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Big Ten Football Countdown: No.2 Nebraska

Nebraska looks to get back to the Big Ten Title Game for the second year in a row.

Gregory Shamus

Nebraska is in a rut: no matter how close the Cornhuskers get to BCS glory, their dreams are always cut short in the conference championship game. Their most recent soul crushing championship game loss took place against Wisconsin, when they got blasted 70-31. The last four times Nebraska has won their conference division, they have been bested in the championship game. Nebraska has a chance to get out of that rut as the Cornhuskers return seven on offense, including returning starters QB Taylor Martinez, RB Ameer Abdullah and WR Kenny Bell. Their beneficial schedule will also aid their return to the Big Ten Championship Game as Nov 9th at Michigan is the only game Nebraska has a serious chance of losing. Unless you think Northwestern is going to beat them at home. There is of course two things in the way of Nebraska's BCS Bowl hopes: Severe losses to the defensive front seven and the winner of the Leaders division. Which will probably be Ohio State. Good Nebraska looks to get back to the Big Ten Title Game for the second year in a row. luck, Nebraska.

2012 Record: 10-4 (7-1)

Returning Starters: 12 (7 OFF, 5 DEF, 0 ST)

Key Losses on Offense: RB Rex Burkhead (675 yds. 5 TD), TE Kyler Reed (357 yds. 2 TD)

Key Losses on Defense: LB Will Compton, DE Eric Martin, DE Cameron Meredith, S Daimion Stafford

Head Coach: Bo Pelini: 49-20 (6th Year)

Strength: Offense

Bo Pelini is a master at the running game, so Nebraska's transition to the Big Ten has fit like a glove. That aforementioned running game should be better than it was last season as RB Ameer Abdullah (1137 yds. 8 TD) returns. Abdullah should churn out the same amount of rushing this season as three starters return to the offensive line, including All Big Ten first team OG Spencer Long. The running game will also receive ample support from All Big Ten first team QB Taylor Martinez (1019 yds. Rushing 10 TD). It turns out that Martinez is pretty good at throwing the ball as well, throwing for 2871 yards and 23 TD last season. He will get to throw to his top three targets in WR Kenny Bell (863 yds. 8 TD), WR Quincy Enunwa (470 yds. 1 TD) and WR Jamal Turner (417 yds. 3 TD).

Weakness/Questions: Defensive Front Seven

DC John Papuchis could have a handful this year. In only his second year as defensive coordinator, he will have to reconstruct a defense that returns just two starters and no returning linebackers to the defensive front seven. Nebraska ranked 90th in rushing defense last season, giving up 192 rushing yards a game. The inexperience on the defensive line could determine Nebraska's season. Luckily for Nebraska, the Huskers will have one of, if not the best passing defenses as Nebraska returns three starters to the secondary that ranked 4th in the nation last season. That passing defensed allowed fewer than 168 passing yards a game.

Projected Record: 11-2 (7-1)

Bowl Game: Capitol One Bowl