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College Football End of Season Analysis: Nebraska Cornhuskers

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 1st Place in Big 12 North and Big 12 Champion
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 1st Place in Big 12 North and Big 12 Runner-Up (10-4, 6-2)

Nebraska came really close to having a special season but it came apart in the last four games for them. The Cornhuskers got off to a 9-1 start including wins over Okie State and Missouri (who was ranked #6 at the time). On November 20th Nebraska fell to Texas A&M 9-6 in a game where they set school records for penalties and penalty yards. After beating Colorado to get their record to 10-2 they lost a close one in the Big 12 Championship Game to rival Oklahoma 23-20.

Probably the most disappointing moment of the season came when Nebraska fell flat in it's bowl game against Washington (a team it had previously beaten this year 56-21). We were able to talk our Nebraska blogger, Brandon, down off of his ledge long enough for him to answer some questions for us about the 2010 season and get a quick look into the 2011 season. You can also follow him on twitter @bigstad24, he should be an interesting guy to follow next college football season as it will be Nebraska's first in the Big Ten.

1. Nebraska finished 10-4 losing 3 of their last 4. Looking back on the season was it a success, a failure or somewhere in between?

I, personally, have to label this season as a failure. I never really bought into the hype of Nebraska being a National Championship contender but you could definitely see that the talent was there to do so. Unfortunately, there were too many holes to prevent it from happening. I admit that I was snowed after the Washington and Kansas State games when the offense looked like the Nebraska of old with its domination of the run game and a defense that could shut down pretty much any offense. Then…the Texas game occurred and from that point forward they didn’t look like the same team. Taylor Martinez was exposed as not having the confidence that he should, the defense was shown prone to being beaten by the run, and the coaching staff was exposed as having little creativity offensively (save for a few Rex Burkhead plays in the last few games…) to get scores. So it became a failure when in three of the last four games you lose 9-6 to Texas A&M taking you out of a potential (albeit…small) chance at a National Title. You lose in heartbreaking fashion to Oklahoma, going back to your Quarterback who had been stopped repeatedly and not sticking with what was working and losing your last game on the way out of the Big 12 Conference. Then finally you lose to a team which you had dominated earlier in the season, and while you may have taken a lot of money away from their Quarterback, you still couldn’t get anything going offensively. If this seems like a successful season to you then by all means take it, but for it was a failure.

2. If you could have one game to "do over" which one would it be?

As much as people would probably expect me to say that I would like to redo the Texas A&M or Oklahoma game, I would rather redo the Holiday Bowl game against Washington. I think that you have to win a game of that magnitude after the prior month going so awry. I don’t think it hurt recruiting too much, but it seemed as if the team just lost focus and seemed badly distracted going into and during that game. As I said before you NEED to win that game so that you can prove the naysayers wrong, and regain some of the luster you lost with two of the losses which you suffered late. It also shows that you may have not been as good as you were touted to be EARLY in the season when you had already beaten that team. You need people to perceive that your team is dominant even if they actually aren’t that way you can keep the intimidation factor. With this loss? You lose that factor, and you also lose the idea of, “A couple of bad breaks…” being the difference in your season.

3. Which player were the most surprising to you this year?

The player that most surprised me this year was Lavonte David. I understand that he was a decent prospect coming out of JUCO last year, but for him to play that hybrid safety/linebacker position and in a dominant manner was something to behold. I don’t think he has much of a future at the next level as a linebacker, but with his ability to cover and run and his tackling ability he will make whatever team drafts him very happy as a Strong Saftey.

4. Which players are you most looking forward to watching in 2011?

Jared Crick because I think he has a chance to be another awesome defensive tackle; I don’t think he will ever get to a Suh-type level, but I certainly think he could be an awesome force on the inside of a defense for years to come. The aforementioned Lavonte David. Alfonso Dennard is also one to watch because of how well he played with Prince Amukamara on the other side of him. I am anxious to see if he can be the same type of corner when he is the focal point of the secondary, and see if he can shut down one side of the field like Amukamara did this entire year. I am also very pumped to see Rex Burkhead as the main running back and see if he can keep up what he did at the end of this year as a do everything style back, and be able to shoulder the load of the carries with no Roy Helu there to help him out.

5. Nebraska is in the same Big Ten division as Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. How do you like Nebraska's chances in this division and what do they need to do this off-season to compete for a Big Ten Championship in their first year?

I like Nebraska’s chances in this division for sure because of how different every other team in it will look next season. Michigan is going to be rebuilding again, Michigan State was greatly exposed by Alabama and I don’t think they can do the same thing they did this past season. Minnesota is going to have a new coach to go along with the same players from a very poor season. Then there is Northwestern whom I think is a sleeper in this division and could win it, but they have never proven to win the big game yet, and I don’t have much faith that you can just learn that over an off-season. What does Nebraska need to do this off-season? I think that a change must be made with the offensive coordinator. I know that Bo Pellini has given him a “vote of confidence” but to me you can’t expect any different result on offense with the same person in charge. Where they would turn? I have no clue, but I know it probably can’t be with current Oregon Wide Receiver’s coach Scott Frost as this was his first year as a coach on the offensive side of the ball. I also don’t think Joe Ganz (a current Graduate Assistant) can just jump up to Quarterback’s coach, but I think that this is what needs to change the most because the defense is always going to be there to stop people. All that you need is one more point than the defense allows, and right now I don’t think that this offensive staff can get that done on a consistent basis.

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