Nebraska Football: Are the Cornhuskers the Best Team in the Big Ten?
Is Nebraska the team to beat in the Big Ten?
By: Steven Lassan | 9/21/12, 6:11 AM EDT
It's early, but it's not a stretch to say the Big Ten has been one of the most disappointing conferences in college football. Michigan wasn't competitive in its season opener against Alabama, Nebraska fell on the road to UCLA, and Michigan State was dominated by Notre Dame.
Is Nebraska the best team in the Big Ten?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
Only if you slept through the weekend of Sept. 8 and UCLA’s 36-30 win over the Cornhuskers. The Big Ten’s not great, but not bad enough for a team with an erratic quarterback and porous run defense to win the league. I asked myself this: Where will Nebraska stand after the first weekend in November? One Big Ten loss? Two? Three? In that span, Nebraska goes to Ohio State, which may have the best team in the Big Ten despite its postseason ban. Then Nebraska faces Michigan in Lincoln and Michigan State on the road. All have good run games. Ohio State can force a turnover or two, and Michigan State, the Notre Dame loss notwithstanding, may have the best defense in the Big Ten. And I haven’t even mentioned a road trip to Northwestern, a team that beat Nebraska 28-25 in Lincoln last season. I’m not ready to make the leap for Nebraska as the league’s best team.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
No, but can I reserve the right to change my opinion? Ohio State seems like it has the best all-around combination of talent, coaching and schedule to finish the regular season with the best record. Nebraska and Michigan both have to visit the Horseshoe and trips to East Lansing and Madison don't seem as daunting today as they appeared in Week 1. Urban Meyer also has the best player in the league in quarterback Braxton Miller, who, if he survives the entire season, could be in New York come December. Nebraska is very good and could very well win the Big Ten crown against some fledgling Leaders Division place-holder, but the Buckeyes should be the best team at season's end.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
I thought Ohio State was the best team in the Big Ten going into the season, and I’ve seen nothing that makes me want to change my opinion. As long as Denard Robinson stays healthy, Michigan should push for nine or ten wins, but the offensive and defensive lines are a concern. Michigan State might have the conference’s best defense, while running back Le’Veon Bell could challenge for All-American honors. However, quarterback Andrew Maxwell has struggled and needs more time to develop a rapport with an inexperienced receiving corps. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has looked great for Nebraska, but surprisingly, the defense has question marks. I think the Cornhuskers have a great chance to win the Legends Division, but still believe Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the conference.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
I’d have to go with Ohio State as the best team in the Big Ten at this point in the season — almost by default. The Buckeyes haven’t always looked great, but they beat a solid UCF team in Week 2 and then survived a scare from California last Saturday. Ohio State doesn’t have an abundance of talent at the skill positions, but the Buckeyes will have the best player on the field in almost every game they play. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is thriving under first-year coach Urban Meyer, and don’t be surprised if he makes the trip to New York in December as a Heisman finalist. Regarding Nebraska, it’s hard to proclaim a team that gave up 653 yards of offense to UCLA as the best in any league. I credit the Huskers for testing themselves on the road — something Ohio State has yet to do — but that was an alarming defensive performance in Week 2.
Nebraska has been fairly impressive so far, but the Cornhuskers will only go as far as quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead can carry them. Burkhead has missed the last two games with a knee injury, but is expected to be back on the field perhaps as early as this week. As long as he's not limited too much by the knee, his presence only helps Martinez, who has done a much better job in the pocket and with ball security this season. For now, given the questions surrounding Michigan State's quarterback situation and struggling offense and Michigan's issues on both lines, Nebraska, if healthy, appears to have the upper hand in the Legends division.
The Leaders is entirely up for grabs mainly because of Ohio State being ineligible for postseason play. My vote for the Big Ten's best team right now would go to the Buckeyes, who are 3-0 thanks to the arm and legs of quarterback Braxton Miller and gotten just enough out of their defense thus far. Urban Meyer's squad is the most balanced team in my opinion right now, but it matters little since the Buckeyes can't play in the Big Ten title game. When is a championship game not a true title game? When the best team in the league can't play in it, and just like the Pac-12 had to go through last season with USC ineligible, that's the scenario the Big Ten appears headed for this season with Ohio State.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
I would say no after three games, but that could change in a few weeks. Ohio State has been the most impressive B1G club so far, even though tackling was an issue in the close home win over Cal. Since the Buckeyes are ineligible for the postseason, let’s look at the best team that can win the league title in Indianapolis. I would give Michigan State the slight edge (just by one of Zeke’s frisbees) over Michigan and Nebraska right now, but MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell must show marked improvement soon. Obviously Denard Robinson is a big-time playmaker against most defenses, but the Wolverines’ struggles against the run — something the Spartans and Cornhuskers do very well — are very concerning. Nebraska could be the team in the Legends if the defense can to start performing better for new coordinator John Papuchis. Will Compton and crew played well against Arkansas State, but I still can’t get those 653 total yards in the UCLA loss out of my head. Taylor Martinez has been a solid passer through three games, and we know that his running combined with excellent tailbacks Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah will put points on the board. If the NU defense can rise to the occasion against division opponents, the Huskers will be right there to play for the Big Ten championship.
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