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Nebraska Cornhuskers football: Predicting the 2014 schedule

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The Nebraska Cornhuskers are one of just four teams to have won nine or more games in each of the last four years, so put that in your pipe and smoke it haters. OK, that may be a bit strong of a statement, but it does put in to perspective how hard it is to be a consistent winner in college football.

On the flip side, Bo Pelini has failed to do something that every other one of the other three teams (Alabama, LSU and Oregon) have done in that time — win a conference championship. With the realignment of the Big Ten, some believe this could be Pelini’s best chance at winning that elusive conference title.

Other West Division Predictions: Illinois | Iowa | Minnesota

However, the road back to Indianapolis won’t be as easy as some believe it will be. There are potential pratfalls in the non-conference slate and all throughout Nebraska’s Big Ten slate.

Will the Huskers survive a challenging (perhaps the most challenging of any contender) schedule and make it two of three years in Indianapolis to end the Big Ten season?

Let’s take a look at Nebraska’s 2014 schedule and see how we predict it going down.

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Predictions:

Aug. 30 – vs. Florida Atlantic: WIN

This was supposed to be brother vs. brother; the Pelini’s facing off. Instead, Carl got himself fired amid allegations of illicit drug use, and now it will be a former Badger assistant, Charlie Partridge, going up to Lincoln to take on the Huskers. There are some interesting parts for Partridge to work with, but the talent gap is just too much and Nebraska shouldn’t have any issues handling this opening matchup. Consider it a great way to break Tommy Armstrong in as the full-time starter.

Sept. 6 – vs. McNeese State: WIN

It’s a good thing the schedule makers gave Nebraska a relatively light load to start the non-conference season because what comes after this is anything but a cakewalk. That said, McNeese State finished last season 10-3 on the year and made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs. At least this won’t be a below .500 FCS opponent, but the gulf in talent is immeasurable and Nebraska wins another one in easy fashion.

Sept. 13 – at Fresno State: WIN

Going out to Fresno State is never easy, as the Bulldogs have been sneaky good at home throughout the years. Fortunately for Nebraska, they are catching this squad as they are in rebuilding mode. Fresno State’s defense is better than most will give it credit for in Big Ten country and it showed up on film at times last season, so don’t expect this game to be as easy as the first two. Still, I’d be shocked if Nebraska doesn’t come out as 2-3 touchdown winners at the very least.

Sept. 20 – vs. Miami (FL): WIN 

In the mid-90’s this would’ve been the premier matchup on the college football calendar, but in 2014 this game is anything but a prime time game despite it’s television spotlight. Miami (FL) has some potential stars on it, but it hasn’t been a nationally relevant program for a long time. A matchup between Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah is one of the best running back battles we’re likely to see all non-conference season in college football. For me, this game comes down to three facts: Nebraska is at home, Nebraska has the stronger defense and Miami’s quarterback situation is an absolute mess. It all adds up to a close win for the Huskers and a 4-0 start to the season.

Sept. 27 – vs. Illinois: WIN

The Big Ten scheduling gods gave the Huskers a nice gift in scheduling the Illini to open up conference play this season. One quick look at what is around the corner and you’ll see why. However, the Huskers challenge after a win over Miami (FL) is to not overlook an Illini squad that has talent to do damage with their offense. Letting off the gas won’t win Nebraska this game, but knowing Bo Pelini, he won’t let that happen internally. No slip up here, but a much closer game than a lot of people see it — look for a 10 point win for the Huskers.

Oct. 4 – at Michigan State: LOSS

Michigan State finally got over the hump in 2013, winning the Big Ten and also the Rose Bowl. Now the question is can they take on everyone’s best shot. Getting the Huskers early in the Big Ten slate could be advantageous to the Spartans, especially with this game at home. These one-time Legends division foes know each other well and are actually very evenly matched in 2014. Arguably they have two of the best defenses in the Big Ten, so I look at offense to play a key role in who wins this one. The difference is an experienced and winning quarterback named Connor Cook. Look for Michigan State to pull this one out at home, but it will be a TD or less.

Oct. 18 – at Northwestern: WIN

I don’t know if you can call a game on the road to Northwestern a reprieve, especially if you are Nebraska and have played a few classics against the Wildcats since joining the Big Ten. Last season it took a memorable last-second Hail Mary for Nebraska to win at home, and it was the biggest margin of victory for either team (3 points) since the Huskers joined the conference. This season it could be an interesting battle with an improving Northwestern defense and a team that appears much healthier entering 2014. Yet, the Huskers seem to have the better of the talent pool overall and I believe this will be the first time a game is decided by seven points or more. Huskers win this by exactly seven points.

