Best Case/Worst Case: Legends champ Nebraska

Expectations are big in Lincoln for a program looking for a big breakthrough under Bo Pelini, who is in his sixth season. Led by QB Taylor Martinez, the offense should be among the best in the Big Ten. The defense? It will determine the season after looking awful in three big games last year: at UCLA; at Ohio State; vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Is the rebuilt front seven up to the task?

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NEBRASKA

Best case: The Cornhuskers open with five home games. Nice. Nebraska cruises by Wyoming and Southern Miss. A visit from UCLA is full of juiciness. The Bruins ripped the Husker defense for 653 yards in a 36-30 victory last season in Pasadena. This will be a key litmus test for a retooled Nebraska defense. And—it won’t be pretty—but it passes. The Huskers won’t be pushed much in the next four contests, taking wins vs. South Dakota State and Illinois at home. Next, Nebraska goes on the road for the first time at Purdue and then travels to Minnesota. The Huskers win both, pushing their mark to 7-0 and setting up a huge visit from Northwestern, which won the last time in Lincoln in 2011. Nebraska won’t let it happen again. Now 8-0, the pressure and expectations are growing exponentially for the Cornhuskers. A trip to Michigan looms—and it’s a dangerous game in what could be a de facto Legends Division title game. In fact, the Huskers have a letdown and lose, tightening the Legends race. But Nebraska won’t lose again, beating Michigan State (home), Penn State (away) and Iowa (home) to close the year at 11-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten. That puts Nebraska in the Big Ten title game for a second season in a row with a shot at a Rose Bowl berth.

Aug. 31: Wyoming – W
Sept. 7: Southern Miss – W
Sept. 14: UCLA – W
Sept. 21: South Dakota State – W
Oct. 5: Illinois – W
Oct. 12: at Purdue – W
Oct. 26: at Minnesota – W
Nov. 2: Northwestern – W
Nov. 9: at Michigan – L
Nov. 16: Michigan State – W
Nov. 23: at Penn State – W
Nov. 29: Iowa – W
11-1 overall; 7-1 Big Ten

Worst case: Pencil in a 2-0 start. But a visit from a very good UCLA team led by QB Brett Hundley is dangerous. And questions surround a Husker defense that was annihilated by the Bruins last season. UCLA is too much for Nebraska, again. The Cornhuskers get better the next four games, beating overmatched foes in South Dakota State, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. November begins with games vs. the top three challengers to Nebraska in the Legends: Northwestern; at Michigan; at Michigan State. The Wildcats don’t fear the Huskers and win for a second time in a row in Lincoln after dropping a heartbreaker in Evanston last year to Nebraska. Michigan continues Nebraska’s misery, making amends for last year’s loss to the Huskers in Lincoln. However, the Cornhuskers finish with a flurry, winning their last three games to finish 9-3 overall and 6-2 in Big Ten action. That gets Nebraska into a bowl in Florida—again. But, some fans grumble that they wanted more.

Aug. 31: Wyoming – W
Sept. 7: Southern Miss – W
Sept. 14: UCLA – L
Sept. 21: South Dakota State – W
Oct. 5: Illinois – W
Oct. 12: at Purdue – W
Oct. 26: at Minnesota – W
Nov. 2: Northwestern – L
Nov. 9: at Michigan – L
Nov. 16: Michigan State – W
Nov. 23: at Penn State – W
Nov. 29: Iowa – W
9-3 overall; 6-2 Big Ten

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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4 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (4 Comments)
cdcins on 7/30/2013 @ 1:47pm EDT Said:

Do you think that Mich State could set up as a “trap” game. I know it is at home but that adds to my theory. Thoughts?

Brian Montalbano on 7/30/2013 @ 2:57pm EDT Said:

I believe worst case would also involve losing to Minn, Mich St, Penn St, and Iowa. 5-7 is much, much worse than 9-3

Mike on 7/30/2013 @ 6:40pm EDT Said:

Minn and Iowa seem to be fairly unrealistic upsets unless about 9 starters go down with injuries. Penn state with a new starting QB who is going to be a pocket passer also doesnt scare me, but I will agree Mich St could definitely hand us a loss.

Manda on 7/30/2013 @ 6:42pm EDT Said:

I don’t think 5-7 will happen. With a schedule like that, if 5-7 happens, Bo will be gone.