Published Sunday, August 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm / Updated at 9:43 am
FOOTBALL
Barfknecht: Seven reasons for a magnificent Husker season

Nebraska football fans, prepare to have a whole bunch of fun this season.

I see an 11-1 regular season and a Big Ten Legends Division title, with the only slip up in early November at Michigan.

I don't see an end to the conference championship drought. Ohio State will go undefeated again, win the Big Ten title and play Alabama for the national title.

The good news from that is with OSU in the title slot, the Huskers' 12-year absence from a Bowl Championship Series appearance will be history. Have a good time NU, as an at-large selection, in the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl.

Now, wait a minute, I hear a few of you saying. The conspiracy theorists who insist I'm a Husker hater must think this column is a plot to somehow subvert the season.

Not so.

Hard evidence exists that nearly every barrier that has stood in the way of Bo Pelini becoming a championship coach has been kicked aside. The pathway is the clearest it has been in many years. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Pelini no longer is a novice head coach.

He's entering his sixth season, has coached in three conference title games and five bowl games and led his team from coast to coast. (Though I recently heard a former player say Pelini is “only” in his sixth year. If he's still on training wheels, then his salary should be adjusted commensurately.)

2. Pelini no longer is involved in massive clean up of the mess left by Bill Callahan and the athletic director who shall not be named.

The losing culture has been reversed. The walk-on program has been put back together. The leftovers on the roster are gone. All the assistant coaches are his guys.

3. Pelini no longer has to deal with the transition into a new conference.

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The Huskers are entering their third season in the Big Ten. They've made the rounds. They've seen the major stadiums. They know the style of play, the officiating and the weather. And they've adjusted their recruiting. All the players are his.

4. Pelini no longer has key assistants learning new roles.

Tim Beck is in his third season as offensive coordinator. John Papuchis is in his second as defensive coordinator. Both have been on staff six years. And there are no rookie assistants this season to integrate into the system.

5. Pelini's focus will be sharper than ever.

Why? Having a new athletic director who didn't hire you tends to get your attention — especially after greeting the new hire last October with little warmth and acknowledgment.

6. Pelini has the most experienced quarterback in Nebraska history, one good enough to get Heisman Trophy mention.

Senior Taylor Martinez already has a school-record 39 starts at the sport's most important position. He'll end up at the top or near the top in many national statistical categories. He's already been voted first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. If ever a coach were to have a breakthrough year, it's with a quarterback of that stature.

7. Pelini has a schedule so favorable that it would be difficult to hand-craft it much better.

Eight of 12 games at home — including the first five — which will allow for a young defense to deal with its growing pains. (A defense that Pelini has repeatedly reminded us that he's not worried about.) Also, the reshuffle of the Big Ten schedule produced games against Purdue (6-7) and Illinois (2-10) instead of Ohio State (12-0) and three-time league champion Wisconsin (8-6).

That's a lot of good news for Nebraska football.

Essentially, 2013 is the “No Excuses Tour,” which the players seemed to have embraced by adopting the motto R.A.C., which stands for “relentless, accountable and competitive.”

Check back every Monday through the season as Husker specialist Sam McKewon dissects NU and I report on my Big Ten travels (first stop: Iowa vs. Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois).

Also, be careful about putting ultimate faith in predictions. I'm the guy who, in the Big Ten title game last year, picked Nebraska over Wisconsin.

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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