Predicting the 2017 Nebraska Football Season
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Predicting the 2017 Nebraska Football Season

September 01, 2017

Are you ready for Husker football yet? That's right, you're not because we haven't yet asked ourselves a bunch of questions and then provided the answers. But now we have.

Please enjoy a staff prediction extravaganza.

Q: Not counting the bowl game, how many wins will Nebraska finish with?

GS: Ten. The catalyst for me going double-digit wins is Bob Diaco, not Tanner Lee. Diaco’s impact will be felt immediately.

DP: They get 10 wins. Rest in peace “it’d be cooler if Mike Riley won 10 games” comment guy.

BV: I’ve been at eight all offseason. I feel closer to nine now than I did at any point since last season ended, but I’m going to resist temptation and stick with 8-4, including a win over Wisconsin.

JP: I’ll split the difference and say Nebraska wins nine games. Too many questions for me to go 10, but I do think a lot of the positions that national writers aren’t high on have talent.

Q: What will the Huskers’ record be against Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State?

GS: 1-2. I’m not as high on Penn State as some but I like them in a close one over NU. The Huskers finally get over the Wisconsin hump.

DP: 2-1. Nebraska loses to Penn State on the road but beats Wisconsin in one of the games of the year and Tanner Lee has a national coming out against Ohio State.

BV: 1-2. Like Greg, I think Nebraska is beating Wisconsin. The Huskers almost did it the past two years with teams that weren’t that well-equipped to do it. This year, it has the specific tools for the job. Ohio State and Penn State? Those particular princesses are still in another castle for Nebraska.

JP: 1-2. I’ll echo the other three guys and say the Huskers finally take down the Badgers.

Q: Which week should Nebraska be on upset watch?

GS: Nov. 11 at Minnesota. They’ll be 8-1 and ranked around 13th the week before the showdown with Penn State.

Aaron Babcock
Purdue has a very big drum. And maybe a chance to upset Nebraska in 2017?

DP: Minnesota feels like the obvious choice here, but an Oct. 28 game on the road against Purdue feels like it’ll be a weird night for a Husker team coming off back-to-back monster wins.

BV: This week. There aren’t a lot of true “upset” possibilities on this schedule, and, while I like Purdue as a possibility, I think Arkansas State will be better than the Boilermakers, Northern Illinois, Rutgers and Illinois at the end of the year.

JP: I really don’t like any of the teams the Nebraska could be “upset” by. I think the third loss I predicted above will come from one of the toss-up games (Northwestern, Oregon, Iowa) rather than one of the “gimmes.” I was probably higher on Minnesota coming into the season than I am after PJ Fleck’s “elite” win over Buffalo, but I guess the Gophers are my answer?

Q: How many tackles will the team’s leading tackler have at the end of the season?

GS: Ninety-five tackles for Chris Weber.

DP: Joshua Kalu’s been top-three in tackles each of the last two years, in Diaco’s system, he leads this team with 93.

BV: If I didn’t think Mo Barry was going to grab a good amount of his snaps, I might pick Dedrick Young II here. Among the linebackers, he’s sort of in that “go get the ball” spot. Given that, I think Kalu’s the pick, but I’ll take a slightly lower number than in recent years – 84 – as I think the tackles will be more evenly distributed.

JP: I’m excited to see what Chris Weber can do with a full-time feature role. He’s my pick and I’ll give him 96 (take that, Greg!).

Q: Which unit will have the better season, the offensive line or the defensive line?

DP: The offensive line won’t be bad, but the defensive line is going to have a really solid season.

BV: I’ll take the defensive line as well. It’s just a more dynamic group of players when you add in another year of experience for Davis Bros. Demolition Co. and at least one of the true freshmen, Deontre Thomas.

GS: I’ll go with the defensive line because I think the players’ ceiling on the d-line is higher.

