Here it is, Husker fans!
After what seemed like a fall camp that stretched back to the Mesozoic era (just imagine a T-Rex starting a nose tackle for Nebraska), the season has finally arrived.
And here at Quinn's Corner, to save you the the countless hours spent analyzing, scrutinizing, and laying awake at night - I've gone ahead and predicted what will happen this year for the Big Red.
Let it be know - I'm 100 percent confident this is EXACTLY how Nebraska's season will unfold...until something different happens. Then all bets are off.
GAME #1 vs. Arkansas State
Tanner Lee puts on a show in his first career start for Nebraska, throwing for 315 yards and 3 TD's before Patrick O'Brien comes in for mop-up duty on the final drive. The Huskers offensive line turns in an encouraging performance, but still gives up several sacks, showing there is still work to be done.
Bob Diaco's new 3-4 defense has one or two breakdowns during a solid, yet very vanilla showing against a pesky Red Wolves team that hangs around into the second half. Nebraska moves to 1-0 on the season, and Arkansas State ends up in yet another bowl game by the end of the year.
Final score: Nebraska 35, Arkansas State 21
GAME #2 @ Oregon
Nebraska's defense takes center stage in Week 2, and struggles to keep up with a much more seasoned Oregon attack then a year ago. The front seven, especially, can't control a healthy Royce Freeman at the point of attack. It's not a day the Blackshirts will want to remember.
Nebraska finds some chances on offense, but Lee struggles to sustain any kind of momentum in a much more hostile environment. The Nebraska running game manages to make some plays, but it's too little too late, as several key drives come up empty in the third quarter.
Final score: Oregon 35, Nebraska 27
GAME #3 vs. Northern Illinois
NU's "get right" game before Big Ten play opens. Not much to see here - this isn't your third cousin's Huskies team that featured Jordan Lynch under center.
It's a big day for the backups in the fourth quarter. As a bonus, Bellevue West's Jaylin Bradley scores his first career touchdown on a 23-yard run late in the game.
Final score: Nebraska 42, Northern Illinois 10
GAME #4 vs. Rutgers
If Nebraska doesn't start 1-0 in Big Ten play, this season will come un-hinged in a hurry. The Big Red score nearly at will on offense, and a defensive score puts the game away in the third quarter.
The Husker wide receivers have a field day, hauling in a total of four TD catches, included two by true freshman Tyjon Lindsey, who is named Big Ten newcomer of the week for his efforts.
Final score: Nebraska 42, Rutgers 14
GAME #5 @ Illinois
It's a short week, and the game feels weird from the start on an unusually cold and rainy September night. For whatever reason, the Husker offense can't find anything that works in the first half against Lovie Smith's much improved defense. As a result, Nebraska trails by a score at the half.
The second half starts with the Blackshirts coming to the rescue with a defensive score to turn the momentum back towards the Big Red. Tanner Lee adds a touchdown pass on the very next Nebraska drive, and the Huskers grind it out from there.
Afterwards, the coaches grumble about how stupid Friday night Big Ten games are. And they're right.
Final score: Nebraska 21, Illinois 17
GAME #6 vs. Wisconsin
Ah, yes. THE game fans have been waiting for all season long. At least, the FIRST game people have been waiting for all season long.
From the gun, the game is a battle. The Nebraska run game can't find any momentum, and it's up to Tanner Lee to go to the air to find breathing room. Lee delivers, but is matched stride for stride by Alex Hornibrook. The Wisconsin defense lives up to the hype, and Nebraska's D finds ways to keep the game tight.
In what will go down as one of the hardest fought games at Memorial Stadium in years, Nebraska comes up just short once again to a top-10 Wisconsin team. A late tipped Lee pass for an INT seals the deal for the Badgers.
Final score: Wisconsin 21, Nebraska 20
GAME #7 vs. Ohio State
The week leading up is spent re-living the horrors of last year's trip to Columbus, and once the game starts, the nightmares return.
Nebraska's offense line is taken to task by the most talented front four in the nation, and Tanner Lee spends the day scrambling for his life. However, unlike previous years, Lee doesn't make poor decisions and limits the damage, keeping Nebraska in the game for as long as he can. Ultimately, the lack of a run game is what dooms the Huskers on offense, and JT Barrett proves to be too elusive for the Nebraska defense to contain.
