DAN's 2008 PRETTY PERKY, PRE-SEASON PIGSKIN PROCRASTIN-ER, PROGNOSTICATIONS
In just days, the Bo Pelini Era will begin at Nebraska. Most Husker fans are hoping (check that) praying that the combination of Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini, will mean an end to the losing ways of the Callahan Era and a return to the "traditional" winning ways established by Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.
Even before he has coached his first regular season game, Husker fans have been going ga-ga over Bo Pelini. To show their support for the new coach, fans have been buying T-shirts enscribed with "Got Bo?", "Bo Knows", "Bo Big Red", "BoFense", "My BoFriend's Back" etc. Husker fans are hoping he's the Real Deal. It's true the man has some serious karma. As the Defensive Coordinator in his only previous year with the Huskers, he took a defense that was ranked 55th in the country in '02 and took them to an 11th ranking the following year. And as an interim head coach that year, he led the Huskers to a victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.
The question is, how much magic does Bo have for a team coming off a 5-7 season that saw the Huskers have one of the worst defenses in all of college football? Bo is good, but is he the miracle worker everyone seems to think he is?
Let's look at what's hot and what's not going into this football season.
Bo Pelini is in a much better situation than he would have been four years ago had he succeeded Frank Solich as the Husker head coach.
What Bo has going for him this time, is that Tom Osborne is running the athletic program. Osborne will serve as Bo's mentor. Remember, this is Pelini's first attempt at being a full time head coach. And he's stepping into a program that has fired two head coaches in the past four years. This position is not for the weak and timid.
PASS THE POLISH
When Pelini was being considered for the head coaching job at Nebraska following the '03 season, I didn't think he was ready to run a program like Nebraska's. He needed to be more polished, or so I thought at the time. But Bo's lack of polish might be to his advantage this time around. To be sure, Bo is a an anachronism-a throwback, if you will, to an earlier era of coaches. He's direct, honest, straightforward and doesn't mince words. His approach is refreshing in view of what Husker fans endurred the last four years. If Bo can make Nebraska champions again, Husker fans won't care much about any rough edges he may have.
UP, UP AND AWAY
Last year's Huskers were to defense what E.D. is to a honeymoon. The only way to go is up (pardon the expression) for this year's Husker defense. (They're not Blackshirts until the honor and tradition have been restored.)
Besides Pelini's bringing a record of success as the Defensive Coordinator at Nebraska, Oklahoma and LSU, he has put together a very good group of assisstants this year at Nebraska. When you're around this staff, you get the feeling that there are no prima donnas in the bunch and that they have a genuine respect and admiration for each other. Leadership and unity are going to be essential if the Huskers are going to get back to respectability.
Bo's new staff is like a bride's wedding ensemble: There is something old (Ron Brown, Barney Cotton, Marv Sanders, Ted Gilmore and Shawn Watson), something new (John Papuchis and Mike Ekeler), something borrowed (Tim Beck from Kansas and Carl Pelini from Ohio) and something blue (Okay, there are no perfect analogies.)
Thank goodness Bo retained Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore from the former staff. Re-inventing the offensive wheel would have been disastrous for this year's batch of Huskers. Why mess with an offense that was ranked #11 nationally in Total Offense and averaged more than 30 points a game? Tweak it, maybe, but overhaul it? No way. The Huskers should be strong with a very good O-line that has depth There is also an excellent running back crew consisting of Marlon Lucky, Ray Helu, Jr. and Quentin Castille. Marcus Mendoza has had a good fall camp and will probably see a lot of playing time.
The quarterback position could be a real strength this fall with the return of Joe Ganz, who started the last three games of '07. Patrick Witt and Zac Lee will be very capable back-ups. One note of caution, although he put up some big numbers in the three games in which he started, Ganz's record is only 1-2. If the defense develops quickly, Ganz and the offense could have a great year in '08.
The receiving game will be good. The question is, who will fill the shoes of Mo Purify?
THE KICKING GAME
The Huskers have capable place kickers in Alex Henery, Adi Kunalic and Jake Wesch. Dan Titchener and Jake Wesch may battle each other for the punting duties.
The Huskers have home games with Virginia Tech, as well as BT North foes Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. Let's hope home cookin' pays off big time.
