2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers Odds to Win the Big Ten with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/18/2014
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have won at least nine games in each of Bo Pelini's six years at the helm of the program. On the other hand, Nebraska hasn't lost less than four games in any of those years. This is a Nebraska fan base with extremely high expectations, and Pelini's teams have been good, but they have fallen short of the expectations of many. Nebraska was ranked in the Top 10 in eight out of nine years between 1993 and 2001, but they have had trouble reaching that level of excellence in recent years.
Pelini has the support of the administration, but he won't have it anymore if he has a highly-disappointing season anytime soon. The Cornhuskers return 11 starters from last year. They lost some key players, but they also do play in the much easier side of the Big Ten, so the opportunity to surprise to the upside is certainly there. There are plenty of unknowns for the Cornhuskers heading into 2014. Let's take a closer look at this team.
2014 Nebraska Offense
Taylor Martinez never panned out the way many in Nebraska hoped. He was a terrific runner, but his inability to throw it well enough and his constant injury problems were tough to overlook. Tommy Armstrong took over last year when Martinez was hurt, and the experience he gained last year was very valuable for this offense. Armstrong completed only 51.9 percent of his passes, though, and if this offense is going to improve they'll need more production from the passing game.
The running game is in terrific shape with Ameer Abdullah at the tailback spot. Abdullah is one of the best running backs in the nation, and he'll be playing on Sunday next year. Abdullah ran for 1,690 yards last year, and he averaged 6.0 yards per carry. That's particularly impressive when you remember that Nebraska had virtually no passing game. Abdullah was able to get it done even when the other team knew the run was coming. He's one of the most underrated runners in the country. One major concern I do have though is the offensive line in front of him this year. Nebraska has just 32 career starts returning on the offensive line, and this could be the team's worst offensive line in years. It will be hard for Abdullah to match last year's numbers.
Nebraska returns five of their top six receivers, and they have some reliable pass catchers here. This is a group that has the potential to be better than most believe, but it really depends on the production from the quarterback spot. Nebraska's offense has potential, but they need strong play from the offensive line and quarterback position.
2014 Nebraska Defense
The Nebraska defense has a chance to be very good this year, and they need to lead the way for this team. The Cornhuskers allowed 351 yards per game in 2011, which went up to 361 per game in 2012, and then up to 371 per game in 2013. Last year's defense was good at bending without breaking, and they allowed only 24.8 points per game. Nebraska returned only four starters on defense last season, but they return six starters this year.
The Cornhuskers defensive line appears to be an area of strength heading into 2014. Sophomores Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine are great at the defensive tackle spots, and Randy Gregory is a budding star at the defensive end position. The youth of this line is scary for opponents because in the next couple years Nebraska's defensive front should be dominating. This is a very deep unit. At linebacker, Nebraska had tons of question marks last year, but several guys stepped up and played better than expected. Now this is a group with lots of returners that know the system and should excel. The three starters are all just beginning to hit their stride, and I expect big things from them this season.
The one area of concern on defense is the secondary. Charles Jackson was going to be a big part of this defense in 2014, but he is out for the season with a knee injury. That was a big injury for a group that was already short on depth. Josh Mitchell is a good cover corner, and Corey Cooper is a great strong safety, but the other two starting spots are up for grabs. The team hopes Auburn transfer Jonathan Rose provides a big spark at the other cornerback spot.
2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers Odds to Win Big Ten
Nebraska is listed at 8/1 to win the Big Ten Championship, according to odds from Bovada. Nebraska is listed at 13/4 to win the wide open Big Ten West Division. The Cornhuskers are given odds of 75/1 to win the FBS Championship this season. The season win total has been set at eight games for Nebraska in 2014.
2014 Nebraska Cornhuskers Picks & Predictions
The Nebraska Cornhuskers play in the easier side of the Big Ten, but their schedule couldn't be much more difficult inside the Big Ten Conference . Nebraska must play road games against Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa. With so many question marks on offense and a brutally-difficult Big Ten schedule, I see Nebraska taking a bit of a step backward in 2014.
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Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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