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nebraska betting preview

by WagerWeb

posted August 28, 2011

Former powerhouse Nebraska hadn’t won a Big 12 title since 1999 – although the Huskers did play in the past two Big 12 Championship Games – but NU opens its first season in the Big Ten as many experts’ pick as the conference favorite.

Indeed, Coach Bo Pelini seems to have Nebraska set to rejoin the elite of college football. Pelini grew up in Big Ten territory: Youngstown, Ohio. He played at Ohio State. His younger brother/defensive coordinator Carl grew up rooting for the instate Buckeyes.

The offense has a new coordinator and quarterbacks coach (Tim Beck), a new running backs coach (replacing Beck), a new receivers coach and an additional offensive line coach. It also has been restructured and simplified, with an emphasis on no-huddle. That unit has a Heisman contender in QB Taylor Martinez. He turned in some spectacular performances as Nebraska jumped to a 5-0 start, topping his early efforts with a 241-rushing yard, four-touchdown game against Kansas State. A combination of injuries and inconsistencies soon quieted the Heisman talk, but Martinez still finished with 965 rushing yards and 1,631 passing yards. He scored 12 rushing touchdowns and 10 more through the air.

Developing a physical running game is a recurrent theme for Bo Pelini, and that begins with a line built around returning starters Mike Caputo and Jeremiah Sirles. Rex Burkhead will be complemented at running back by some talented freshmen with breakaway speed.

This could be the best defense during his time at Nebraska, according to defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. And that’s saying something. The Huskers ranked third nationally in pass efficiency defense, fifth in pass defense, ninth in scoring defense and 11th in total defense in 2010. The Huskers have honors candidates at all three levels — tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

The last time a school joined the Big Ten (Penn State in 1993) there were all sorts of predictions of pending Nittany Lion dominance. It didn’t happen. Sure, Penn State has been a major factor in the league for most of the last two decades, but it hasn’t been the powerhouse many expected.

The Cornhuskers will hang with anybody. Whether they can win the Big Ten title, then, becomes a matter of how well Martinez, who is a returning starter but only a sophomore, can play right away in the Big Ten.

Nebraska’s first jaunt through the Big Ten will begin with a bang, as it draws Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State in three of its first four league games. If the Cornhuskers can survive, though, they’ll be set up to make a run at the Legends Division title.

2010 record: 10-4 (6-3 Big 12)

2011 returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense

WagerWeb.com odds to win Legends Division: -265
(favorite)

Sept. 3 — Chattanooga
10 — Fresno State
17 — Washington
24 — @Wyoming
Oct. 1 — @Wisconsin
8 — Ohio State
22 — @Minnesota
29 — Michigan State
Nov. 5 — Northwestern
12 — @Penn State
19 — @Michigan
25 — Iowa