The season is upon us and pretty soon, we’ll know plenty about this Husker football team. However, there are five specific questions that need answers. Offense, defense, special teams and pregame spectaculars all have question marks about them.
1. Can the offense finally have a turnover-free game?
I don’t think it would shock any Husker fan if they were told that the last time the Nebraska had a turnover-free game was the season opener in 2012 against Southern Miss. Two years worth of at least one fumble or interception.
The year prior, the Huskers only played two games out of their 13 without a gift for the other team. The turnover margin in 2012 was minus-12, though last season’s squad was able to best that, only turning in a minus-11 mark.
Starting the season off on the right foot will be key.
2. Just how good is this vaunted defensive line?
Well, they should be extremely good against an over-matched Florida Atlanic team. Mel Kiper of ESPN listed Randy Gregory as his fourth-best prospect for the 2014 NFL draft.
The Blackshirts defense also boasts two mammoth tackles in the middle in Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins along with a sleeper prospect opposite Gregory in Greg McMullen.
What will Big Ten play bring for them?
If last season is any indicator, the answer will be that they’re actually extremely good overall. During 2013′s conference season NU averaged 3.1 sacks per game, up from 2.6 during the non-conference slate.
Looking deeper, from August/September 2013 the defense averaged 2.3 sacks per game, while in November they averaged 3.2 and 4.0 sacks per game, respectively.
If the front four can find a way to continue to improve, they’ll be a menace for opposing teams. That’s the the catch, though. CAN they find a way?
3. Can special teams show some signs of actually being ‘special’?
This question is two-fold. First, can the Huskers replace starting long snapper Gabe Miller?
Right now, it appears that starting defensive back Nathan Gerry will be snapping on punts while Josh Faulkenberry will handle PATs. In regards to punts, Gerry was quoted by the Fremont Tribune as saying:
“It’s something that takes a lot of practice, takes time to get used to. But I feel pretty good right now. I feel like there’s really nothing much to it. I mean, you just kind of snap the ball back, take a couple of steps back, and block somebody. People see it differently than I do.”
Let’s hope it’s that simple.
On the other hand, Nebraska’s return game has been poor, especially when trying to address punts. Last season, the average punt return was 3.04 yards, third worst in the country.
The Huskers’ special teams need to find ways to, you know, contribute.
4. The defense has placed an emphasis on forcing turnovers. Can they capitalize during a game?
There are many obvious reasons why Florida State won a national title last season, not the least of which is the fact they finished No. 3 nationally in turnover margin with a plus-1.21 average per game. Winning the turnover battle means winning field position and scoring points.
Easy as pie.
Recently, the Huskers have failed to do so in a major way which helped them place No. 119 in the country in turnover margin for 2013.
A new season brings renewed emphasis on takeaways for the Blackshirts, but does that emphasis lead to results?
5. What does the new Tunnel Walk bring?
I took some liberties with my last question as the Tunnel Walk has always been one of my favorite moments of each football season. It’s a fun way to get the crowd going and has been a staple of Husker football history since 1994.
The updates and changes to the 2014 version has been a big point of controversy lately with Husker football fans and honestly, where there is smoke, there is fire.
Does ‘Sirius’ go by the wayside? Fireworks? Smoke? It’ll be interesting to see what the Nebraska media and marketing departments bring to the table.
I mean, it can’t be any worse than 2007′s version, right?
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Tags: Nebraska Cornhuskers