Oct. 25vs. Rutgers: WIN

Rutgers will have found out just how rough life will be in the Big Ten by the time this matchup happens, and that means it could be a bruised and battered bunch when it comes in to Lincoln the last week of October. Unless the Scarlet Knights see significant improvement from quarterback Gary Nova it’s unlikely that it’s coming away from this game victorious.

Nov. 1vs. Purdue: WIN

Nebraska needs this win, mainly because a win in this game gives it some momentum in to the final stretch run against the rest of the top of the Big Ten West. At home against one of the worst Big Ten teams we’ve seen in a while? Let’s just put it this way, if Nebraska can’t win this game Bo Pelini doesn’t deserve his job. Huskers by 20-plus if you ask me.

Nov. 15at Wisconsin: LOSS

These two teams have played some memorable Big Ten matchups and arguably are the best aligned to have a real rivalry with the Huskers going forward. In 2014, this late season matchup could have big time implications — dare we say it could be the difference between going to Indianapolis or not? The truth is, Wisconsin doesn’t lose big time football games at home very often and that’s exactly how I see this one going. Additionally, the difference between these two teams is that Wisconsin has the trustworthier quarterback entering the 2014 season. It will be a good matchup to say the least, and it is my early candidate for potential game of the year.

Nov. 22vs. Minnesota: WIN

If there is a team with a bigger upside in the Big Ten West than Minnesota, I’d like to see it. That being said, the Huskers will have revenge on their mind and a ticked off demeanor coming off a close loss to Wisconsin the week before. Nebraska’s ability to put pressure on the Badgers even after the loss hinges on winning this game — lose one it’s no problem, but lose two in a row and the Huskers run the risk of derailing a promising season all together. That being said, Minnesota isn’t at home and Nebraska aren’t going through the issues they dealt with heading in to the game last year. Look for Nebraska to win this one in impressive fashion.

Nov. 29at Iowa: WIN

The question surrounding this game is just how much it will matter in the big picture of the Big Ten. It could give one a chance to win the West division, but it could also mean nothing depending on what these two do against Wisconsin in previous weeks. I’m looking at this game meaning more for the Huskers, and despite Kinnick Stadium being a difficult place to play, it’s the Huskers defense that will make the difference in 2014.

 

Overall Record: 10-2
Big Ten Record: 6-2

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Huskers Football

Keyshawn Johnson Jr. unsurprisingly transferring from Huskers

Following a summer pot citation and his dad pulling him from school, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. announces his transfer.

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Did you know that Keyshawn Johnson Jr. was a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers program? Chances are, if you blinked you missed his time on campus.

That’s what happens when you get busted for pot possession and your dad brings you home to teach you a lesson or two.

The elder Johnson made sure to make a statement when pulling his kid out of school just days in to his time there. He made it clear that there were higher (no pun intended) expectations of his son.

“One thing you will not do as my son is you will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family,” Johnson Sr. told the Omaha World-Herald. “If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.”

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the former 4-star recruit with the famous name isn’t going to continue his career at Nebraska.

On Friday, the younger Johnson announced his decision to not return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The combination of his citation for marijuana possession and the coaching change likely sealed the deal for this move.

Johnson Jr. enrolled early, coming to Lincoln in January, but suffered an illness that he couldn’t shake for parts of spring practice. He appeared in the spring game, but caught just one pass for 7 yards.

Nebraska could use the depth at wide receiver, but with a new regime in place and his father having no relationship with the new staff this move is not surprising.

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Huskers Football

Frost turning to Florida to bring speed to Huskers program

Frost is leaning on his Florida ties in hoping to shape his roster in his image quicker than expected.

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Scott Frost has technically only been on the job for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for less than a week, but he clearly has had a gameplan in place for a while now.

That much is evident not only by how quickly he’s gotten a staff together, but by the details on the recruiting trail.

Normally it takes time to evaluate what is on a roster in front of you and figure out what is needed. That process didn’t take long (or likely took place last week as he waited to take the job formally), because Frost has attacked the recruiting trail hard in his first week on the job.

So, what is his evaluation of the Huskers program? It is in need of speed, speed and more speed.

Frost has decided that in order to get his team up to speed he needs to do so buy finding that speed right in his old back yard.

It’s a move that makes sense, as Frost has built good relationships in Florida and that is where some of the best high school talent in the country exists today.

Nebraska’s 247Sports site, Huskers Illustrated, had a really good talk on the inner workings of what Frost has done already on the recruiting trail on this week’s Notorious B1G Podcast (because who doesn’t love an all-Big Ten recruiting podcast?)

Mike Riley and Co. spent less time on Florida and more time on the West Coast, which should’ve been expected given Riley’s ties in that direction. But, the crop of pure athletes out West is nothing compared to the depth of speed and athleticism that exists in Florida.

Ironically, Frost’s first offer came from out West as the No. 8-ranked dual-threat quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was offered within hours of Frost getting the job.

