Nebraska has won at least nine games in each of Bo Pelini’s five seasons in Lincoln. But the Cornhuskers have yet to play in a BCS bowl and have lost three consecutive postseason appearances.
Expectations are always high at Nebraska, so there’s plenty of pressure on Pelini and his staff to deliver a conference championship in 2013. The Cornhuskers have a favorable path to a return trip to Indianapolis, with their first road date coming on Oct. 12 against Purdue.
Nebraska’s schedule is backloaded, as its toughest competition for the division title – Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State – all take place in November. And of course, there’s a road date against Penn State on Nov. 23 that won’t be easy.
What will Nebraska's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Nebraska's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
9/7 Southern Miss
9/21 South Dakota State
10/12 at Purdue
10/26 at Minnesota
11/9 at Michigan
11/16 Michigan State
11/23 at Penn State
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
There’s plenty to like about Nebraska this fall. It all starts with a dynamic offense that returns playmakers Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, among others. It’s also difficult not to like a schedule that includes eight (!) home games – including five to open the season – plus a slate that doesn’t feature a truly dangerous road game until November 9 (at Michigan) or Leaders Division powers Ohio State and Wisconsin for the first time since joining the Big Ten. Oh, but then there’s the defense, a unit that surrendered 53.5 points and 595 yards in its four losses last season. This year’s defense is younger and more athletic, which should help, however it must show little learning curve because it’s going to decide what kind of season the Huskers have.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Big Ten’s Legends Division should be one of college football’s most competitive title races in 2013. Four teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern – have a strong case to be picked as the favorite. The Cornhuskers led the Big Ten in total offense last year, and it’s hard to see this group backtracking any with the return of quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah, receiver Kenny Bell and guard Spencer Long. While there’s little doubt the offense will score plenty in 2013, it’s the defense that will give coach Bo Pelini plenty of sleepless nights this offseason. Nebraska allowed 360.6 yards per game last year and ranked ninth in the Big Ten in points allowed. With just four starters back, Pelini and coordinator John Papuchis will have their hands full. However, with a favorable schedule, it’s very likely the Cornhuskers start 7-0 before a brutal November. I'm picking Nebraska to lose at Penn State, but I could easily see a second loss coming against Northwestern instead of Happy Valley. If Pelini finds the right mix on defense, Nebraska will win the Legends Division. However, I think the Cornhuskers lose two games in Big Ten play and fall just short of a return trip to Indianapolis.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Nebraska and senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has 9,449 career yards of total offense already, are eyeing a return trip to the Big Ten Championship game. And the schedule sets-up beautifully for that to happen again in 2013. Two late season road trips to league powers Michigan and Penn State might be the toughest games all year for the Big Red. UCLA in the non-conference is an intriguing game but will be in Lincoln. Key Legends Division games with Northwestern and Michigan State come at home as well and there is no Ohio State or Wisconsin from the Leaders. It means the November 9 trip to Ann Arbor could decide the division crown. That said, the Huskers could lose to Michigan and still make it to Indianapolis should the Maize and Blue slip-up just one time this fall. This will be a great division to watch all year.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Did I really just predict Nebraska to go 11-1? I sure did but I can tell you right now it is the least comfortable 11-1 I have ever predicted. I really do not trust Nebraska enough to win all of the games they probably should, so a record of 10-2 or even 9-3 might be more realistic, but when push comes to shove right now I'll take a shot with this 11-1 mark. Nebraska's running game will be tough for most to shut down and it's not as though the defense could be much worse this year, right? I have called for Nebraska to reach the Big Ten championship game, coming out on top of a heated three-team race between the Huskers, Michigan and Michigan State with a serious run shown by Northwestern. But I have Nebraska defending home-field advantage this season against the Spartans and Wildcats to help them maintain the edge in the division race. The toss-up games for me are the home game against UCLA and the road game at Penn State. I just don't know what to make of Penn State right now, so I have to give the edge to Big Red right now. As for UCLA, the Bruins could be a Pac 12 (South) contender and could leave town with a big win, but I'll go with Nebraska to ind enough offense in another wild match-up.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’ve picked Nebraska to go 10-2, mainly because I wavered between 11-1 and 9-3. Nebraska has too many defensive questions to put up an 11-1 season, but the schedule is too favorable for Nebraska to slip below nine or 10 wins. Michigan is a key swing game, and on paper, Nebraska should be better than Penn State. But home field advantage for the Nittany Lions and a standout defense should be enough to pull an upset. I could just as easily see Nebraska defeating Michigan and Penn State and instead losing to Minnesota, Northwestern or UCLA. I love that Nebraska has won five of their last six one-score games, but the Cornhuskers have been vulnerable to a questionable upset (Northwestern at home) or a game getting away from them (Wisconsin, Ohio State).
Other than the rematch with UCLA in September, Nebraska doesn't really face a tough test until Northwestern comes calling the first Saturday in November. The Cornhuskers have more than enough offense to get by the Bruins at home and run out to a 7-0 start. While I think the Wildcats and Wolverines will be able to take advantage of an inexperienced defense, the Huskers' only remaining road game is against a Penn State team that lost a lot from last year's surprise team. As long as Bo Pelini can keep his temper in check and Taylor Martinez doesn't make too many mistakes, this team is capable of racking up 10 wins in the regular season alone.
Related College Football Content
Big Ten 2013 Predictions
Big Ten's 2013 All-Conference Team
Ohio State and Michigan: The New Ten-Year War
The Big Ten's Best Traditions
Does Nebraska Still Believe in Bo Pelini?
5 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team