CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 22 Nebraska

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2011 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten (3rd in Legends)

2011 postseason: Capital One Bowl (30-13 loss to South Carolina)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 24/No. 24

Head coach: Bo Pelini (39-16 in five-plus seasons at Nebraska)

Offensive coordinator: Tim Beck (third season at Nebraska, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 15th rushing offense (217.2 ypg); 104th passing offense (162.7 ypg); 66th total offense (379.9 ypg); 50th scoring offense (29.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: John Papuchis (fifth season at Nebraska, second as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 64th rushing defense (158.5 ypg); 18th passing defense (192.2 ypg); 37th total defense (350.7 ypg); 42nd scoring defense (23.4 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Lincoln, Neb.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,067; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 1999 (Big 12)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The Cornhuskers return a total of 16 starters — two on special teams — which ties it with 11 other teams for 29th most in the country. The schedule sets up relatively favorably, with the ‘Huskers getting both Wisconsin (Sept. 29) and Michigan (Oct. 27) in Lincoln, although they do have to travel to Ohio State (Oct. 6 night game) and Michigan State (Nov. 3). After a solid debut season in the Big Ten, Pelini’s charges will be looking to make their mark on the conference race sooner rather than later.

The Bad
While the Cornhuskers return seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, they lost three of the best Blackshirts to the NFL. And that was on a defense that was fair-to-middlin’ in the first place; the Huskers nearly gave up as many points per game in 2011 (23.4) as it did in 2009 and 2010 combined (27.8). For a program used to defensive prowess — and for one looking to get itself back to national prominence — that’s unacceptable, although the odds that was merely an aberration are fairly good.

The Unknown
Taylor Martinez.  Entering his third season as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, one would think that there would be a fairly good handle on what Martinez will bring to the table.  One would obviously be wrong, although, based on the reports coming out of Lincoln this offseason, the light bulb may have gone on for Martinez.  All Husker Nation has to worry about is whether it dims before the start of the regular season.

Make-or-break game: vs. Wisconsin, Sept. 29
Last season in Madison, the Badgers laid a 48-17 woodshedding on the ‘Huskers in the program’s first Big Ten game. Nebraska will get Wisconsin first out of the conference gate again this season, although, as mentioned, this time the Badgers will be on the road. As was the case last year, the league opener will serve as a barometer for where the ‘Huskers are headed in 2012 — or how far they (still) have to go to catch the heavyweights in the Big Ten.

Heisman hopeful: running back Rex Burkhead
As one of the most unheralded backs in the country, Burkhead rushed for a team-leading 1,357 yards (16th in the country) and 15 touchdowns as a junior.  With uncertainty, at least early on in the season, over how big of an offensive load Martinez will be capable of handling, Burkhead will once again be looked upon to shoulder much of the heavy lifting on that side of the ball.  A long shot for a trip to New York City in December, let alone a Heisman win, Burkhead could sneak into the conversation with a solid start to the season, including a breakout performance in the nationally-televised primetime affair vs. Wisconsin.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Alabama gets commitment from Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s younger brother

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Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may not be playing in the spring game due to an injury, but there is still plenty of Tagovailoa news coming out of Tuscaloosa today. Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of the national championship game hero, has reportedly committed to play for the Crimson Tide.

The newest commitment for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide is a four-star dual-threat quarterback and will be a part of Alabama’s Class of 2019. Alabama won the recruiting battle against schools like Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska, and Michigan among others. According to Al.com, Lane Kiffin made a push to lure Tagovailoa to FAU as well.

Tagovailoa will go down as an in-state recruit for Alabama because the Tagovailoa moved to Alabama after Tua Tagovailoa enrolled at Alabama. If Tua wins the starting job at Alabama, then it is possible Alabama’s offense could be run by a Tagovailoa for the next six years. A dynasty within a dynasty? That’s dynasty inception, not to put too much pressure on either Tagovailoa brother.

WATCH: Nebraska football players celebrate after student wins $25,000 at spring game

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A record-setting crowd at Memorial Stadium had plenty of reasons to cheer on Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska. Aside from a good amount of highlights from Nebraska’s football players, including freshman Adrian Martinez, Nebraska fans celebrated as a student in attendance was given a chance to win $25,000. All he had to do was field a punt during a break in the action.

He nailed it, and the celebration following was pretty good too. After getting his hands on the ball to secure the $25,000 prize, players from both sidelines rushed the field to celebrate.

File this away with all of those fun spring game moments.

Nebraska fans set new school record for spring attendance in Scott Frost debut

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Nebraska has generally been one of the traditional heavy hitters when it comes to the not-at-all-important stat of spring game attendance, but never before have so many Huskers fans crammed into Memorial Stadium to see their beloved team play the spring game.

Nebraska is reporting a spring game crowd of 86,818 in Lincoln this afternoon, easily making them the new leader in the nation for spring game attendance this season (other contenders Alabama and Penn State are also in action today, so we’ll see if Nebraska hangs on to this lead). The massive crowd on-hand to witness the spring debut of new head coach Scott Frost also catapulted Nebraska into the top 10 leaderboard for all-time spring game attendance figures. Nebraska’s 86,818 fans is good for the eighth-most fans for a spring game, and Nebraska’s only appearance on the top 10 list.

It’s worth a quick reminder that these are paying fans as well, and the weather isn’t fantastic, although it is far better than a number of spring games have seen this season.

Florida State previously had the highest-attended spring game going into this weekend, but the crowd of 60,934 stood very little chance of staying ahead of some of the schools in action on Saturday, including the combination of Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State, and Georgia.

Wisconsin QB announces intent to transfer

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Wisconsin’s quarterback position looks to be pretty solid heading into the 2018 season with Alex Hornibrook back to lead the offense, but the depth at the position will get a little more shallow with a pending departure. Karé Lyles is set on leaving Madison by way of a transfer, according to a message posted to his Twitter account Friday night.

“Thank you UW for the memories, but it’s time to focus on a new chapter and a new beginning,” Lyles said in his message on Twitter. “The best is yet to come! Just a kid with a dream, and I didn’t come this far just to come this far.”

Lyles would have been floating on the depth chart at Wisconsin this season behind locked-in starter Hornibrook, with Jack Coan rising to be the top backup option ahead of Lyles for the Badgers. Wisconsin has some other younger in-experienced quarterbacks on the roster as well to fill some of the space on the depth chart in the fall.

Lyles, a redshirt sophomore in the fall, will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play again in 2019 with two years of eligibility to use at another FBS program. If he transfers to a lower division school, then Lyles would be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Helmet sticker to Bucky’s 5th Quarter.