The 2014 season of Husker Football begins on August 30. Those first two weeks should come and go with easy victories over outmatched opponents.
How often the Huskers will win is hard to say as the most difficult games take place away from home. The Big Red takes on Fresno State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa in their hostile backyards.
Every year, there’s a team who is highly overrated and underrated on the Huskers’ schedule. Here’s 2014’s duo:
Overrated: Miami Hurricanes
Nebraska fans may be buying into the brand of Miami football too much. This is a team that lost a lot of talent and has several spots to fill on both sides of the ball. The biggest loss has to be third team All-ACC quarterback Stephen Morris. Morris finished 2013 with 3,028 yards and 21 touchdowns.
His loss stings, but there are capable quarterbacks waiting in the wings. Ryan Williams appears to be the current front-runner for the starting job as he has some game experience. As of June 16, the Hurricanes gained a transfer in Jake Heaps.
After losing the starting job at BYU, Heaps transferred to Kansas. In one season of work, he completed 49 percent of his passes while throwing eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Like Nebraska, Miami will be replacing a few offensive lineman. The Hurricanes lost two starters and another lineman transferred to UCLA. Miami’s offensive line could be a major strength of the team if they can get the two vacancies filled with worthy candidates, but with youth comes growing pains.
Another concern for the Miami offense is the health of its running backs.
Both Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby were out for the spring. Dallas Crawford finished second on the team with 558 yards on the ground, but has changed positions to defensive back.
If both Johnson and Yearby are out early in the fall, then this Miami team will have a tough time putting up points on any, much less the ultra-athletic Pelini-led crew.
The Hurricane defense was an underachieving bunch last season as they finished No. 12 in the conference in points allowed per game in-conference. Miami also allowed an atrocious 5.8 yards per play, good enough for No. 12 as well.
I’d be surprised if the Hurricanes put up any more than eight wins this season. That said, if they can find a quarterback and keep their running backs healthy, then the offense becomes dangerous. Should that happen, then a storm returns.
Underrated: Fresno State
Another team on Nebraska’s non-conference schedule may be the most underrated overall. Even after last seasons success, the Bulldogs are being overlooked because they lost Derek Carr to the NFL.
Even with the loss of Carr, this team is still extremely dangerous. This is a team that rattled off 10 wins in a row to start last season. The Bulldogs ended the season with a 11-2 record after losing to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. The one issue all season was the Bulldogs defense.
In their two losses, the Fresno State gave up a combined 107 points. However, this year’s defense should be much like offense. You’ll either see a grand display of fireworks or duds.
Fresno State was ranked No. 4 in tackles for loss last season with 108. This is not a team that is going to win by seven points
For Fresno State to compete with the likes of Nebraska, they are going to need to put up 35-plus.
With Carr’s departure, many think their offense will take a huge hit, and it may. However, they do have weapons ready to step up and take control of the offense.
A 1,000 yard receiver returns in the form of Josh Harper, who was targeted on 17 percent of passing plays, and boasts an impressive 70.5 percent catch rate.
Not only will Fresno State still have explosive wide receivers, they will also return their top three rushers including Josh Quezada who ran for 807 yards last season.
Marteze Waller also returns after an impressive sophomore season in which he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Both of these backs could get closer to the 1,000-yard mark as Fresno State undoubtedly puts the ball in the ground more this season.
Replacing Carr will be tough, but not impossible. At first, his numbers look video game-like, but when you look deeper, you see how he was able to be so successful.
He threw for over 12,700 yards and 113 touchdowns compared to just 24 interceptions from 2011-2013. Those numbers are impressive, but Carr did throw the ball over 1,600 times (659) last season. Carr averaged 7.5 yards per attempt because a large amount of his passes were primarily on quick, short routes.
One thing that really helps Nebraska’s chances is the early season schedule for Fresno State.
In week one, they face USC in a rematch of the Las Vegas Bowl followed by Utah. Then they meet the Huskers. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Fresno State at 1-1 or 2-0 after the first two weeks. When it’s all said and done, I expect the Bulldogs to finish 2014 with double-digit wins again.
They’re no cupcake for Nebraska. In fact, If I had to pick a non-conference game that the Huskers would drop, Tim Deruyter would be coaching it.
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Tags: Nebraska Cornhuskers