July 20, 2024

Is Nebraska’s AP ranking premature or right on schedule?

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost leads his players onto the field before an NCAA college football game against Colorado in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The Big Ten has seven teams ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since 2000.

The Huskers land in at No. 24 and are ranked for the first time in the preseason since 2014. The buzz is back in full effect in Lincoln and Husker Nation is excited about the season.

After all, Coach Scott Frost has a great track record of delivering in year two, quarterback Adrian Martinez is a Heisman candidate and the schedule is very favorable with all of Nebraska’s big games inside the Sea of Red.

Year two always tells what direction a coach has his team headed. Recruitment is in full force, the assistant coaches got their feel for Big Ten style of football and the roster has Frost’s players, with the Calibraska Mike Riley era in the rear view mirror.

The opportunity is there for the Huskers to contend in a wide open Big Ten West. However, there are critics out there who believe Nebraska doesn’t deserve its’ preseason ranking. The program is coming off back-to-back 4-8 campaigns. The Blackshirts finished 12th in the Big Ten in scoring, rushing and total defense. Not to mention Nebraska was one of the most penalty-plagued, turnover-prone teams last season.

It’s the little things Nebraska did last year that has Husker fans optimistic about 2019. Nebraska lost its’ first six games for the first time in school history, but played disciplined over the second half and won four of its’ final six to end the season. Nebraska should’ve beat Northwestern without overtime, lost to Ohio State by five points and Iowa by a field goal.

Nebraska was a different team over the second half of the season and played with more physicality on defense. Plus Martiznez grew as a thrower and a field general. Nebraska benefits from Frost’s strength and conditioning program and depth has been added on both sides of the ball.

The glaring issue this fall will be the running back position, which will be crucial as the Huskers navigate through the Big Ten meat grinder. No word on Maurice Washington has surfaced yet and the rushing production will rely heavily on the shoulders of junior college transfer Dedrick Mills.

Nebraska won’t get far in the conference without an effective rushing attack. Martinez is a brilliant runner, but Frost wants to keep him upright and healthy. The Huskers allowed 28 sacks last season and needs the running backs to take the pressure off of the quarterback.

That means the running backs have to catch more balls out the backfield, be effective blockers and make the most out of their carries. Anything to keep Nebraska as one of the top-four rushing teams in the league for a second-straight year. Nebraska’s passing attack should be a strength of the offense with All-Big Ten wideout J.D. Spielman, experienced tight ends and the arrival of freshman phenom Wandale Robinson.

Linebacker Mohamed Barry finished second in the Big Ten in tackles last season and will be the heart and soul of the defense. Edge rusher Carlos Davis will set the tone for the Blackshirts up front. All-Big Ten corner Dicaprio Bootle will hold down the secondary and Alabama native Barrett Pickering has an accurate leg.

The 2019 season has started out special with Nebraska being ranked and the program will join the elite 900-win club. The sellout streak at Memorial Stadium will continue and Frost has his Huskers poised to deliver a season that his alma mater can be proud of.