Bo is back. Cody is on defense. Marlon and Joe hope to lead Nebraska's potent offense back into the top 10 for total offense. Then there is the newly svelte players running around in Lincoln. Not to mention a defense that along the first strong looks incredibly talented, but looking at the depth chart is obviously not very deep with experience.
But, those are things that will be going on all season. Let's talk about this weekend and the now. The Huskers invite a formidable opponent in Western Michigan who will challenge Nebraska on both sides of the ball. Read on and see my thoughts on this game as well as a prediction.
Going for Nebraska: Are you kidding? This game is a home opener in Lincoln, under the lights and under a former defensive coordinator who is now the head coach that resurrected a defense back in 2003. There is a lot to look forward to seeing on the defensive side of the ball, who plays and how the defense performs, but the offense was a top 10 offense nationally last year and early word is that the offense is ahead this year of where it was this time last year. Nebraska's offense could be scary good this year.
Going for Western Michigan: Western Michigan isn't scared to come into Lincoln and take on the Huskers. The defense for the Broncos returns 10 starters from the previous year that the lowest pass completion percentage allowed in MAC play (50.2%) and was also second in points allowed. Ironically, the defensive leader for Western Michigan is none other than Londen Fryar (#6), son of former Nebraska wingback Irving Fryer and the NFL's first pick overall to the New England Patriots, who broke up 16 passes last season from his cornerback position and is a two-time, first team all-MAC performer.
Going against Nebraska: One has to wonder, under a first time head coach (excluding his interim game in San Antonio) if the organization might be a little rusty. There might also be a little cause for concern in a couple of areas on the field. Nebraska has had some recent shuffling take place across their offensive line, there has been questionable execution by the wide receivers through the spring and summer to fall camp, there isn't a lot of depth along the defensive line and can three new starters at linebacker lead the way to a defense that has changed scheme, their physical builds and coaching staffs?
Going against Western Michigan: This is a veteran group for Western Michigan, but this is a group that went 5-7 last year including a record of 3-4 in MAC play. While three of those losses came in the last moments of the game, there is still a question about Western Michigan being able to hold it together for 60 minutes. While the quarterback play under Tim Hiller (#3) last year was spectacular, he will learn that breaking in three new starters across the offensive line in Lincoln isn't the best of ideas.
Offensive player of interest for Nebraska: Marlon Lucky is going to have to provide Nebraska the ability to run the ball effectively to try and open up some passing lanes for Joe Ganz and the offense to take advantage of. It will be a little bit of a three and four headed monster at the actual running back position, but I expect Nebraska will use Lucky in a variety of ways allowing him to be as much of a threat as a receiver that he is as a runner.
Offensive player of interest for Western Michigan: Jemarko Simmons (#27) is a real threat on the outside that should test the Nebraska secondary. Tiller did throw for 3,000 yards last year, but a third of them went to Simmons who hauled in 89 receptions for 980 yards and six scores. One should also mention that the Broncos have a tight end, Branden Ledbetter (#82), that is on the Mackey Award watch list as he hauled in 38 receptions for 550 yards and six scores with the longest going for 65 yards. Let's hope that this isn't Chris Cooley revisited. Don't forget about Brandon West (#2) after gaining 2,119 yards rushing last year.
Defensive player of interest for Nebraska: This is a given, up to this past spring in Lincoln, Cody Glenn has been terrorizing defenses by running around them, by them and through them. Now, he will try his hand in trying to stop the run. Glenn is an immediate athletic upgrade to Nebraska's linebacking corps that alongside Phillip Dillard and Tyler Wortman has a completely different look to it in compared to recent years. If there is one word that comes to mind here it's going to be effort. Nebraska's linebackers are going to be asked to play physically and go sideline to sideline.
Defensive player of interest for Western Michigan: Since we already spoke about Londen Fryar let's turn our focus to Boston McCornell (#43) who last year racked up 99 tackles, 46 of them solo and 53 assists, to go along with eight tackles for loss, two and a half sacks, one interception and a safety from his linebacker position. The top three tacklers for the Broncos were linebackers, and they return two, with the other being Dustin Duclo (#59) who was third in tackles last year. Expect the Broncos to rely heavily on the consistent and active play of their linebacking corps. People will want to look at their defensive ends that aren't "prototypical", but Greg Marshall (#54) and Zach Davidson (#90) will get after it.
Deciding factors: I think that Nebraska might be looking for a statement game to get a more positive light being shown on the progress of the team and the direction of the program under Bo Pelini, but they shouldn't count on Western Michigan to be that game. Head Coach Bill Cubit and the Broncos aren't going to back down from Nebraska, especially after a big win last year against Iowa at Iowa, 28-19. The Broncos won't be starry eyed, but hopefully last year's Hawkeyes aren't this year's Huskers.
There is just too much going in Nebraska's favor despite a disappointing practice according to Bo Pelini this Monday leading up to game weekend. Bottom line, if the Nebraska offense picks up where it was when it finished off last season under the direction of Joe Ganz and the senior leadership of Lucky, Nate Swift, Todd Peterson and an experienced offensive line then the defense of Western Michigan is going to see early on why Nebraska and playing at Nebraska shouldn't be compared to Iowa and Iowa City.
Nebraska wins, 45-17.