NCAA Football – Week 1
Southern Miss got on the map with a 12-2 season in 2011. The Golden Eagles lost their coach at the end of last year, as Larry Fedora left to become the coach at North Carolina. Ellis Johnson will try to continue last year’s success in Hattiesburg. Nebraska finished 9-4 in 2011. The Cornhuskers were expected to be better, and their disappointing Big Ten showing has a little bit of heat on Bo Pelini. Nebraska fans are looking for an improved team this year.
Southern Miss had tons of key players graduate after last year, so there are quite a few unknowns with this year’s team. The Golden Eagles still have an extremely talented backfield, and I fully expect them to try to run the ball as often as possible. Kendrick Hardy, Desmond Johnson, and Jeremy Lester will all get carries from the tailback spot. The depth at running back is a major strength for the Golden Eagles. Chris Campbell will start at quarterback for Southern Miss, but two other quarterbacks may see the field. The Golden Eagles are likely to see a big drop in production from the quarterback position this season. Southern Miss must replace their top two receivers as well. On the positive side, the team returns its top four offensive linemen.
The primary reason Southern Miss was able to distinguish themselves from the rest of Conference USA last year was their terrific defense. Unfortunately, only four starters from a year ago remain. Khyri Thornton and Jeremy Collins give the team two stars on the defensive line. The bigger problem comes at linebacker. The Golden Eagles lost four of their top five linebackers from last season. The talent in the secondary is still there. Don’t expect this defense to be as good as it was last season.
Taylor Martinez has taken a lot of heat from Nebraska fans during his time with the team. Martinez is one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation, but he has been dreadful throwing the football. The Cornhuskers have some great pass catchers on the outside and at tight end, but Martinez has struggled badly with his passing accuracy. If this team is going to get better, it has to start with Martinez throwing the football better this year. Rex Burkhead is a solid running back who does everything well. He can catch it out of the backfield, block, and run the ball very well. Spencer Long is the leader of what should be a very good offensive line.
The most disappointing part of this team in 2011 was their defense. Nebraska is known for tough defenses, but last year’s defense was bad. It can’t be encouraging to the team that they lost their top two players (Jared Crick and Lavonte David) from that defense that was so disappointing. Still, there is plenty of talent here; and many expect this unit to improve in 2012. Baker Steinkuhler should be strong on the front line, but overall the defensive front is a bit undersized. The secondary lost a couple very good players as well, and there are some questions regarding the depth in this area. Nebraska’s defense must get back to shutting opponents down if they hope to contend in the Big Ten this year.
Both teams should move the ball on the ground in this one. Southern Miss may surprise people with their ability to run the ball. Nebraska shouldn’t have to throw it too much in this one, because I expect their running game to work extremely well. Look for a high scoring contest.
Nebraska 38 Southern Miss 21