That move and all the ones made since his hire show Frost has come in with a clear knowledge of his system, who fits it on the recruiting trail and who fits it currently on the roster. Having that kind of confidence and work-rate are a welcome sight in Lincoln.

But, Frost isn’t just hitting the ground running on the recruiting trail either.

He’s also been taking time to speak to the national media and spread the gospel of what he wants to build at Nebraska. Frost spoke on the Jim Rome Show on Thursday and didn’t buy the notion that recruiting to Lincoln, Neb. is a difficult task.

“There’s absolutely no reason we can’t get kids to Lincoln, Nebraska,” Frost said, via Land of 10. “Kids leave places right now and go everywhere around the country. There’s no reason kids won’t go to Lincoln if they’re going to Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Eugene, Oregon.

“And I think we’re going to create an environment, a football environment in Lincoln that people are going to want to be a part of.”

Success in turning a program around often hinges on the first recruiting class to come in. That’s not to say this class should be put at the feet of Frost and his staff entirely, but if they can put a stamp on an already nice class it could be the one that breaks a mediocre mold for the Huskers program.

No matter what, Frost and his staff aren’t afraid to be aggressive and go after the type of player they need. That alone has to be a refreshing sign of change for the Husker faithful.

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Huskers hope Scott Frost hire brings back glory days

Native son returns home to lead program he once was the star quarterback of. Can the glory days return with the Huskers dipping in to their past?

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What had become the worst-kept secret in college football’s coaching carousel became official on Saturday afternoon. Just hours after leading his UCF Knights to a crazy 62-55 double overtime win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game, Frost bolted for a gig back home.

UCF’s 247sports site announced the news, noting that Forst will not coach the team in the upcoming bowl game. However, after the AAC championship game, UCF’s AD noted that Frost and the entire coaching staff would coach through the Peach Bowl.

Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos named Frost the new Huskers head coach, ending a search many thought would start and end with Frost first.

“It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to return to Nebraska and to lead the Husker football program,” Frost said in a statement released by the school. “I have been fortunate to be at a wonderful school the last two years, but Nebraska is a special place with a storied tradition and a fan base which is second to none. I am truly humbled to be hereee. The state of Nebraska and the Husker program mean a great deal to me. This is home.

“I am appreciative of the confidence Bill Moos and our University leadership have in me to lead this program. I would not have the opportunity to be in this position without a lot of great people who have helped me throughout my career. Specifically, I would like to thank Coach Osborne who has played such an integral role in my life over the past two decades, both on and off the field. Go Big Red!”

In bringing a native son and former Huskers quarterback in to the fold to lead the program, Nebraska is clearly hoping the magic of the mid 1990’s can rub off on the program once again.

Frost was integral in the Huskers success in the 90’s, where he was a star quarterback for two years after transferring home from Stanford. He led the program to a 24-2 record as the starter and became just the 10th player in major college football history to pass for 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.

He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but was moved from quarterback to safety and just couldn’t find his way in the league.

While thoughts of Frost leading the Huskers offense are likely to bring smiles back to the Husker faithful, the reality of today’s program won’t.

It’s been a rough go since the calendar turned over to the year 2000, as the Huskers haven’t won a single conference championship since 1999.

Frost faces a big challenge, as the Huskers vaunted defense has fallen on hard times and the program just got done with a 4-8 season under Mike Riley. Luckily for the Husker faithful, Frost isn’t going to be caught off-guard by the challenges of a turnaround.

He took over a UCF program that went winless the year before he came to campus and had them 6-7 and going bowling in his first season. This year his team went undefeated in the regular season, joining the Wisconsin Badgers as the only two undefeated teams in the country after the regular season finished up.

Frost also led the Knights to the AAC championship despite a ton of off-field distraction surrounding his job status and rumors about Florida, Nebraska and Oregon interest in his services.

Now the pressure will be on to get the Huskers back to championship football, and soon.

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3 names Nebraska Cornhuskers should consider in replacing Mike Riley

Does the Huskers coaching search really begin and end with Scott Frost?

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Most of the time, head coaching searches and the media equal a whole lot of names and not a lot of facts to back them up. Thankfully, with Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos being so candid in his press conference yesterday, we know exactly what Moos is looking for and don’t have to speculate.

What you won’t see here is a list of hot assistant coaches or lower-level names looking to make a big jump into FBS football. Moos let us all know it’s a pool of six names and that he’s looking for someone with previous head coaching experience.

Knowing there are six names in the top drawer of Moos’ desk, we’re here to let you know the three names we hope will be on the list and the names we’d be considering if we were in his shoes.

Of course, this list isn’t to say others aren’t on it, but again this is our opinion on who should be there for the Huskers.

