Nebraska Preview 2006
Posted Jul 31, 2006

It's amazing how one big win can change the entire attitude of a program.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Everyone knew it would take a few years for Nebraska to go from being one of the purest running teams in all of football to a West Coast attack that, despite cries to the contrary, would become too heavily reliant on the passing game. But the Big Red Nation was still getting a bit gruff and grumbly as the Huskers became the worst running team in the Big 12 while going through some big growing pains in blowout losses to Missouri and Kansas. And them came the Alamo Bowl.

With the 32-28 win over Michigan, the defense confirmed that it could get into the backfield any time it wanted to against anyone, while the offense found a little bit of confidence with several big plays and three touchdown passes. Quarterback Zac Taylor didn't have his best game passing, but he threw for three touchdowns while the ground game had its third best game of the season rushing for 151 yards. That game was the spark for what Husker fans hope is a return to the glory days, albeit in a vastly different way.

However, the question still has to be asked; was the 180-degree change in offensive philosophy really necessary?

Head coach: Bill Callahan
3rd year: 13-10
Letterman Returning
Off. 28., Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Husker Players
1. DE Adam Carriker, Sr.
2. DE Jay Moore, Sr.
3. QB Zac Taylor, Sr.
4. TE Matt Herian, Sr.
5. LB Corey McKeon, Jr.
6. LB Steve Octavien, Jr.
7. LB Bo Ruud, Jr.
8. DT Ola Dagunduro, Sr.
9. CB Courtney Grixby, Jr.
10. RB Marlon Lucky, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Louisiana Tech
9/9 Nicholls State
9/16 at USC
9/23 Troy
9/30 Kansas
10/7 at Iowa State
10/14 at Kansas State
10/21 Texas
10/28 at Oklahoma State
11/4 Missouri
11/11 at Texas A&M
11/24 Colorado

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Maine W 25-7
9/10 Wake Forest W 31-3
9/17 Pittsburgh W 7-6
10/1 Iowa State W 27-20 2OT
10/8 Texas Tech L 34-31
10/15 at Baylor W 23-14
10/22 at Missouri L 41-24
10/29 Oklahoma L 31-24
11/5 at Kansas L 40-15
11/12 Kansas State W 27-25
11/25 at Colorado W 30-3
12/28 Alamo Bowl
Michigan W 32-28

While everyone likes to talk about the Husker offense, the real noise has been made by a defense that led the nation with a whopping 50 sacks to go along with a ridiculous 140 tackles for loss. With a defense like this one, and a power, grinding running game like the Nebraska of old, this could've been a national title caliber season. Of course, this isn't the Nebraska of old.

That's not to say this year's offense doesn't have the potential to be explosive in a way far different than from what Nebraska has ever done. Taylor knows what he's doing now and should set all sorts of school passing records with an improved line in front of him, speedy backs, and a receiving corps full of veterans and superstar newcomers. Getting tight end Matt Herian back from a brutal broken leg adds yet another dimension to the attack.

The defensive front seven will be as good as any in America with talented backups at each spot, too many good linebackers to get on the field at any one time, and, perhaps, the nation's best defensive ends in Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. If the secondary is merely competent, there's no reason the Huskers can't have a top ten D.

High expectations never left Lincoln over the last few seasons, but they were held in check a little bit. No more. It's Big 12 title or bust as the program makes it return to national prominence. At least, it had better return to the spotlight.

The Schedule: The Huskers get two warmups before what could be the game that truly turns the corner in the Bill Callahan era at USC. Even with a loss against the Trojans, things look promising with a likely 4-1 start before not-that-bad road trips to Iowa State and Kansas State to try to get North title hopes rolling. Not only do the Huskers get one player in the 2006 Rose Bowl, it gets the other when Texas comes to town. However, that might be a good thing. No matter where the Huskers are ranked in the preseason, if they beat the Trojans and Longhorns on the way to an unbeaten season, they're in the national title game no matter how many other teams are unbeaten. They get a huge break playing Oklahoma State and Texas A&M from the South while missing Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but those two games are on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Zac Taylor. Actually, if he's back to the player he was two years ago, tight end Matt Herian is the team's best offensive player and will be a threat to win the Mackey Award. Taylor is an average talent who'll blossom into a statistical star this year with all the rising talent around him. He's a heady leader who appears to have the offense and the speed of the D-I game under control.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DEs Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. Outside of injuries, the only thing that can stop these two from combining for at least 15 sacks and about 30 tackles for loss would be the play of some excellent backups that'll demand time in the rotation. The NFL tends to like huge ends who can rush the passer. Carriker goes 295 pounds while Moore checks in at 280.

Key player to a successful season: The entire offensive line. Tackles Chris Patrick, Matt Slauson and Lydon Murtha, guards Greg Austin, Mike Huff and Andy Christensen, and center Kurt Mann can't hold a candle to any of the great Husker offensive lines of the past, but they'll form a much better unit than the one that got Taylor battered and couldn't open up a hole for the running game. The skill players are there to blow up if they get time to operate.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskers win the Big 12 North. While many will set the sights on winning the league championship, this isn't as good a team as Oklahoma or Texas. Just getting to the title game for the first time since 1999 would be a fantastic step forward.

Key game: Sept. 16 at USC. Talk about your tone-setters. If Nebraska can pull off the win over a Trojan team that might be the best in America, it'll set the table for a potentially monster season complete with national title dreams. Outside of the home date with Texas, the Huskers will be the favorites the rest of the way.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Nebraska 50 for 381 yards - Opponents 38 for 253 yards
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 3.2 - Nebraska 2.7
- Fumbles: Opponents 31, lost 9 - Nebraska 27, lost 11

The Last Time Nebraska…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Alamo Bowl vs. Michigan)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Iowa State)
…was shutout…1996 (Arizona State)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Baylor)
…went undefeated…1997
…won a conference title…1999 (Big 12)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Cory Ross)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…never
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (DB Fabian Washington)

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Nebraska Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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Nebraska Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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