Monday, July 9, 2012

Lowered expectations are not necessarily a bad thing

Preseason expectations are always to be taken with a grain of salt but it’s amazing how preview magazines for any sport sway with the wind.

Rewind to last season, Nebraska was heading into the Big 10 coming off back-to-back Big 12 Conference Title Game losses. The Huskers lost 13-12 to Texas in the 2009 Big 12 Title Game and one year later coughed up a 17-0 lead only to lose 23-20 to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Title Game.

Granted, the Big 10 had the likes of Ohio State and Wisconsin for “quality at the top” but were also perceived as weaker than say the 2009 Texas team that went 13-1 with the only defeat coming in the BCS Title Game to Alabama. Also, the 2010 Oklahoma team went 12-2. With Ohio State going on probation from the NCAA, it was generally assumed that even though the quality in the middle of the Big 10 was better than the Big 12, the lack of quality at the top would make it easier for Nebraska to win the Big 10. Well, a strange thing happened; the first six quarters the Huskers played in the Big 10 were horrific. There was a 48-17 road loss at Wisconsin and one week later, Nebraska trailed 27-6 I the third quarter to Ohio state only to rally for a 34-27 win on the way to a 9-4 campaign.

The 2012 preseason magazines have Nebraska finishing first in the Big 10 Legends division on the high end to third on the low end with Michigan and Michigan State also being in the picture.

Although no one is picking the Huskers to win the National Championship, there are those that are predicting the Huskers to be in the thick of the Big Ten race. Kevin Steele has Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State as co-champs in the Legends; however, he picks the Huskers to come out on top based on tiebreakers. I’d like to know how he arrived at that conclusion in July. USA Today and Athlon have the Huskers as second in the Division with a 10-2 record. Athlon has Nebraska going to a BCS bowl (Fiesta). Lindy's predicts a third place finish in the Legends.

Husker fans like to preach expectations but maybe a perceived lack of national respect is what the team needs. Personally, I felt the expectations for last year were overblown and trumped up to a point where we had nowhere to go but down, this year the team should come out with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Respect is the byproduct of execution.

Last season, Nebraska had high expectations to fill in their first season in their new conference. A little less pressure on the Cornhuskers might be just what they need to sneak into the Big Ten Championship game.

Nebraska’s offense should take a step forward in their second year under offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Finding more linemen will be the key for Nebraska's offense.

The defense had high expectations in 2012 with star players at each level (Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard). The Blackshirts may not have the skilled players they had in 2011 on defense, but more depth will go a long way to providing success in 2012.

The difficult schedule will not be easy for Nebraska, but if they take one game at a time and don’t panic if they lose a game, they should be fine.

My early prediction for the Cornhuskers is 9-3. That could change once summer practice begins.

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