After an up and down season that ended with a thud, the Huskers managed to stay in the Top 25 in both polls, finishing 25th in the AP Poll and 23rd in the Coaches Poll. Since the AP holds more weight – let’s be honest, the coaches don’t actually vote – we are going to focus on the media vote. To “celebrate” staying in the Top 25, we have compiled a list of the Top 25 reason to be excited for the 2013 season. In no particular order:
1. T-Magic – Taylor Martinez will be in his fourth season as a starter and will have one of the most high powered offenses in the country at his disposal. If Martinez can limit his turnovers and continue to improve his game, the sky is the limit for #3 in 2013.
2. Ameer Abdullah – Thrust into the starting roll sooner than planned due to injuries to Rex Burkhead, Mighty Mouse stepped up and recorded a 1000 yard season in his 2nd year. Abdullah will be the feature back next season and will have to carry the load without Rex helping to shoulder some of the weight.
3. Kenny Bell – Bell showed big play potential all season and emerged as Martinez most solid target. Look for Bell to put on more weight and continue to push defenders with both his pass catch and run blocking next season.
4. Home Games – With the Southern Miss game moving to Lincoln in early September, the Huskers have eight home games including the first five games of the year. The Huskers get Northwestern and Michigan State in Lincoln with Michigan in early November the only divisional road game that should test Nebraska.
5. 8-0 Start – If Nebraska can take care of UCLA and Northwestern at home, the Huskers should travel to Ann Arbor on November 9th sitting a 8-0 with a chance to take control of the Legends division. Nebraska hasn’t started a season 8-0 since 2001.
6. No Buckeyes or Badgers – The Big Ten schedule makers weren’t easy on the Huskers in their first two season in the league, but year three marks a change in the schedule with no Ohio State or Wisconsin for the next two years. After the last two games with the Buckeyes and Badgers, I am guessing Huskers fans won’t miss them too much.
7. Fresh Faces on Defense – Nebraska will likely have eight new starters on defense, and too be honest, we think its the best thing for the Blackshirts. Here’s to hoping the new blood will bring new life to a defense that desperately needs it.
8. Imani Cross – The beefy freshman only logged 55 carries in 2012, but Cross averaged almost six yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns. The power back provides a nice change up to speed backs Abdullah and Heard.
9. Jamal Turner – Turner came on late and gained confidence as the 2012 season went on. Look for Turner to be one of the most improved Huskers next fall.
10. Quincy Enunwa – The most sure handed of all Husker receivers only scored one touchdown in 2012 but was the go to receiver when Martinez needed first downs. If Enunwa can become a little more dynamic, he will be the best number two receiver in the Big Ten next year.
11. Unstoppable Offense – Plain and simple, Nebraska will have the best offense in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. If the Huskers can avoid the injury bug and limit turnover, it will be a long season for defenses trying to shut down the Husker attack.
12. Memorial Stadium Expansion – With the East Stadium addition opening in 2013, Memorial Stadium will seat over 90,000 fans and provide the Huskers with even more of a home field advantage with a larger Sea of Red.
13. Braylon Heard – Heard had a tough time finding the field behind Rex and Ameer, but when he did, he showed flashes of being a very dynamic tailback. Heard averaged 6.7 yards per rush and has the ability to break a long run at any time.
14. Cross-Over Games – The cross-over games with the Leaders Division this season are at Purdue and home against Illinois. The Boilermakers and Illini combined to win eight games in 2012.
15. The Final Year of the BCS – 2013 is the final year of the BCS mess before college football moves to a 4-team playoff. It might not effect Nebraska immediately, but it will be a good move for the Huskers and college football fans alike and couldn’t happen soon enough in our opinion.
16. Johnny Stanton – Stanton is the 10th rated quarterback in the 2012 class and was an Elite 11 finalist. Stanton will have the luxury of learning he system from Martinez while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered this fall.
17. Randy Gregory – The 4-star JUCO transfer from Arizona Western should provide the Huskers with much needed help on the defensive line.
18. Marus Newby – The 4-star Linebacker from Maryland will give the Huskers needed speed at a position where the Huskers lost a lot of depth this year.
19. Growth of Papuchis – Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis will be in his 2nd season at the head of the Blackshirts and no one will be more motivated then Paps this off season to turn his skill group around.
20. Pelini with a sense of urgency – Pelini might not be on the hot seat yet, but he need to approach 2013 like he is fighting to save his job. If Bo can turn around the defense to go with his offense, good things will happen next fall in Lincoln.
21. Freshman Stepping up – TE Greg Hart, LB Josh Banderas and Safety Marcus McWilson all have chances to start for the Huskers due to graduation and the need for talented freshman to step up in 2013.
22. Terrell Newby – The Huskers may have scored the best running back from California when Newby announced his commitment to the Huskers. Newby was a 2000 yard back in both his Junior and Senior seasons.
23. No more blowouts – I’m not a betting man, but if I were, it would be a safe bet to say that Nebraska will not suffer any defeats in 2013 like they did in 2012. Call it a hunch, call it the team maturing or call it pride, but with the offense being top-notch and the defense improving, the blowout losses should be a distant memory after 2013.
24. Improved Big Ten – The Big Ten was bashed most of the season as a weak conference and put on a tier below the SEC, Big 12 and even the Pac-12. But, we envision a bounce back season from the league as a whole with the Legends Division remaining wide open and Ohio State back to make a run at the Leaders Division title.
25. The Huskers are Due – I am a Husker Homer, I am the first to admit it. Even while I was watching Notre Dame get destroyed by Alabama on Monday I couldn’t help to think that if the Irish can make a run at a title, then the Huskers are due to make a run too. The Notre Dame program has been down much longer than Nebraska and they showed that all it takes to make a run is to play solid football and build on your strengths. The Irish offense was mediocre to put it politely and they made their run living on a solid defense (and a fair amount of good fortune). Nebraska moves into 2013 with one of the best offenses in the country and if they can find a way to improve the defense and special teams and clean up turnovers, a similar run is their for the taking by the 2013 Huskers.
As I type this post it is 86 days until the Red-White Spring Game and our first glimpse of what 2013 will be for the Huskers. Here’s to hoping the next 12 weeks go fast.