2007 Nebraska Preview

Posted Jul 9, 2007

Is this the year Nebraska is back to being Nebraska again? It'll have plenty of chances to make some big splashes with the best team yet under head coach Bill Callahan. The defense should shine, but will it be enough to get over the hump and win the Big 12 title?

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Preview 20

By Michael Bradley & Pete Fiutak

- 2007 Nebraska Offense Preview | 2007 Nebraska Defense Preview
- 2007 Nebraska Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Nebraska Preview

When a team loses five games in a season, it’s kind of hard to say that it’s “almost there,” but Nebraska made considerable progress and was close to being the type of Big 12 powerhouse the school envisioned when it hired Bill Callahan. There was a near-miss against Texas on a raw October afternoon, and a 17-14 Cotton Bowl loss to Auburn that easily could have been reversed, if the Huskers hadn’t turned the ball over twice in the first half. There were signs, big-time signs, that things had finally turned around.

Head coach: Bill Callahan
4th year: 22-15
Letterman Returning
Off. 24., Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Husker Players
1. LB Bo Ruud, Sr.
2. QB Sam Keller, Sr.
3. NT Ndamukong Suh, Sr.
4. OG Matt Slauson, Jr.
5. LB Corey McKeon, Sr.
6. LB Steve Octavien, Sr.
7. WR Maurice Purify, Sr.
8. CB Zackary Bowman, Sr.*
9. WR Terrance Nunn, Sr.
10. RB Marlon Lucky, Jr.
* if healthy

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3

Sept. 1


Sept. 8

at Wake Forest

Sept. 15


Sept. 22

Ball State

Sept. 29

Iowa State

Oct. 6

at Missouri

Oct. 13

Oklahoma State

Oct. 20

Texas A&M

Oct. 27

at Texas

Nov. 3

at Kansas

Nov. 10

Kansas State

Nov. 23

at Colorado

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Louisiana Tech W 49-10
9/9 Nicholls State W 56-7
9/16 at USC L 28-10
9/23 Troy W 56-0
9/30 Kansas W 39-32 OT
10/7 at Iowa State W 28-14
10/14 at Kansas State W 21-3
10/21 Texas L 22-20
10/28 at Oklahoma St L 41-29
11/4 Missouri W 34-20
11/11 at Texas A&M W 28-27
11/24 Colorado W 37-14
12/2 Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma L 21-7
1/1 Cotton Bowl
Auburn L 17-14

Even the 28-10 early-season loss to USC wasn’t so bad. Yep, Nebraska looks like it’s getting closer. Trouble is, so are many other Big 12 teams. With Callahan entering his fourth year in Lincoln, it’s time to reach the destination. The trip to the Big 12 title game and the Cotton Bowl berth were nice, but the loyal hordes that fill Memorial Stadium aren’t there to reward teams with .642 winning percentages. They expect perfection, or at least a flirtation with it. With three full recruiting classes in the fold, Callahan will be expected to deliver it.

He might come close, despite a schedule that includes a visit from the Trojans and a trip to Wake Forest, not to mention the usual Big 12 battles (including Texas and Texas A&M this year). The Cornhuskers return several key components of last year’s offense, and expect Arizona State transfer Sam Keller to step in and take the passing attack some big steps forward. There may be sizeable holes to fill on defense, particularly on the front line, but the arrivals of three JC defensive tackles should help.

The key is whether this team is ready to assume Callahan’s all-business, 21st-century personality, rather than its ground-based Osbornesque features with which so many people still identify the program. The Huskers must be able to play more mistake-free football and impose their will on opponents more effectively.

Being good around Lincoln isn’t great when national title contention is the norm. It’s time for that to happen, or people will start wondering whether Callahan is just someone with a gaudy resume, or a star who can truly build a dominant program.

