2016 Nebraska Predictions

2 Sep

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As you may know, this column is also available on HuskerMax.com.

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Time to gaze into the crystal ball and make some predictions about the coming season.  Some of these are virtual locks to happen, but I am going to go out on a limb a couple of time.

Feel free to hold these against me throughout the season – assuming I don’t retract this post first.

Let’s start out with a doozy:

This is Keith Williams’ final season in Lincoln*.  He is a hot, hot, hot commodity, as witnessed by the parade of NFL talent coming to work out with him this summer.  It’s no secret that the receivers are the best position group on the team – and maybe in the conference.  Williams has made a name for himself on the recruiting trail too.

So where does he go?  I don’t see him moving on for a coordinator or head coaching job – every portrait of him paints him as a guy who truly loves the technical craft of being a wide receiver.  But I could see a big name college making a big push for him as a receivers coach, with a combined sales pitch of a big, big raise and easier access to talent.  The other possibility I see is Williams getting a job with an NFL team

*I wrote the previous two paragraphs prior to Williams’ August DUI arrest. While that third offense probably decreases the likelihood of another school poaching him away, it does increase the possibility that Williams does not return due to his legal issues.  I don’t necessarily he gets fired by Mike Riley or Shawn Eichorst; rather forces from outside the athletic department play a role.

Nebraska does not lose five games by less than a touchdown.  To be clear, I’m not saying that the Huskers won’t lose five games.  But if they do, they won’t all be last second heart breakers like BYU, Miami, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Northwestern.

Nebraska has a 1,000 yard rusher.  In 2015, Terrell Newby led the team with 786 rushing yards, the first time since 2008 that a Husker has failed to reach 1,000 yards in a season.  Assuming Riley holds true to his goal of finishing in the top three in rushing in the conference, this should be easy to obtain.  The big question is which of the backs gets the necessary yards.  I’ll put my money on Devine Ozigbo, but I think Newby could definitely get it done too.

The elusive 1,000 yard receiving season remains out of reach – for now.  Nobody has ever gone over 1,000 receiving yards in a season at Nebraska.  Jordan Westerkamp came the closest, racking up 918 a year ago.  But I doubtful that Westerkamp can match his yardage numbers from 2015.  That’s not a knock at Westy – arguably the best receiver to play at Nebraska – but more of a compliment towards the other receiving options on the team.  There are lots of guys deserving of targets, but only one ball to go around.

But don’t worry, I predict Nebraska has a 1,000 yard receiver within four seasons.

The Huskers throw fewer interceptions than 2015.  This one is (hopefully) a gimme, as matching the 21 picks from a year ago requires averaging 1.6 INTs a game.  Again, if Riley and Langsdorf stick to the ground game, this should be a slam dunk.

Nebraska still ends up negative in turnover margin.  As noted above, I think the Huskers cut down their interceptions thrown.  And I’m hopeful the defense can get some more turnovers too.  But they’ve been negative for so long, I don’t see a dramatic turnaround in one year.

Nebraska qualifies for a bowl game (without having to rely on their graduation rate).  To accomplish this, Nebraska needs to find six wins in their schedule.  Assuming Tommy Armstrong stays healthy, I feel confident in six wins.  But I’m not willing to predict nine (or more) wins until I see this team play a few games.

Move over “did you know they’re roommates?”, there’s a new go-to factoid.  Did you know that Armstrong and Jordan Westerkamp are roommates?  If you’ve watched any Nebraska game over the last few years, I guarantee you’ve heard this tidbit before as announcers love to sprinkle in little nuggets of information not found in the box score.

While we’ll continue to be reminded of how the QB and the WR live together*, it will be overshadowed by a new “did you know?” fact:  punter Caleb Lightbourn can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute.

*And the announcers never mention their other roommate, tight end Trey Foster.  Poor Trey.  Your name is a symbol of your status as a third wheel.

Normally, I’d link to the video, but I’m so confident that you’ll hear about (and probably see) this accomplish every week that I’m not going to bother.

What about you?  What predictions are you willing to make?

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