Obviously, any time you return one of the worst defenses in the nation, there is good reason for concern. Bo's attack defense will no doubt be exciting for the players to run, but a new system is going to take awhile to grasp. The defense is going to get tested early at home September 27th against Virginia Tech and October 4th when Missouri comes to town. Remember, an attacking defense opens up the chance not only for making a big play, but giving up a big play as well. Look for the Huskers to get burned occassionally, especially early in the season.
What will help the Husker defense during fall camp and the season, is that they have to go up against a very good offense every day in practice. Let's hope the defense develops quickly. For the first few games, the offense may have to carry the team.
The D-line is of special concern. Will Ndamukong Suh be able to hold up the entire season? Will Zach Potter, Barry Turner, Ty Steinkuhler, Clayton Sievers, Pierre Allen emerge this year? With the departure of DT Kevin Dixon, will there be enough depth to last the entire season?
The linebacking position with only one starter (Phillip Dillard) returning has to be an area of concern. Will Cody Glenn's experiement at linebacker pay off this year? Tyler Wortman has had good fall camp, but the Huskers will need to develop talent and depth quickly, or this could be a long season for the Huskers.
Ricky Thenarse and Larry Asante should make the safety position a strong one. Will Prince Amukamara step up to help Amando Murillo and Athony West at the corners?
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
The return game is a major concern in fall camp. Nate Swift, Niles Paul and Khiry Cooper are all getting a look as punt returners. A good return game could be of great help early in the season, considering the defense will be still trying to gel.
Let's look at the Husker schedule:
Western Michigan (W)
Husker fans who think this will be a laugher, need only to remember Appalachian State at Michigan last year. The Huskers will win this game, but the Broncos won't be intimidated coming to Lincoln.
San Jose State (W)
The Huskers should be able to play a lot of players.
New Mexico State (W)
The Huskers will be 3-0 after this game and will welcome an extra week to prepare for Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech (W)
This game is a toss-up. The joint will be rocking for this one. Husker fans will need to be as loud as a Harrier jet. Pelini will get his first "big" win but this is going to be a very close game. The defense will step up and save the day for the Huskers. (Okay, so maybe this is seductive reasoning on my part, but I think the Huskers have a shot to beat the Hokies.)
It's good that this game is in Lincoln. The Huskers were embarrassed last year in Columbia. Look for the Husker defense to slam Chase Daniel on his butt, but in the end, the Tigers will pull off something they haven't done since Jimmy Carter was president-win in Lincoln. The game will be close, Bo Pelini will say to the press after the game, "Being close isn't good enough."
@Texas Tech (L)
Every Husker fan remembers "The Train Wreck at T-Tech" in '04. Callahan's play calling contributed to the annihilation, but the Red Raiders would still have won that year and they will again this year. Michael Crabtree is a man playing a boy's game. Bo will tell reporters again after the game, "Close isn't good enough."
@Iowa State (W)
The Huskers should come out of Ames with a win, but the game will be closer than many people think.
Thank goodness for Baylor. The Huskers should be 6-2 as they head to Norman
This may be Bob Stoops' best Sooner team-and that's not good news for Husker fans. Bo's former boss takes his Huskers to the woodpile.
A 6-6 Jayhawk team nearly beat the Huskers in '06, but this isn't Cosgrove's defense, Dorothy.
@Kansas State (W)
What was K-State thinking of when it extended Ron Prince's contract?
The Buffaloes will be a much improved team this year, but so will the Huskers.
THE BIG TWELVE
Missouri (Chase is back)
Nebraska (Bo's back)
Kansas (Attrition woes?)
Colorado (Secondary woes?)
Iowa State (Good schedule)
Kansas State (Prince is back)
Oklahoma (Stoops' best?)
Texas Tech (Wed Waiders to break through?)
Texas (All that talent...)
Oklahoma State (Cowboys need more than T. Boone)
Texas A&M (Aggies could surprise)
Baylor (Somebody has to be in the cellar)
BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Sooners over the Tigers
And there you have it-straight from the other end of a horse's mouth.
DAN's 2008 PRETTY PERKY, PRE-SEASON PIGSKIN PROCRASTIN-ER, PROGNOSTICATIONS