What to watch for on offense: Callahan is a devoted West Coast offense disciple, but he isn’t stupid. The Cornhuskers want to be effective throwing it, but they did run the ball 143 more times than they threw it last season. You can’t play on the Plains and not have a strong ground component to your offense. That said, Keller’s arrival provides hope that the Huskers could open up the throttle and become even more efficient through the air.

What to expect on defense:
There’s always been a fascination with the Nebraska “Black Shirt” defense, but last year’s team couldn’t lay claim to that tradition, not after ranking 56th in the nation in total defense (331.9) and 24th in scoring defense (18.3). That’s not horrible, but it isn’t what championship teams do. The 4-3 defense returns top performers along the two back lines, but the front four must be rebuilt and needs immediate contributions from the newcomers to be effective.

This team will be much better if…
it cuts back on the turnovers. Nebraska lost 17 fumbles last year and had an even-steven turnover ratio, giving the ball away as often as it took it. That trouble with coughing it up cost the Huskers the Cotton Bowl, since NU held Auburn to a mere 178 yards. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if there more than five field goals, unlike last year.

The Schedule:
For a team expected to win the Big 12 title, it’ll be lucky to keep its head above water with this schedule playing nine bowl teams from last year. After starting with four of their first five games at home, the Huskers go to Missouri, where they’ve lost their last two times, for a showdown that’ll likely decide the North title. Trips to Kansas and Colorado aren’t going to be walks in the park, while playing at Texas to kick off a stretch of three road games in the final four dates might kill Nebraska’s championship dreams. Oh yeah, and then there’s the non-conference schedule.  Nebraska will play a good Nevada team at home, along with Ball State and its dangerous offense (remember what the Cardinals almost did to Michigan last year), and will travel to Winston-Salem to face ACC champion Wake Forest. If that isn’t enough, there’s that little meeting with USC in mid-September.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Sam Keller. No pressure, just replace the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, lead the team to the Big 12 title, and carry the program over the threshold and back to being a national superpower again. While Zac Taylor was a nice passer to bring Nebraska into the modern day, he wasn’t the 6-4, 230-pound pro prospect Keller is. The former Arizona State Sun Devil hasn’t ever put together a full season, and if he’s not the star Husker fans are hoping he is, Nebraska will be very good, but not sensational.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Bo Ruud. A smart, tough player who grew into a role on the outside, the 6-3, 235-pound senior will move from the weak side to the strong side, where he’ll be an All-Big 12 star again, making even more plays against the run. He has 145 tackles over the last two seasons, with 21 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and now he should be a threat to make 100 stops. Also watch out for Ndamukong Sue in the middle of the line. He has the potential to be the anchor of the D.

Key player to a successful season: Junior RB Marlon Lucky. Keller might become the key to the attack, but the team can win with Joe Ganz running the show. Considering top backup running back Cody Glenn is trying to shake a foot problem, and Brandon Jackson (NFL) and Kenny Wilson (broken leg from moving a TV) are gone, Lucky has to be healthy all year. The one-time elite recruit has had a variety of problem, and if he's not right, the offense will become all Keller, all the time.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskers win the Big 12 title. Now that Husker fans have gotten a taste of the championship game again, anything less than winning the whole thing will be a letdown, considering all the returning talent. It’ll take at least a split in road games against Missouri and Texas to get the shot, and with this offense, the first championship since 1999 is possible.

Key game: Oct. 6 vs. Missouri. The schedule might be tough, but a win over the Tigers would make it a whole bunch easier. A loss might mean the Texas game in late-October could be a must-win to stay alive, and there can’t be any other slip-ups. A win would go a long way toward clinching a spot in the Big 12 championship.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Nebraska quarter-by-quarter scoring: 1st 117, 2nd 135, 3rd 49, 4th 120
- Field goals: Opponents 12 of 17; Nebraska 5 of 7
- Fumbles: Opponents 32 (lost 13); Nebraska 25 (lost 17)


Related Stories
2007 Nebraska Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 24, 2007
2007 Nebraska Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 9, 2007
2007 Nebraska Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 9, 2007

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