The Nebraska Cornhuskers begin the next chapter of their storied program’s history as a member of the Big Ten conference in 2011.
As with almost every program, fans, players and coaches are looking ahead to what might happen in the upcoming season.
Here are two scenarios for the most optimistic and pessimistic fan - and a realistic one.
Worst case scenario (7-6 overall, 3-5 Big TEN)
The Huskers start off strong against an outmatched Chattanooga team, but glaring holes begin to appear all over the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez plays well early on, but inexperience at running back and wide receiver produces a bevy of fumbles and dropped passes.
Martinez re-injures his ankle, this time requiring surgery and is out for the season. Backup quarterback Cody Green manages the game well, but isn't enough of an offensive spark to consistently pose a threat.
The Blackshirts carry Big Red and its anemic offense to a hard-fought 3 - 1 non-conference record.
Conference play opens up against Wisconsin and once again, offense is a major problem. Turnovers are a constant thorn in Bo Pelini’s side and Tim Beck struggles to find playmakers.
The Blackshirts play well, but have trouble matching up against the physical style of play their new conference foes employ.
The Huskers fight injuries on defense and spend the whole season trying to find an offensive identity, while reeling to a 3-5 conference record and finish at 7-6.
Best case scenario (13-0, 9-0 Big TEN)
Tim Beck’s new offensive scheme looks like a juggernaut against Nebraska’s non-conference foes.
Taylor Martinez is electrifying. Rex Burkhead is a workhorse. Brandon Kinnie leads a surprisingly good corps of receivers. Jamal Turner is a revelation at receiver and in the return game.
The Blackshirts absolutely dominate, as expected. The Huskers finish non-conference play with a 4-0 record and outscore their opponents 140-24.
Still, the Big Ten looms.
Taylor Martinez walks calmly onto the field in Madison and proves that he is even better than he was early last season—and never looks back.
While the Huskers rely mainly on a ground game that is both quick and physical, the receivers provide a viable threat through the air. The defense is frighteningly good.
LaVonte David silences critics by amassing more than 100 tackles for the second straight year, is named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and becomes a lock for the first round in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Huskers are challenged on a few occasions, but finish their inaugural season in the Big Ten as undefeated champions and go on to win the program’s sixth national championship.
Likely scenario (10-3, 6-3 Big TEN)
Bo Pelini will have a strong defense, which is the only certainty going into the 2011 season.
The offense has enough playmakers to put points on the board and Jamal Turner will be a keeper at receiver and returner.
Ciante Evans will be an All-American and follow in the footsteps of Ndamukong Suh and Prince Amukamara as first round defensive players out of Nebraska. Jared Crick plays as well as expected and could give the Huskers an additional first round pick.
Despite losing to Wisconsin and Michigan State, the Huskers win the Legends division.
Appearing in a third consecutive conference championship game, Big Red loses a hard fought game to Ohio State.
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