It feels like a recurring theme at this point in his coaching career, but this could be a pivotal season for Nebraska head coach Scott Frost. Another bowl-less season in Lincoln has not gone unnoticed by the masses, and it has once again become difficult to focus on the positives from the previous season when the win total doesn't back up the idea that maybe, just maybe, Nebraska isn't as far away from competing in the Big Ten West as you might think.
But here we are again. Once again, Nebraska has begun spring practice looking to set the tone for what the program hopes is not just a return to the college football bowl system, but perhaps something more within the Big Ten West. Nebraska has an opportunity to turn the page on previous years and begin spring with new hope of achieving some elusive goals this fall. A new quarterback and a new offensive coach are one big reason for optimism this fall, and a schedule playing in Nebraska’s favor is there for the taking.
Here are three reasons why Nebraska fans should be optimistic about the 2022 season.
1. Mark Whipple joining the staff could inject the offense
I am not about to sit here and try convincing you that all Nebraska has needed to get over the hump is the addition of Whipple on the coaching staff. But there is no question his coming to Nebraska after turning in a brilliant season with Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett is encouraging to see. And pairing him with a quarterback many Nebraska fans should be excited about in Texas transfer Casey Thompson should lead to some steady results on offense.
The addition of Whipple is just one part of the reason to be excited about the offense in 2022. He still needs to get on the same page as his new quarterback, Thompson, and work on hitting it big on the things that work. The sooner that happens, the better results we may see from the Nebraska offense in the fall. We shouldn't expect to see everything drastically improve overnight, but it also doesn't really have that much more that needs to improve before turning some close calls in Nebraska’s favor.
2. Nebraska's next big-play receiver is just a freshman
Nebraska took some time to develop its latest recruiting class, but the wait may have been worth it when it comes to new wide receiver Janiran Bonner. The 4-star addition may not waste much time establishing himself as Nebraska’s top wide receiver, and that could lead to some big results with Whipple and Thompson working on the entire passing game. The buzz surrounding the commitment of Bonner is, as they say, palpable, and Nebraska fans should be giddy about his future as one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten.
3. Nebraska’s schedule is incredibly favorable … until November
Given the results of the past few years, it is unfair to suggest Nebraska should be able to waltz through the bulk of its schedule before arguably their three biggest games of the year. But if Nebraska could have asked for a better schedule the first two months of the season, we’d love to see it. Nebraska does have to host Oklahoma, which should be a Big 12 favorite once again despite some significant turnover from last season, but Nebraska hung tough with the Sooners in Norman last year when nobody gave them a shot. Nebraska could be getting Oklahoma at a good time as the Sooners open a new era with some things to figure out.
But Nebraska avoids having to play Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State in cross-division matchups, and the Huskers won’t have to worry about Michigan until making a road trip to Ann Arbor in mid-November. Nebraska's final three games of the year are big ones (at Michigan, vs. Wisconsin, at Iowa), but Nebraska has a very manageable schedule to become bowl eligible before hitting that final stretch. If it doesn't happen this year, then we'll have some serious conversations going into the offseason.
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