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Huskers Football

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Preview: Predicting the 2015 season

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We’ve come to the end of the road in our preview series for the 2015 version of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football program. A new era has some excited, many nervous, but everyone wanting to tune in and see what happens.

Anything less than a nine win season? Many will likely turn the screws quickly on new head coach Mike Riley. Will the 2015 schedule help him make a quick transition and elevate this program?

Other Big Ten Predictions:
WestIowa | Northwestern | Minnesota | Illinois
EastMichigan | Rutgers | Penn State

Per usual, our staff experts Andy and Dave take a crack at predicting the entire 2015 schedule game-by-game of course. So, lets see how they see the Huskers shaping up this upcoming season.

2015 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 5
Cougars BYU Cougars
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
2:30 p.m. CT
ABC
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 12
Jaguars South Alabama Jaguars
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
7:00 p.m. CT
BTN/BTN2Go
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 19
Hurricanes at Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
2:30 p.m. CT
ABC/ESPN2 (RM)
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 26
Golden Eagles Southern Miss Golden Eagles (HC)
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
11:00 a.m. CT
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 3
Fighting Illini at Illinois Fighting Illini
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 10
Badgers Wisconsin Badgers
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 17
Gophers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 24
Wildcats Northwestern Wildcats
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 31
Boilermakers at Purdue Boilermakers
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 7
Spartans Michigan State Spartans
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
6 or 7 p.m. CT
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 14
Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 21
Open Date
Friday
Nov. 27
Hawkeyes Iowa Hawkeyes
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Dec. 5
Big Ten Big Ten Championship Game
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
7:00 p.m. CT
FOX
Buy
Tickets

 

*All commentary to follow is courtesy of Andy (picks by Andy and Dave as usual).

vs. BYU
Andy — Win
Dave — Loss

The Mike Riley era gets off to a tricky start against a BYU squad that is dangerous and underrated coming in to the season. BYU’s backfield tandem of Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams is a dangerous one, and Nebraska’s defense is going to get tested. On my end I just see the Huskers defense as being too good and the offense just good enough to squeak by in a close affair to open the new era.

vs. South Alabama
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

Don’t sleep on the Jaguars, they were a bowl team in 2015 (even if that has less and less meaning every year). This would’ve been a really easy pick for me, and it still kind of was, had UAB not cancelled its football program and dropped senior quarterback Cody Clements right in the lap of South Alabama. He’s a significant upgrade over Brandon Bringe, who graduated. Unfortunately for South Alabama, the talent gap on defense to Nebraska’s offense kills them. Look for the Huskers to win big here.

at Miami (FL)
Andy — Loss
Dave — Win

Get used to this, because Dave and myself disagree the most on this schedule than anyone we’ve done so far. Road non-conference games and the Big Ten usually don’t go hand-in-hand and that’s why I’m predicting a loss here. Additionally, I think the Hurricanes are actually going to be better by subtraction in 2015 and that makes them a dangerous team. Losing Duke Johnson hurts for sure, but they have a rising QB star in sophomore Brad Kaaya and plenty of intriguing young talent all over the roster. Miami gets some of its luster back with a big home win here.

vs. Southern Miss
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

Some will tell you coaching matters little, it’s really all about the players. If ever there was an example of just how much coaching truly matters, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles are it. Since Larry Fedora left to become the head coach at UNC this program has tanked in a major way. Nebraska has a massive cupcake after some tough opposition to open non-conference play. Chalk this one up as an easy win. After all, Nebraska won 56-13 in the last meeting in 2013 and this group isn’t much better (if at all).

at Illinois
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

The Illini offense gave me a bit of pause in this contest, then I looked at a Huskers secondary that should be able to keep Geronimo Allison from killing it. As long as that happens, look for the Huskers offense to do some major damage up front and control this game on the ground before opening up the passing game too.

vs. Wisconsin
Andy — Loss
Dave — Loss

I’m surprised to see agreement here on what is likely to be the biggest game in the Big Ten West this season (and for the foreseeable future). So, why pick against the Huskers at home? Call it a program thing or whatever you want, but the Badgers seem to have an answer for nearly everything that the Huskers through at them. If it weren’t for Joel Stave being knocked out in the 2013 contest in Lincoln, we’re likely looking at a UW team that has never lost to the Huskers since they joined the Big Ten. Wisconsin wins this one as Stave outduels Armstrong for the win in an unexpected QB shootout.

at Minnesota
Andy — Loss
Dave — Win

Was last season a fluke or a sign that Minnesota was climbing up the ladder in the Big Ten West? That’s the question I’ve struggled with all offseason, as the Gophers won 28-24 last season in Minneapolis. Home field advantage helps, but these two teams like to slug it out and if that happens again in 2015 it will be the Gophers bringing back the “Bits of Broken Wood” trophy to TCF Bank stadium thanks to a defense that is simply better. Don’t be surprised if I’m right or wrong on this one, as its the least confident in a pick I’ve made all offseason.

vs. Northwestern
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

If there’s a team with a bigger question mark at quarterback than Northwestern in the West division please show it to me. At least Purdue has players that have started to work with. Either way, throw records and assumptions out when these two get together — at least during the Pelini era. Something crazy and strange usually has happened when the Huskers and Wildcats meet. Don’t expect that to carry on in the new era, as Riley’s crew takes care of business against Northwestern. No Hail Mary needed here.

