Nebraska Cornhuskers Odds to win the Big Ten with Expert Betting Predictions
Mike Riley was a bit of a surprising hire at Nebraska, but after a dismal 6-7 first year his 9-4 season last year, including a 6-3 Big Ten mark, was very solid. This year, though, will likely not be nearly as strong. Backers and fans of the team will have to remind themselves consistently that this is a rebuilding year and that Riley is looking to establish a strong foundation for the future. There will be suffering involved with watching this team at times this year. The question, though, is how far they will fall and how competitive they can still be despite the retooling on the fly that they are forced into.
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2016 in a Nutshell
It was really like they played two different seasons last year - the easy one and the hard one. To their credit they thrived in the easy one. The hard one came last, though, and was far less kind. They opened up with seven straight wins. It was a very easy stretch of games, though, with a home victory against a seriously-flawed-but-then-still-ranked Oregon team and a win at Northwestern being the highlights. They climbed all the way to No. 7 in the rankings as a result, which was far too high for the talent the team had and was obviously aided by the schedule. Then reality started to hit, and it kept on hitting. They lost in overtime at Wisconsin. Then they were humiliated 62-3 at Ohio State. They beat two conference weaklings in Minnesota and Maryland but then were beaten up at Iowa to end the regular season. They drew Tennessee in the Music City Bowl in the postseason and lost that one by two touchdowns. So, they got nine wins, and they get credit for never playing down to the level of bad opponents. The sad and unavoidable fact, though, is that they lost to the four best teams they faced.
Key Additions and Departures
Riley made a key change to his coaching staff. He brought in Bob Diaco, the Brian Kelly disciple who was most recently the head coach at UConn, as his defensive coordinator. The defense underperformed significantly last year, so this is a positive change. It isn't one that came lightly, though - the former coordinator had been with Riley since 2003. Diaco faces some personnel losses and the demands of a shift from 4-3 to 3-4. On the line he should be fine, because though he has lost two significant tacklers he still returns plenty of depth and starting experience. LInebacker probably doesn't have the depth that would be ideal, but between returning players and stud incoming freshman Avery Roberts there are some pieces to work with. They lost a good safety in Nathan Gerry, but everyone else is back, and Diaco has done well with the defensive backfield in the past, so this is an area of promise. The biggest question mark, though, is likely the coordinator. Will he be hungry to do the work needed to succeed after his time as a head coach ended in frustrating fashion? Can he produce defenses like he did at Notre Dame with a lower general quality of player?
Offensively, the story is massive change. QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. is gone after what felt like a 15-year college career. In his absence, QB has some depth but lots of questions. Tanner Lee, who transferred in after two years starting at Tulane, is the presumed starter. He hasn't been great, but will have much more to work with here. And behind him are two highly-regarded freshmen - redshirt Patrick O'Brien and true freshman Tristan Gebbia. The QB will have some solid receivers to throw to, though starting experience runs only three or four deep. Stud true freshman Tyjon Lindsey is definitely going to be one to watch as he could potentially make his presence felt early on. The team got very lucky when Stanley Morgan Jr., the most experienced receiver, had a May marijuana possession charge in Florida dropped recently. The team will be young at tight end but has five returning players on the line, so they should be solid up front. It's an offense with some potential, but it would be a bit of a shock if it were as good as last year - and that unit was in the bottom half of most offensive categories nationally.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Schedule Analysis
The nonconference schedule is interesting in that it could be manageable or could be a very tough test depending on how the team plays. They open with Arkansas State, likely the second-best team in the Sun Belt. Then they play at Oregon - a team with more questions than a week of Jeopardy. Then it's Northern Illinois, the perennial MAC power that is rebuilding. They could win all three or lose all three and you couldn't be too surprised.
In Big Ten play there are only four opponents to worry about right now. The good news is that Nebraska does not play Michigan. The bad news is that they play Wisconsin and Ohio State in consecutive weeks. They get both teams at home, but that is going to be just a brutal eight days for the program. They also travel to Penn State in the second-to-last game of the year. Beyond those three ugly games, though, things are pretty good. They should open 2-0 in the conference with Rutgers and at Illinois to ease into things. Later, Purdue is terrible and a very likely win, while Iowa and Northwestern at home and Minnesota on the road are all winnable games. The team has three games they are just plain going to lose, and that trip to Oregon could be tough, too, but beyond that they are in with a very solid chance in everything else they will face.
2017-18 Nebraska Cornhuskers Betting Odds and Trends
Nebraska is one of the 36 teams listed with national title odds at BetOnline . That's a point in their favor, but at +15000 they are a million miles away from the favorites - which is obvious when you look at the roster. At +2000 to win the Big Ten they are tied with Northwestern as the fifth choice in the conference but again on a distant plain from the four elite teams in the conference.
The team was not great to bet on last year, though they weren't too costly - at 6-5-2 ATS they were essentially a break-even squad. They were 4-1-1 ATS through their first six, though, so not surprisingly the betting results suffered as the competition strengthened. They were a great team to take on the "under", though, going under in nine of 13, including six straight starting in Week 3 with Oregon.
2017-18 Nebraska Cornhuskers Predictions and College Football Picks
It isn't going to be a great year in Lincoln. I respect Riley, though, and he is recruiting well and building a program that has some nice young talent aboard already. I think that bowl eligibility is very much in play and should be the measure of success or failure for the season.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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