The Nebraska Cornhuskers finished the 2013 season 10-4, falling short in both the Big Ten Championship Game and Capital One Bowl, yet going undefeated in their division and playing for a conference championship for the third time in the past four years.
But college football is all about what have you done for me lately.
Bo Pelini and his team must once again rise up to challenge a difficult regular season schedule in order to lay claim to what the Nebraska faithful have grown accustomed to: conference championships and BCS bouts.
To help them do so, outstanding dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez returns for his senior year and Ameer Abdullah adds maneuverability at running back as he replaces graduating star Rex Burkhead.
The once-lauded blackshirt defense is a shadow of its former glory, however, and doesn’t look to be much improved in 2013. If this team is going to see success, it will be on the offensive side of the ball.
In addition to my own analysis and prediction, I will also list a favorite based on Jeff Sagarin’s computer predictions. These are not the same numbers that feed into the BCS formula, as they also take into account point differential, and are considered a better predictor of future results.
These numbers reflect the end of last season values, adjusted for the 2013 home and away schedule, so while much has changed for each of these teams during the offseason, much has remained the same as well. Also listed is each opponent’s 2012 record.
Aug 31 vs. Wyoming (4-8)
Favorite - Nebraska by 25
A mid-to-low level Mountain West team is an easy start for the Cornhuskers. They get plenty of opportunity to shake the rust off, try out some new personnel and get back in the feel of game day, all in front of a home crowd.
Prediction - Nebraska 48, Wyoming 20
Sept 7 vs. Southern Miss (0-12)
Favorite - Nebraska by 32
As bad as Southern Miss was last year, they couldn’t possibly be any worse this season. The Golden Eagles likely improve a little bit off last year’s record, picking up a few wins along the way. Still, they are no match for Nebraska; the Huskers take another easy win as they gear up for their big non-conference showdown.
Prediction - Nebraska 45, Southern Miss 20
Sept 14 vs. UCLA (9-5)
Favorite - Nebraska by 3.5
This is the first big one for the Huskers. If Bo Pelini drops another one to the Bruins, it could have major implications on both the 2013 season and his future as a coach for Big Red.
Nebraska was clearly affected by the late kickoff last year, and fell 36-30 to UCLA in Pasadena. This year, the Huskers get them at home, and appropriately scheduled an early kickoff. I think Nebraska shows why they are so dangerous in Lincoln, and T-Magic kicks his offense into high gear, capturing a big win in a high-scoring game.
Prediction - Nebraska 38, UCLA 34
Sept 21 vs. South Dakota State (9-4)
Favorite - Nebraska by 17.5
After the adrenalin comes down from the UCLA game, the Huskers will likely have a bit of a lull at home against FCS foe South Dakota State. Despite having a slower offensive day, they still get it done, as the talent discrepancy is just too much.
Prediction - Nebraska 31, South Dakota State 21
Oct 5 vs. Illinois (2-10)
Favorite - Nebraska by 26.5
Nebraska’s Big Ten opener is substantially easier than it has been facing Wisconsin the past two years. The Illini haven’t put up much of a fight for anyone in conference as late, and don’t look to do so here either. The Huskers cruise after resting up over the bye week and finish up their run at home undefeated.
Prediction – Nebraska 35, Illinois 17
Oct 12 at Purdue (6-7)
Favorite – Nebraska by 10.5
The Cornhuskers finally take to the road for the first time in the 2013 season, and go up against an improving Purdue squad with new coach Darrell Hazell. He comes off a run of success at Kent State and the Boilermakers look to be a greater challenge than some might expect. Nebraska still pulls this game out, but needs a second half comeback to do so.
Prediction – Nebraska 38, Purdue 35
Oct 26 at Minnesota (6-7)
Favorite – Nebraska by 9
After another bye week, Nebraska hits the road again. This time they travel to Minneapolis to take on Jerry Kill’s Gophers. The Huskers likely are looking ahead to their four game gauntlet stretch, but the offense is talented enough to pull away from Minnesota early and gives them enough to hold on down the stretch.
Prediction – Nebraska 31, Minnesota 24
Nov 2 vs. Northwestern (10-3)
Favorite – Nebraska by 2.5
As Nebraska heads into their much anticipated showdown with Northwestern, they do so with a 7-0 record and a full head of steam. While the Huskers’ reputation under Pelini has been to fold when under the spotlight, they have also been nearly unstoppable within the confines of Memorial Stadium. This promises to be the showdown everyone hoped for and a high scoring victory for Nebraska.
Prediction – Nebraska 41, Northwestern 38
Nov 9 at Michigan (8-5)
Favorite – Michigan by 5
While the spotlight was bright the previous week against Northwestern, it shines even hotter as the two traditional powers come head to head. While Nebraska handled the Wolverines with ease last year, they must attempt to do so this year in Ann Arbor. The Huskers fall back to their old ways and crumble in prime time suffering their first loss of the season.
Prediction – Michigan 38, Nebraska 17
Nov 16 vs. Michigan State (7-6)
Favorite – Nebraska by 5.5
After the deflation of their first loss, Nebraska will have an extremely difficult battle against Michigan State.
The Spartans have the best defense in the conference, and they will improve on the other side of the ball as quarterback Andrew Maxwell matures.
While the Huskers’ high-powered offense is enough to score against the Spartans, their defense finally costs them the win.
Prediction – Michigan State 27, Nebraska 20
Nov 23 at Penn State (8-4)
Favorite – Penn State by 2.5
After two losses in a row, the Huskers face a downward spiral. Another road game and a Nittany Lions team with nearly two full years under Bill O’Brien are not a recipe for a turn around. A game that was much closer than the score indicated last year at home gets away from Big Red on the road.
Prediction – Penn State 34, Nebraska 24
Nov 29 vs. Iowa (4-8)
Favorite – Nebraska by 14.5
Despite Nebraska’s rough stretch, they come home for the final game of the regular season against the Hawkeyes, who are working through another difficult year of their own. Iowa can’t match up with the Huskers on their home field and Nebraska finishes out the season with a win.
Prediction – Nebraska 38, Iowa 17
Final regular season record: 9-3