JP: Make it a clean sweep. I’m a big fan of Carlos Davis, it’s now or never time for Freedom Akinmoladun to make the leap and I like the duo of Mick Stoltenberg and Deontre Thomas at the nose. I do think the left side of that offensive line is going to be nasty this year, but I’m not as sold on all five spots as I am on the three spots on defense.

Q: Who will be the offensive MVP of the team?

GS: Tanner Lee

DP: Tanner Lee

BV: Cole Conrad

JP: Tanner Lee

Q: Who will be the defensive MVP of the team?

GS: Bob Diaco, but if I’m going player I will say Joshua Kalu.

DP: Kalu will be one of the best players in the Big Ten. He’s the real MVP.

BV: Chris Weber. Much of what he’ll do won’t show up on the stat sheet, but he’s the linchpin. Pull him out and the wheels might fall off.

JP: Weber for me as well. He has the best instincts on the team and is at the middle of everything they’re going to do on defense.

Q: Who will be the biggest surprise?

GS: Can Tyler Hoppes be a surprise anymore? If so, I’m going with him.

DP: Cornerback Eric Lee Jr. is going to be have a solid season, but the defensive line as a whole will surprise folks.

BV: JD Spielman. Tyjon Lindsey gets a lot of deserved attention, but Spielman looks too much like some guys who put up huge numbers at Oregon State.

JP: This is tough. I suppose it depends on your definition of a “surprise.” Surprise to who? Local fans or national fans and media? A lot of the primary targets have gotten plenty of love throughout the preseason. To be different here, I’ll go with Carlos Davis, who wasn’t even a starter last year but should be the team’s best lineman this season in my opinion.

Aaron Babcock
Center Cole Conrad, one man's pick for Offensive MVP. Everyone else is taking quarterback Tanner Lee.

Now who's up for some over-unders? 

Tanner Lee throws for 3,568 yards (Joe Ganz’s school record).

GS: Over.

DP: Over, but not by very much. 3,700 yards puts him at about 300 a game, which feels about right.

BV: Under, slightly. With how Nebraska is going to play defense (I think), he might not have enough time on the field to get there. But he’ll be close.

JP: I’m with Brandon, under but not by much. A bend but don’t break defense limits how often your offense will be on the field. The offense might have some growing pains early with all the new pieces being incorporated, Lee included.

A Nebraska running back gets 200 carries.

GS: Under.

DP: Under, but the by-committee approach won’t last too far into the season.

BV: Way under. I’d take the under at 175, and maybe even at 150. Go back and look at the 2015 numbers. That’s what I’m expecting this year.

JP: What Brandon said (which is actually a pretty good motto for getting through the college football season).

A Nebraska wide receiver catches 40 passes.

GS: Over and more than one.

DP: Over. Stanley Morgan Jr. is going to have a 1,000-yard season, that requires 40-plus catches.

BV: Tight ends count? I think the Huskers will have two: Morgan and Hoppes. (Random fact: Riley’s 2013 team had four players hit that mark, two wide receivers, a tight end and a running back.)

JP: Here’s another random fact: during his last stretch at Oregon State, Riley had at least one player (but usually more than one) with 40 or more catches every season but 2007 (leader had 39). So my answer is over. Morgan, Hoppes and maybe Pierson-El if he’s turned a corner as a receiver are all capable of hitting that mark.

Nebraska records two special teams touchdowns.

GS: Under

DP: Over if only because the odds say De’Mornay Pierson-El should get one and either Tyjon Lindsey or JD Spielman should get one on kickoffs. Call it the Scott Booker effect.

BV: Nebraska hasn’t had a kickoff return touchdown since 2013. It will get two this year, plus someone else will fail to heed the “Don’t Punt 15” warning. Three special teams touchdowns in 2017.

JP: Can I say push? If not, I’ll go with under. I think DPE takes one to the house but that’s all Nebraska gets this year. I do think they will have a handful of big returns, but only one makes it to the end zone.


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