Nebraska went 4-8 in year one under Scott Frost but showed tremendous improvement the back half of the season after a tough 0-6 start. The Cornhuskers were a lot better than the 4-8 record indicated, five of the eight losses were by five points or fewer, and a couple of those times Nebraska was just flat out unlucky. Computer models are built to see through all of the noise, and my model said that by the end of the year after their 4-2 finish (where they were just a couple plays away from 6-0), the Cornhuskers were playing at the level of a top-40 team. Now, with a lot back from that team, Scott Frost seems like a favorite to pull off an incredible rebuild once again just like he did at UCF.
The offense will be led by dual-threat Adrian Martinez, who was great last year for a freshman, completing on 65% of his throws, throwing twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, and making plays with his feet. Martinez will only improve with the added experience, and his receiving corps returns slot receiver JD Spielman (818 yards, eight touchdowns), and tight end Jack Stoll among others, and adds in Cal transfer Kanawau Noa.
At the halfback spot, Devin Ozigbo departs but Maurice Washington turned heads as a freshman, picking up 5.9 yards per carry on his limited snaps. Highly touted JUCO transfer Dedrick Mills comes in to help carry the load there as well.
The line returns three starters including a great pair of tackles in Matt Farniok and Brenden James. If Martinez can keep improving, this will be one of the best offenses in the conference.
Defense was never Scott Frost’s strength at UCF, and it isn’t looking like that will be the case at Nebraska either. The defense was ok last year, but there is a lot of room to grow. Guys like end Ben Stille (five sacks) and Khalil Davis (three sacks) return on the edge, and while the safety spot is a bit of a mystery, they return one of the better cornerback duos in the conference in Lamar Jackson and Dicaprio Bootle (combined 22 PBUs).
The defense is experienced but does add a couple of new guys like ILB JUCO Will Honas and Oklahoma State nose guard Darrion Daniels. The loss of edge rusher Luke Gifford will hurt, but I could see this defense improving in year two under Erik Chinander.
Given that their record underachieved in comparison to how good they actually were last year, the Cornhuskers are a great pick to break out, and the schedule works out too, as pretty much all of their toughest opponents will have to travel to face NU. I’m not going to go crazy and call this team a national title contender, but with Iowa and Wisconsin at home, Scott Frost very may work his way into the Big Ten title game in just his second year in Lincoln.
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Average Projected Record: 7.3 wins, 4.7 losses (5.0 wins, 4.0 losses)