at Purdue
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

So, about that team with no quarterback…Purdue is up next, and road trips to West Lafayette aren’t always easy, except they will be this time around. If I’m right about the Boilermakers this is a team that could be beat down and looking for a new head coach by this time of the season. Nebraska picks the final pieces apart and wins big on the road in hopes of keeping pace in the West division title race.

vs. Michigan State
Andy — Loss
Dave — Loss

Nebraska will need that big win over Purdue, because outside of Wisconsin there isn’t a more challenging opponent on the slate for this team. Last season the Huskers came the closest of any team in the Big Ten not named Ohio State to beating MSU. This season the pieces aren’t the same and everything is different. It was tempting to see an upset pick here, but in the end I don’t bet against Connor Cook in big game situations very often. It isn’t going to happen this time either. Look for the Huskers to keep it close until MSU’s defense turns up the volume in the 4th quarter and wins this game for them.

at Rutgers
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

A trip to Piscataway, New Jersey this late in the season could be a tricky proposition. However, the gap between Nebraska and Rutgers in terms of talent and depth of that talent is still pretty gapping. While the Scarlet Knights aren’t a pushover in general, they also aren’t close to competing with title contenders like Nebraska either. This one could get ugly for the home team.

vs. Iowa
Andy — Win
Dave — Win

The annual Black Friday matchup for the Heroes Trophy has been an interesting one. Let’s just say the fans don’t like the name or the trophy much and there hasn’t been a lot of real intensity in the matchup overall. That changed last season thanks to the Huskers dramatic 37-34 win in Iowa City. A bubbling dislike has begun, but with a new coaching staff in Lincoln will that really matter much? Look for the Huskers to win at home in a game that could mean the difference between Kirk Ferentz having a job or being out of one. That should be motivation enough for the Huskers to finish off the season on a high note.

Nebraska’s 2015 Final Record/Big Ten Finish:

Andy: 8-4 (4-4)/3rd in Big Ten West
Dave: 9-3 (6-2)/2nd in Big Ten West

Our Predicted 2015 Big Ten Standings: 

West:
1.
2. Minnesota Gophers (Andy)/Nebraska Cornhuskers (Dave)
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (Dave)/Nebraska Cornhuskers (Andy)
4. Iowa Hawkeyes (Andy)/ Minnesota Gophers (Dave)
5. Illinois Fighting Illini (Dave)/Northwestern (Andy)
6. Northwestern (Dave)/Illinois (Andy)
7.

East:
1.
2.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions (Andy/Dave)
4. Michigan Wolverines (Andy/Dave)
5.
6.
7. Rutgers (Andy/Dave)

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

Huskers defense drives win over MSU

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All the talk about Nebraska has been how Scott Frost would transform the Huskers offense. On Saturday, the defense made everyone stand up and take notice in a 9-6 win over Michigan State. 

Nebraska managed to kick three field goals in the final quarter to win a game that didn’t see either side score a single touchdown. 

“Good teams figure out how to win any kind of game, and that’s a different kind of game that I have been apart of as a coach, winning a game with no touchdowns,” said Nebraska head coach Scott Frost after the game.

“I am so happy for the seniors, so happy for the Blackshirts. Some of these games we’ve won, we’ve been winning on offense, and it was great to see the defense step up today.”

With the Huskers usually high-powered offense bottled up by Michigan State’s quality defense and really bad weather the defensive performance was badly needed.

It was also badly needed after last week’s performance in a shootout win over Illinois

Nebraska’s defense was hit for 35 points and needed to put up 54 points on offense to win. The Huskers defense came in to the game this week having never given up fewer than 34 points to any team in the Big Ten so far this season. 

The Huskers defense also stood 12th in the conference, giving up an average of 33.8 points per game through 10 games. 

Certainly this group was challenged following that performance against Illinois. 

“Every week I’ve been coaching them there’s a little more fight. Today’s the most I’ve seen,” said Frost. “That’s a hard game to win. Even harder to lose. Our guys had to keep grinding, and the defense had to keep coming up with stops.”

Nebraska’s defense didn’t disappoint, holding MSU running back Craig Haward under 90 yards and quarterback Rocky Lombardi to just 145 yards on 15 of 41 passing. 

No doubt the fact that MSU came in struggling on offense helped, but this was a huge step forward for the Huskers defense after its struggles earlier this season. 

After starting the season 0-6, the Huskers have ripped off wins in 4 of the last 5 games. 

In a season of transition, the fact that Nebraska’s defense was able to hold anyone without a touchdown is a massive step in the right direction. That fact wasn’t lost on the coaches or players following the crazy win. 

For Chinander and Frost, it’s also a sign that this team is still listening and learning as what seems like a lost season to the outside world is far from it internally. 

“I told the guys in the locker room if from a coaching standpoint, or pretty much on everything, I guess, the team could’ve started the season where it is right now, that would’ve been a funny act,” Frost said. “Some of the growing things we had to go through were necessary, and I’m crushed for the seniors we couldn’t get that done quicker.

“This team has been through so much and to be where it is right now and have the second half of the season it’s been having, it makes it really special. And I think the seniors will probably look back on this and think it was a pretty special season after all.”

Nebraska will have an interesting challenge ahead of it next week, as they will face the rival Iowa Hawkeyes after they just went off for a 63-0 victory over the Illinois team that just put up 54 points on Nebraska. 

A win in the Heroes Game would be a great way to cap off what many believed was a lost season early on. Doing so with the Huskers defense getting some of its luster back would just be icing on the cake. 

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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 Football

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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