Every school should have a Bo Pelini on the sidelines. The often intense, animated and always controversial coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers won the battle with the university brass. Question is will he win the war?
After the 2013 season, where the Cornhuskers lost four games and questions arose about his ability to coach and win in the Big Ten, Pelini stood at the podium and dared campus officials and the athletic department to fire him. The man has huge stones as we can see. Whether that means he will be walking the sidelines in 2015 remains to be scene, but this program begins the 2014 season after winning the Gator Bowl with a win over Georgia and a lot of confidence in the offense.
It remains to be seen if this is a team that can muster 10 wins in 2014, but with Pelini at the helm and his fiery demeanor, anything is possible.
Here are the five biggest questions that must be answered this season.
Who plays quarterback?
Tommy Armstrong was impresive against Georgia in the Gator Bowl, rushing for 26 yards on 10 carries and going 6-of-14 for 163 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He needs to show maturity and the ability to lead this offense - which is something this program questions.
This spring will be a battle for the starting quarterback position between Armstrong and Johnny Stanton. We saw what uncertainty at signal-caller can do to disrupt an entire program, as Nebraska wobbled for weeks while dealing with an injury to Taylor Martinez.
What about the secondary?
Nebraska has been hit hardest by graduation is in the secondary. Nebraska loses two critical defensive leaders in nickel back Ciante Evans and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste. Both really carried an otherwise-struggling defensive unit, and you get an idea of how big their absence will be next year.
Next year will be a big test for Jonathan Rose, the Auburn transfer who likely has the inside track on one starting corner position. But finding out who will fill those roles for the Blackshirts next year will be one of the biggest questions that need answering.
Stability on the line?
On offense, Nebraska will be graduating both starting tackles (Brent Qvale and Jeremiah Sirles), a starting center (Cole Pensick) and one starting guard (Andrew Rodriguez). While the injuries this season have helped to build depth, Nebraska will be starting next season with an offensive line that has a lot of new faces, and it will need to build chemistry quickly for NU (who will be starting, at best, a sophomore quarterback) to succeed.
And on the defensive side?
Nebraska loses a defensive tackle (Thad Randle) and a defensive end (Jason Ankrah) to graduation. While there were certainly areas to be excited about by younger players like Randy Gregory and Vincent Valentine, there will still be some plugging of holes on the defensive line due to graduation. That attrition is one reason why junior college signings like Terrell Clinkscales and Joe Keels will need to provide some instant impact.
Playing for Pelini
He is everything Tom Osbourne wasn't. Last year was a reminder that Pelini’s darker side, the one from early in his tenure in Lincoln that many thought he had outgrown, was still there. The Iowa game, both during and afterward, brought that darker side out of Pelini, and Nebraska’s performance struggled as a result of its return. Adversity will come again to challenge Pelini and his charges next year. If Pelini is able to handle that adversity with maturity and grace (as he has before), Nebraska is far more likely to weather those storms successfully.