2012 Program Preview - Nebraska

I love college football. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Ah, Nebraska. Where coaching legends forge their political resumes. Where one of the greatest college players ever can leave you breathless one moment and then never play a single down in the NFL. Oh, and Bo Pelini.

We're just not in an age where Nebraska is in the national conversation annually. The powers that be have been shaken up, and your legacy doesn't earn you much year to year. I'm fine with that.

But Nebraska has left the icy grip of the Big Texas, I mean the Big XII, and has joined their corn-craving brethren in the Big Ten. All things considered, it wasn't a bad first year. Some time in the top 10, nine wins and a Capital Bowl berth are resume bullets a lot of teams would die for.

The problem is that Nebraska's fans don't discount that legacy as easily as the polls or their opponents. Being good or respectable isn't sufficient. With that being the case, Pelini has his hands full as a talented Cornhuskers team tries to run its way to a Big Ten championship in 2012.

After the jump, the prospects worth noting as well as some games and matchups to pencil into your calendar.


Corn Nation (SB Nation Nebraska community), Off Tackle Empire (SB Nation conference community), SB Nation team page, official team site, Bill Connelly's preview for SBN

Notable offensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Rex Burkhead RB Sr. 7
Ben Cotton TE Sr. UD
Kyler Reed TE Sr. UD
Spencer Long OG RS Jr. 4
Kenny Bell WR RS Soph. 5
Jamal Turner WR Soph. N/A

Notable defensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Cameron Meredith DE RS Sr. 3
Baker Steinkuhler DT RS Sr. 3
Daimion Stafford FS Sr. 5
Will Compton ILB RS Sr. 6
Sean Fisher OLB RS Sr. 7
Ciante Evans CB Jr. 7


Despite some notable departures (especially on defense), the Huskers are in good position to compete in 2012. Their running game is good enough between QB Taylor Martinez and Burkhead to put up points every week. The defense has the talents to keep them in games. It's a matter of being consistent. Consistent teams don't wallop Michigan State by three touchdowns one week and lose to Northwestern at home the next.

Key games

(I'm going shameless here, but whatever)

Wisconsin (home) - Week 5 (Sat., Sep. 29 - 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC)
Ohio State (away) - Week 6 (Sat., Oct. 6 - 8:00 p.m. ET, TBD)
Northwestern (away) - Week 8 (Sat., Oct. 20 - TBD)
Michigan (home) - Week 9 (Sat., Oct. 27 - 8:00 p.m. ET, TBD)
Michigan State (away) - Week 10 (Sat., Nov. 3 - TBD)

This is your 2012 Nebraska schedule. I don't see UCLA or Southern Miss troubling them in non-conference play, and I think they finish their season with wins over Minnesota and Iowa. It's this-five-game stretch in which I could see the Huskers going 5-0 as easily as I could see them going 1-4.

Good teams handle their business against lesser teams. If Nebraska is good in 2012, they pick up seven wins in their other games. This quintuplet determines whether they're just good or better.

Key matchups

DE Cameron Meredith & DT Baker Steinkuhler v. Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner & G Travis Frederick, Week 5 - Sat., Sep. 29

This is Big Ten scouting at its best. Power players on both sides of the line anchoring/defending impressive rushing attacks. There's DNA (Steinkuhler is the son of Nebraska legend Dean Steinkuhler), program success (Meredith went to HS at Mater Dei in Cali, which produces D1 talent every year; Wagner and Frederick are the next generation of offensive linemen from Wisconsin) and, well, it's kind of a big game for both teams.

WRs Kenny Bell & Jamal Turner v. Michigan State CBs Johnny Adams & Darqueze Dennard, Week 10 - Sat., Nov. 3

This is one of the more interesting matchups in the Big Ten for me. On one hand, you have the emerging talents of Bell and Turner who, while hampered a bit by Martinez's passing deficiencies, should force defenses to play the Huskers' passing game with more respect. On the other, there's the experience of Adams and Dennard, one of the better cornerback duos in the country.

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