In preparation for the 2007 College Football season, Drinking the Forty will look at every team in the Big XII, sizing up the conference for the 2007 season.
2006 began to show what Bill Callahan's system was capable of. Brought into overhaul the Cornhuskers outdated offense, Callahan has done just that, looking ready to bring the Cornhuskers back to national prominence after a 9-5 season.
Nebraska has created a potent and balanced offense, mixing Nebraska's traditional power running game, with Callahan's west coast offense. Zac Taylor showed what the Callahan offense was capable of, putting up 3197 yards and 28 touchdowns. This year, Arizona State transfer Sam Keller takes over the Nebraska offense, looking for redemption after his unceremonious exit from the Sun Devils. He takes over an offense returning four of his offensive lineman and all of his receivers from a year ago. Senior receivers Maurice Purify and Terrance Nunn should lead the offense along with junior tailback Marlon Lucky, who should carry much of the load with the departure of Brandon Jackson. If Keller can adjust quickly, Nebraska should be just as good, if not better than a unit that scored 30 points a game and averaged over 400 yards last season.
The only question mark with Nebraska is whether the Black Shirts can reload. They will need to replace their entire defensive line from a season ago, but return senior linebackers Bo Ruud (65 tackles/2 sacks/2 int) and Corey McKeon (69 tackles/1 sack). They will rely on those two as well as their secondary, where they return three starters, to lead the team in 2007. If Nebraska can replenish their front line and stop the run as they have been known for, then Nebraska should once again have one of the top defenses in the Big XII.
The 2007 season will determine whether Nebraska is a Big XII contender, or merely the favorite to win the Big XII North. That question will become a lot clearer before the season begins as they must visit last year's ACC Champs, Wake Forest a week before #1 USC comes to Lincoln. Depending on how those games turn out, Nebraska will be heading into a manageable Big XII schedule, as they will host Oklahoma State and #25 Texas A&M, and must go to #4 Texas, and Missouri, which could very well decide the Big XII North. While they probably will fall short against USC, Nebraska has the chance to make a statement in the Big XII this season.