Lee throws his first pick-six of the season late in the third quarter to drive the final nail into the coffin. It's not as painful as 2016's encounter, but it's still not pleasant.
Final score: Ohio State 35, Nebraska 10
GAME #8 @ Purdue
The Huskers are reeling a bit, and all the sudden fans are nervous things might be coming off the rails with Nebraska sitting at 4-3 on the year.
Nothing quite like a trip to West LaFayette to get things back on track.
This week, it's the Nebraska defense that shines, turning over David Blough three times en route to a dominating performance. Lamar Jackson, Eric Lee, and DiCaprio Bootle all haul in interceptions, capped by Lee's 42-yard pick six early in the second half. Luke Gifford etches his name firmly into the Nebraska history books with a three sack, one forced fumble afternoon.
While it's a relatively quiet day for Tanner Lee, the Nebraska run game goes nuts, rushing for a combined 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Final score: Nebraska 38, Purdue 14
GAME #9 vs. Northwestern
Much like the Wisconsin game, the hype train is running full steam ahead this week. At the time, it looks like a game that could end up being for second place in the Big Ten West.
Northwestern enters the game with a hitch though - several key players are banged up, and it's unclear who will actually play until kickoff. Once the ball goes in the air, it's an offensive showcase from start to finish. Both teams gouge each other for big plays, and it's a shootout well into the second half. The game is remembered as one of the most entertaining in recent history.
In last week's Big Ten predictions , I had this one going to the 'Cats, but I think it could tip either way. After giving it some more thought, I think the Big Red gets it done here by the narrowest of margins. Lets figure on a late Drew Brown FG to win it.
Final score: Nebraska 31, Northwestern 28
GAME #10 @ Minnesota
By the time Nebraska rolls into Minneapolis, PJ Fleck's crew has tossed out the anchor, and the Gopher's boat isn't going anywhere. Losses to Iowa and Michigan have softened up Minnesota significantly after a 7-0 start, and the wind is officially out of the sails.
It feels like a week-to-week debate as to which Nebraska unit steals the show, but this time it's the defense's time to shine, nearly pitching a shutout against Goldy before a late score breaks up the goose egg.
The Nebraska offense finds points more difficult to come by against a salty Minny defense, but Tanner Lee breaks through with a 225 yard, 2 TD performance when it's all said and done. Three FG's by Drew Brown are just icing on the cake.
Final score: Nebraska 23, Minnesota 7
GAME #11 @ Penn State
After 10 long weeks, Nebraska is finally starting to feel the injury bug, and a trip to Happy Valley isn't what the doctor ordered.
At this point, Penn State is still angry about the loss to Ohio State two weeks back, and feels helpless in the Big Ten East looking up at their rivals. Saquon Barkley decides its a good time to take it out on Nebraska, and James Franklin hands him the rock 32 times en route to a 200 yard rushing day. When the Blackshirts aren't busy trying to corral Barkley, they're dealing with the Penn State passing attack, which takes advantage of depleted secondary. Because of the effectiveness of the Nittany Lion's run game, it feels like the Nebraska offense never has the ball.
It turns into a very long afternoon.
Final score: Penn State 31, Nebraska 14
GAME #12 vs. Iowa
This game always seems to come down to the same thing - which team ends up being both mentally and physically tougher. The last few trips, Iowa has won that battle handily. If not for several idiotic (and completely unnecessary) special teams decisions by the Hawkeyes three years ago, Nebraska would be sitting with zero wins in their last four in this series.
I could sit here and spin poetic about Tanner Lee and his potential (which he has), or how Nebraska has more skill position talent (which they do), but until Nebraska can find a way to match Iowa in the trenches, none of it will make a bit of difference.
Maybe it's because of where the game falls on the schedule, or the individual team's perception of what they have left to play for. Maybe it's a mental battle among the players. Maybe it's the reluctance of one side to whole heartedly accept this game for the rivalry it is. Who really knows?
But that one key factor - toughness, especially in the trenches, still favors the Hawkeyes this year.
Final score: Iowa 21, Nebraska 18
FINAL RECORD: 7-5 (5-4 Big Ten), T-3 Big Ten West
BOWL TRIP: Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27th - New York City) vs. Virginia Tech
See also: Joe's 2017 Big Ten predictions
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