The Nebraska Cornhuskers enter the 2018 season on the heels of their worst campaign in nearly 60 years. The program invested in the future by luring former Huskers quarterback Scott Frost back to Lincoln to be the head coach on the heels of his spectacular turnaround job at UCF.
So there’s a lot of enthusiasm around the Nebraska program. But there should be a fair dose of realism, too.
A new system such as the up-tempo scheme Frost is installing will take time for the players to perfect. That is perhaps the biggest challenge Nebraska must navigate this season. Here are the 5 biggest challenges the Cornhuskers are facing in the 2018 season.
New system, New QBs
The battle to be the starting quarterback for Big Red appears to be down to redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia against true freshman Adrian Martinez. That has not really changed since spring ball. Either way, the Cornhuskers will be trying to install a new system with a quarterback who has never completed a college pass. Perhaps starting fresh all around is best in the long term, but there’s no doubt that there will be growing pains.
An old rival comes calling
For the first time since both schools left the Big 12 at the end of the 2010 season, Nebraska faces old foe Colorado. The Buffaloes come to Lincoln on Sept. 8, in Week 2. Nebraska leads the all-time series 48-18-2 and the conventional thinking was that the rivalry always meant more to Colorado than it did to Nebraska (which was usually more worried about Oklahoma back then). The Buffs are pretty likely to have a chip on their shoulders entering this one.
Rough crossover schedule
Nebraska did not catch a break at all on the Big Ten schedule. B1G East Division favorites Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State all face the Cornhuskers, and Nebraska travels for the first two of that trio. Compare that to the other West Division rivals jockeying to try to chase down Wisconsin: Northwestern doesn’t have to face Ohio State, Purdue misses Michigan, Minnesota avoids Michigan and Michigan State, and Iowa misses all three (but does travel to Penn State). Yikes.
Forgetting about how 2017 ended
That 4-8 mark was bad enough for Cornhuskers fans. But the way the team nose-dived in November made it even worse. Nebraska was 4-4 after edging Purdue 25-24 on Oct. 28. But an overtime loss to Northwestern the following week precipitated a horror show for Big Red Nation. The once-feared “Blackshirts” defense surrendered 56 points in Week 10 at Minnesota … then another 56 in a Week 11 loss at Penn State … then, astonishingly, another 56 in a season-finale blowout loss to Iowa.
Improving an abysmal run game
Another lost link to Nebraska’s glorious past came in the running game. The program which boasted an unstoppable ground attack in the wishbone era — even when every opponent knew the Cornhuskers were running on nearly every play — sank to a new low in 2017. Nebraska was 13th in the B1G and 120th in the FBS (120th!) in rushing last season at 107.5 yards a game. The Huskers must do better than that to help whichever youngster starts at QB.