The Nebraska Cornhuskers are coming off a 6-7 campaign that could have been so much better. Nebraska suffered a 28-33 loss to BYU in their opener on a last-second Hail Mary. Heartbreaking defeats would end up being the theme of the season.
The Cornhuskers suffered a staggering 5 losses in the final seconds. They also had a 8-point loss at home to Iowa, who they outgained by over 180 yards.
Despite a 5-7 finish to the regular season, Nebraska was awarded a bowl game. They took advantage of the opportunity, defeating UCLA 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl.
While the record wasn’t what they had hoped for, overall it was a good first season under head coach Mike Riley. The Cornhuskers should be much better in year two under Riley, but will it be enough to win the West?
Big Ten (West)
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|11/5||@ Ohio State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
Nebraska should have no problem opening up the season 2-0. They kickoff 2016 with two home games against Fresno State and Wyoming. The big test outside the Big 10 comes on 9/17, when they host Oregon.
That game against the Ducks will tell us a lot about this team going into conference play.
The Cornhuskers kick things off in the Big 10 with a road game against Northwestern. A game they are more than capable of winning. They follow that up with a key 3-game stretch. They host Illinois, visit Indiana and host Purdue. All games they will likely be favored in.
If Nebraska can hold off Oregon at home and pull off an upset at Northwestern, they could start out 7-0.
The 3 biggest challenges late all come on the road against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. Though they do have two favorable home games in there against Minnesota and Maryland.
Nebraska will have 7 starters back from an offense that averaged 32.8 ppg and 447 ypg. For the first time since 2009, the majority of the offense came via the passing game and not on the ground. The Cornhuskers averaged 267 ypg through the air and 180 ypg rushing.
The concern with a more pass-happy offense is it led to a lot more turnovers. Starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong had 16 interceptions and Nebraska had a -11 turnover ratio.
All signs point to Armstrong remaining the starter for his senior season. The big question is whether Riley will adjust his schemes. Does he continue to force the pass or take a run-first approach to fit his quarterback’s strength.
Either way, Armstrong should be better off in year-two of Riley’s schemes. It will also help that Nebraska has all their primary weapons in the passing game back. The best of the bunch being senior wide out Jordan Westerkamp.
The leading rusher for the Cornhuskers in 2015 was Terrell Newby with just 765 yards. Newby is back for his senior season, but could be pushed by sophomores Mikale Wilbon and Devin Ozigbo.
My biggest concern comes up front on the offensive line. Nebraska only has 2 starters back and 24 career starts. They are expected to have 3 sophomore starters and this inexperienced unit could be a problem.
Nebraska’s defense slipped to allowing 27.8 ppg after giving up just 26.4 ppg in 2014. The big concern is the yardage they allowed. The Cornhuskers gave up 400 ypg. The most since 2007, when they were still a member of the Big 12.
Part of the problem was the defense also had to adjust to new schemes. Typically you can expect improvement in year-two of a new scheme, but I’m not so sure that will be the case.
While Nebraska gets back 6 starters, not a single one of them comes on the defensive line. The Cornhuskers lose all 4 starters in the trenches. That includes their two stud defensive tackles in Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins. Both of which were taken in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft.
The good news is that all 3 starters are back at linebacker and the unit should be one of the best in the Big Ten. Whether or not they can make up for the inexperience up front could define their season.
Three more starters return in the secondary, including one of the best the Big 10 has to offer in senior safety Nathan Gerry. They also get back both starting corners. This unit was picked on in 2015, as they allowed 291 ypg through the air.
Regular Season Win Total
Big Ten West Odds
Big Ten Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
When you look at how close this team was to a double-digit win season in 2015, it’s easy to get excited about 2016.With no dominant teams in the Big 10 West, they are definitely contenders. In fact, oddsmakers have them listed with the second best odds to win the division behind Iowa.
I’m not quite as high on the Cornhuskers as others might be. My biggest concerns being I’m not sold on Armstrong as a good fit in Riley’s system. The other being how inexperienced they are up front on both sides of the ball.
I have Nebraska losing at home to Oregon in non-conference play and going 5-4 in the Big 10 to finish up at 7-5. Keep in mind the Cornhuskers 5 toughest conference games are all on the road. Any upsets at home and they could struggle to make a bowl.
Big Ten (West)
Big Ten Record
Win Total Prediction