What Stands Between Nebraska Football and B1G Glory?

By at June 22, 2012 | 10:00 AM | Print

What Stands Between Nebraska Football and B1G Glory?

As any person with a quick wit and enough street sense will tell you, nothing in life worth doing is ever easy. From a peer at your job fighting for the same promotion to changing the channel from the Lifetime Movie Network to a baseball game when you can’t find the remote, obstacles are as unavoidable as death and taxes. This couldn’t be more evident when looking at Nebraska’s 2012 season on paper.

There are significant hurdles that Bo Pelini’s squad must overcome to end up in Indianapolis playing for the right to wear a BCS bowl patch for the first time in over a decade.

While this list isn’t in any particular order, there isn’t a Husker fan alive who hasn’t thought of at least a few items on it as the season approaches.

– A Brutal Conference Road Schedule: Not counting the trip to SoCal to play UCLA, the Huskers have a beefy B1G road slate that makes last year’s look downright inviting.

Nebraska must travel to The Shoe, East Lansing in November and to meet a scrappy Northwestern team at home. It’s enough to make one wonder if going .500 away from Lincoln is actually a good goal.

How can two wins on the road seem like a stretch, you ask? With how stubborn the Huskers were last year at Camp Randall and Ann Arbor, history suggests that the aforementioned three road trips are headaches. There’s also Iowa City on Black Friday to consider.

– Getting Rex Burkhead a Heisman Look: Admittedly, we’ve talked about Rex deserving a shot at being on ESPN in December for the Heisman ceremony ad nauseum. However, Nebraska shouldn’t sacrifice the season (and quite possibly Rex’s draft stock) on getting him over 250 carries and 300 overall touches this season.

(Still a good video, though)

There were three talented backs behind Burkhead last season, and there will be three or four this year (this includes Braylon Heard, mark my words).

Mike Marrow will be the bruiser, Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross will be the speed guys. The Wildcat formation will give Burkhead additional touches. See my point? Diversity will allow the team to perform more effectively on offense.

– Taylor’s Technique (Between the Ears): Another hot button topic is the coaching of Taylor Martinez by California QB guru Steve Calhoun. You might know him as the guy who helped Cam Newton make bank in the NFL draft.

While we’re all hoping T-Magic’s throwing gets better (especially you, Adam Kramer), his mental state will ultimately make or break guys like Kenny Bell, Jordan Westerkamp and Kyler Reed. If Taylor improves, they can excel and take Nebraska over the offensive hump that separates good teams from great ones (See: Nebraska 2009).

Martinez can have Joe Montana-esque style when throwing the ball, but if his decision-making remains questionable, he’ll remain the guy that gracefully throws armpunts.

Blackshirt Pride Must Come Back – Big Time: Nebraska’s 2011 defense was bad. How bad? Statically speaking, they were on par with the Kevin Cosgrove trainwreck from 2007.

Before you throw your iPhone/iPad at the wall and call me names, ask yourself this: would you rather have a bad Cosgrove defense or a bad Pelini defense? The latter for certain, because that Blackshirt bunch looked like champs at times (Michigan State and against Ohio State in the second half).

What needs to disappear is what went through their heads as they looked like chumps (Wisconsin, the first half versus Ohio State and their trip to the Big House).

With leaders like Jared Crick and Lavonte David gone, not to mention a wide open back seven to solidify, Pelini’s defense needs to separate the wheat from the chaff quickly.

Nothing less than A-plus, 100 percent effort from every player on the roster can be tolerated. Mo Seisay, Jared Afalava, Thad Randle, Ciante Evans, I could name ’em all, but everyone has to be there and on point.

Take Every Game Seriously and Earn Your Scholarship: Why bring this up? For the same reason that it needed to be said following both the Northwestern loss and the Capital One Bowl.

There are no gimmes on the entire schedule. Gus Malzhan and Jim Mora Jr. want that special win to kick off their tenures at Arkansas State and UCLA, respectively. Those are games that will be emphasized between now and kickoff.

Setting those two aside, can Nebraska have a two-game losing streak to Northwestern and Michigan and truly believe that they are the best of the Legends division or the favorites in a 2013 campaign that shows so much promise?

No way. Not at all.

That is why each week is a test. Ohio State will be treating every game like it’s a bowl appearance. The Huskers would be wise to copy this strategy.

The “Nine-win” Badge Can’t Define the Season: A nine-win season is what many Husker fans often use to measure success. Tom Osborne made a living off of winning nine games, of course.

However, gunning for those nine victories and giving everyone trophies isn’t the reason Nebraska is in the college football business. We asked you, the fans, what Nebraska football’s goal should be every year.

A fair majority of you want a conference title, and honestly, that’s not asking too much. Yes, you can have a successful season without a conference crown, just ask Brady Hoke.

However, Nebraska football is supposed to be based on a winning tradition, much like it says on every uniform’s patch year after year. To give into apathy and not expect, if not demand excellence isn’t fair to the players, coaches or you as a fan.

Phrases like “It’s about championships” during an August press conference shouldn’t preface December backpedaling. If you start lowering your expectations, have you actually set true goals or are you making defeat more acceptable?

No conference titles since 1999. No BCS bowl appearances since 2001. Strive for excellence, learn from your mistakes and accept nothing less than to either win or be able to look at a room full of press and say you know that you went down fighting. Learn from your mistakes and punish the guys next in line.

That’s a winning tradition.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling

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