Note: This story is part of the 2010-11 KU football preview section that will appear in Saturday's Journal-World. Check back to KUsports.com throughout the week for a breakdown of each Big 12 team, including an in-depth look at KU's offense, defense and non-conference schedule.
Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini has to love where his team sits entering the 2010 season, most likely the last for the Cornhuskers as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
In just his third year in Lincoln, Neb., Pelini might be taking the field with his best team yet. He returns 14 starters overall, including several key players on offense and a couple of devastating players on the defensive side of the ball.
The Huskers are the clear-cut favorite to win the Big 12 North, putting a shot at redemption for last year’s heartbreaking championship-game loss to Texas within reach.
And Pelini’s defense, as a whole, is one of the most feared and complete in the nation, despite losing No. 2 overall NFL Draft Pick Ndamukong Suh to the pro ranks.
“I know myself, the staff, everybody … we’re really excited about this upcoming season,” Pelini said. “(We’ve) got a good football team coming back. I really like what we have on both sides of the football and special teams. I think we finally have some depth on our team.”
Pelini has all that going for him, and, perhaps more appropriately, the remaining 11 teams in the conference have all that going against them, yet all anybody wants to talk about is Nebraska’s impending departure to the Big Ten after this season.
While it might be difficult for those outside of Nebraska to focus on anything other than the Big Ten, it’s not that difficult for the Cornhuskers, who have their sights set on making another run at a Big 12 title.
“It’s not too hard at all,” said preseason Big 12 co-defensive player of the year, Jared Crick. “The Big Ten is next year. We’re looking forward to this year, and this year is one game at a time.”
Despite suffering a heartbreaking loss to Texas that kept them out of the BCS picture, Nebraska responded by throttling Arizona, 33-0, in the Holiday Bowl. At the conclusion of that game, Pelini announced to the world that Nebraska was back.
In late July at the Big 12 media days in Dallas, Pelini elaborated on what he meant.
“I finally felt that the culture we were trying to instill since we got here had taken hold,” Pelini said. “And, you know, that excites me as a head football coach. I really feel like we got to the point where we can beat anybody we line up against, and we can compete with anybody we line up against, and that’s exciting.”
As they were a year ago, the Cornhuskers will be led by their defense. Pelini has said openly that he hopes to get more from his offense this season — and believes that he will — but he also has made no secret about the fact that his defense has the potential to be dominant.