Making the case for...Nebraska
As the season approaches, we decided to count down why five teams will win their respective Big Ten divisions. Three reasons apiece will break down why each respective team can punch a ticket to Indianapolis.
Today, we’ll look at Nebraska’s reasons it’ll win the West.
1. Even-keeled Riley
Is it crazy to think that Mike Riley might be the perfect guy for Lincoln? Only time well tell how he can rally the troops on the field, but off of it, he might be exactly what the Huskers need. A tense personality like Bo Pelini’s didn’t work. With that passionate a fan base — the longest active sellout streak in the country, they’ll remind you — Riley’s personality will be able to weather the storm if and when Nebraska struggles. Plus, he has the backing of administration with every decision he makes, something Pelini never had once Shawn Eichorst took over as athletic director. Maybe a coach who isn’t walking on pins and needles will help maximize all the talent Nebraska has.
2. Plugging the Middle
Hmmm, what do West Division foes Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin all have in common? They all try to gash their opponents with the run. What’s Nebraska’s strength? They have some serious talent up front. Maliek Collins is an All-Big Ten candidate and Vincent Valentine could take on double teams as well. Teams are undoubtedly going to try to attack the Huskers outside the tackles because of the roadblocks they have up the middle. Nebraska still has questions to answer at linebacker and will need Randy Gregory replacement Jack Gangwish to step up. But the more pressure it generates up the middle, the easier it’ll make things for an inexperienced second level.
3. Home Headliners
The toughest two games on Nebraska’s schedule — or so it would appear in August — are home showdowns against Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Huskers’ West Division fate could very well be decided in Lincoln, which is something they didn’t have last year. Michigan State might have too much talent for Nebraska to hang around in Year 1 of the Riley era, but the Wisconsin game gets a hole lot more interesting when it’s in Lincoln and not in snow-filled Madison. There was once a time when there was no greater home-field advantage in the country than Memorial Stadium. If Nebraska can knock off a ranked opponent or two at home, it’ll be sitting pretty to get back to Indy.