskers will wear the all-red look on Sept. 27 against Illinois.

Team's top Twitter follows: Coach Bo Pelini (@BoPelini) can surprise you with some interesting tweets, including his stunning response to Faux Pelini in January and his uniform stunt earlier this month. But don't expect a lot of in-season tweets from the head man. Players to follow include the always fascinating Bell (@AFRO_THUNDER80), Abdullah (@Ameerguapo) and Armstrong (@Tommy_Gun4). There's no better sports parody account than the aforementioned Faux Pelini (@FauxPelini), though his tweets are not always family-friendly. And don't forget the team's official account.

They said it: "I think we have depth in areas that is really going to help us be a good football team, and also we saw a lot of young guys last year kind of come of age as the season went on. I'm looking forward to seeing those young men continue to develop into the type of players we feel can win championships at our school. That's what we're after. We're looking for a championship. I think we have the pieces." -- Bo Pelini.

ESPN Stats & Information projections: 7.61 wins

Wise guys over/under: 8 wins

Big Ten blog projection: Nine wins. Rust Cohle would tell you that time is a flat circle and we keep repeating our lives over and over again. It sure feels that way in Lincoln, as Nebraska has gone either 9-4 or 10-4 in all six seasons under Pelini. We're sure as heck not going to bet against the trend.