 

Scott Frost, UCF Head Coach

This is the obvious name that will be on every list, and he should be. He’s got the Nebraska pedigree, he’s got the high-powered offense everyone wants to see and he’s got the UCF Knights in a position to pull off an undefeated season. All that stands in the way of that is the AAC title game and a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Should Frost’s team win the title game next weekend, it begs the question of timing. Would Frost really bolt with a perfect season and a New Year’s Six bowl game on the line? Would Nebraska be willing to wait it out and hope the recruiting class can stay intact until Frost can get to Lincoln in January?

All of those questions are valid, but about the biggest question to be answered is if Frost wants to leave UCF after just two seasons or not. While the money and temptation of “going home” is certainly a big pull, so is building something special at a program like UCF. Is jumping ship so quickly what Frost really wants? Or does he want to build something and wait for the job he really wants?

Money certainly doesn’t seem to be too big an obstacle and with Florida apparently set to hire Dan Mullen, the door seems wide open for Frost if he so chooses.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming Head Coach

This is a name I thought the Huskers should’ve looked at the last time they made a move for a head coach. Hindsight is always 20-20, but the good news is that Bohl has only gone on to do himself a lot of favors in his time as the head coach at Wyoming. The Cowboys have gone from a doormat to a very good Mountain West team in his short time in Laramie.

Oh, and if you need roots in Nebraska, Bohl has them. I mean, he was the linebackers coach while the Huskers were winning national championships in the 1990’s and left after three years as the defensive coordinator (2000-2002) to take over the NDSU program. If you want to bring the blackshirts back, Bohl knows what that is all about.

But, what about recruiting with a “non-sexy” hire like Bohl?

If ever there’s proof that a good coach can recruit to difficult situations and develop talent, it is Bohl at Wyoming. He’s turned a program that is sub .500 in its history in to a program that went 8-6 and 7-5 over the last two seasons. Additionally, the program has finished first or second in the Mountain division each of the past two years.

Then there’s the fact that he turned North Dakota State in to the ultimate power team in the FCS division as well.

Let’s just say, for Midwest coaches it is hard to find a more impressive resume than what Bohl has already put together. His ability to reach recruits and run a fun offense to watch along with quality defense should fit the mold well for the Huskers. The question some may ask if this hire moves the needle enough for the outside world to get on board.

Having been around the game long enough, internally, few coaches are more respected than Bohl, and that can make a lot of difference when you are trying to get everyone pushing in the same direction — from the administration to the boosters and regular fans. Bohl has a lot of what Moos would like to see in a head coach.

Matt Campbell, Iowa State Head Coach

We know this is a name that Moos has high interest in to say the least. Campbell was a big winner at Toledo and he’s gotten the Iowa State Cyclones back to winning football in just two seasons. Wins over both Oklahoma (on the road) and TCU (at home) showcased just what kind of coaching job Campbell is capable of.

But, like Frost, he’s in the middle of rebuilding and building something special right where he is at. Campbell also has one hefty buyout in his contract. While, money again doesn’t seem to be an object, Campbell’s reported $9 million buyout is certainly a hefty price to pay.

Personally, I love what Campbell has been able to do for the Iowa State program and what we’ve seen on the field from the Cyclones would be a great fit for the Huskers too. Campbell’s team played easily the best defense of anyone in the defense-absent Big 12 conference and his offenses showcased speed and power at the same time.

That’s the combination that can win games in Lincoln. But, again there is one big question that only one person can answer and that person is Matt Campbell.

Does Campbell see Nebraska as a step up or a lateral move? We could argue the merits of that all day, but in the end it really depends on if Campbell believes Ames is a place where winning football can become the norm instead of the special season. If he believes in what he’s building there, prying him away from the Cyclones may be hard. As hard as apparently winning conference championships has been for the Huskers.

 

Analysis of What Will Actually Happen:

In the end, this search begins and ends with Scott Frost. With Florida being reportedly rebuffed by Frost and hiring Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State it seems as if the writing is on the wall.

That said, I also subscribe to the “sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer” philosophy. When it comes to Nebraska’s coaching search that simple answer is Frost.

But, should something crazy happen and the Nebraska alum not want to take the job, it wouldn’t hurt to have Craig Bohl as your backup plan. All the dude does is win football games and win a lot of them. His championship pedigree with Nebraska and North Dakota State should be all that Moos would need to go in his direction should Frost say no.

I’m fully expecting Moos to be able to get his man though. The stars are just aligning too well for it not to happen. Let’s see if the Huskers can get the man they probably should’ve hired the last time, this time around.

As for the timing, I fully expect this deal to be done this time tomorrow (Monday). It also will come with the stipulation that Frost coaches out the season for UCF should they move on to the New Years Six bowl game many expect to happen. That part will be the tricky part of the negotiations if you ask me, especially because of the early signing period that is in place for the first time.

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