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2017-’18 Nebraska Cornhuskers Season Preview

BTPowerhouse previews the upcoming season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and what fans should expect from the program heading into the 2017-’18 season.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017-’18 ‘BTPowerhouse Season Preview' series will take an in-depth look at all 14 teams in the Big Ten heading into the 2017-’18 season with analysis on each program's previous season, offseason departures, new additions, strengths, weakness, top player, and top storylines. Each post will also include predictions on each team's starting lineup, season performance and commentary from a local "insider" who covers said team.

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Entering this season, Nebraska lies between a rock and a hard place. After building momentum early in Tim Miles’ tenure, things now appear to be heading in the wrong direction. And with a new athletic director entering the picture, this season seems like now or never for Miles in Lincoln.

Miles now finds himself in a situation that comes off similarly to an early scene in Bruce Almighty. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the film is about a local TV news anchor who is suddenly given the powers of God and plenty of entertainment follows.

However, before Bruce receives that gift, he struggles in his role as a reporter. The studio finally gives him one last chance to get back on track. It’s a live shoot on the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls for the boat’s anniversary.

Of course, things unravel for Bruce, as things tend to in Hollywood. He then forces the boat’s owner to appear on camera and the following transpires:

“Bruce: Oh, look. It's the owner of the Maid of the Mist. Let's have a talk with him, shall we? Come on in here, Bill. No, no, no, no. No, no. Come on. Let's have a talk.

Grace: Come on! What are you DOING?!

Bruce: Bill, you've been running the Maid of the Mist for 23 years now. Tell me. Why do you think I didn't get the anchor

Bill (Ferry Owner): Hey, man. I don't want any problems. I don't want...

Bruce: Is it my hair, Bill? Are my teeth not white enough? Or like the great falls, is the bedrock of my life eroding beneath me? ERODING, EEEERODING, EEEEEERODDDING.

Jack: Cut the feed. Go to black.

Technician: I'm on it.

Bruce: I'm Bruce Nolan for Eyewitness News. Back to you, ****ers!

Jack: Oh boy.

Grace: Oh, my God.”

Early on in Miles’ tenure at Nebraska, things were heading in the right direction for the Huskers. Miles led a miraculous run to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and followed that up with some quality recruiting. He quickly became the rising coaching star of the Big Ten and looked to be headed toward some big things.

However, like Bruce, the bedrock of Nebraska seems to be eroding underneath Miles. Nebraska is just 41-55 (.427) overall since that NCAA Tournament trip in 2014 and has finished 85th or worse on KenPom in each of the last three seasons. And last season was the worst of all, as the team went 12-19 overall and lost its final five games.

That’s, uh, not great, folks.

Now, the question is whether Miles can finally get back on track, or if things will continue to spiral out of control. Will the 2017-’18 season be a Hollywood-style comeback for Miles, or will it be the final chapter in a horror series?

The answer to those questions may unclear, but the consequences are not. This is a make or break year for Miles. Even if Nebraska’s program history is underwhelming, Miles won’t get to return without some progress. Five bad seasons in six years simply isn’t going to cut it at a place like Nebraska. But it’s not over yet and Husker fans will be hoping for a dramatic turnaround this season.

Let’s take a look at whether Nebraska can do just that.

1. 2016-’17 Season Performance

  • Record: 12-19 (6-12)
  • KenPom Team Rating: #107
  • RPI Rating: #108
  • Postseason Appearance: None

There’s little denying that last season was a failure for the Huskers. Not only did the team have a losing record, but it won four fewer games than it had the year prior and dropped 22 spots on KenPom. And considering that Nebraska still fell brutally short at season’s end in 2015-’16, it was a frustrating turn of events for the program.

However, when one evaluates the season on a game-by-game basis, Nebraska’s regression is puzzling. The Huskers swung wildly between good and bad. The team would score a huge win and follow it up with losses to teams like Rutgers. For perspective, just look at the comparison between Nebraska’s bright and low points:

2016-’17 Nebraska Cornhuskers Wins and Losses By KenPom:

  • Wins: Purdue (14); Dayton (39); Indiana (44); Maryland (46)
  • Losses: Ohio State (73); Penn State (87); Rutgers (135); Gardner Webb (181)

While beating a top 50 KenPom team isn’t a massive achievement, it’s a notable accomplishment for a team that went 12-19 overall. And Nebraska did it four times last season. Add in that three of those wins came away from home and they look even more impressive.

It’s remarkable to think that a team that lost 13 of 19 games against Big Ten opponents still managed to beat two NCAA Tournament teams in Dayton and Purdue and win on the road at Indiana and Maryland. It happens now and again, but this puts Nebraska’s inconsistent nature into context.

That inconsistency, of course, leads to two nature questions. Those are: (1) how did this happen; and (2) why is it important?

The first question is a difficult one. Most teams pull an upset or two simply based on chance. Heck, even that horrible Rutgers team in 2014-’15 beat a Wisconsin team that eventually made the Final Four. When you play so many games, weird things happen.

However, to achieve four significant upsets (including three away from home) indicates that there was probably something more at play than pure chance. This had a lot to do with Nebraska hitting on all cylinders during those wins.

But the second question is the far more important one here. The reason this inconsistent resume is important is because it’s a symbol of why last season was so frustrating for Husker fans. If Miles was able to get his team up for games against teams like Dayton and Purdue, why couldn’t his team take care of business against Gardner Webb, Illinois, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers? In fact, if the Huskers had went unbeaten in just those games, Nebraska would have finished with at least 17 wins. For perspective, Indiana and Iowa made the NIT with 18 wins.

The 2016-’17 season was a rough one for the Huskers, but the team probably wasn’t as bad as its overall record indicated. While Nebraska wasn’t great, inconsistency is what killed its chances. If the team could have improved in that category, it probably would have been in the NIT picture at season’s end.

Individual statistical leaders were Michael Jacobson, Ed Morrow, Glynn Watson, and Tai Webster. Jacobson led the team in rebounds. Morrow led the team in blocks. Watson led the team in steals and total win shares. Webster led the team in minutes, points, assists, and usage among contributors.

2. Offseason Exits

As one of the nation’s youngest teams last season, Nebraska was set up to avoid many offseason departures. After all, the Huskers were 288th on KenPom’s experience metric and started three underclassmen in the team’s season finale against Penn State. When you consider that virtually all of the team’s bench options were also underclassmen, things looked even better for the roster heading into this season.

Unfortunately, how things look on paper is not how they always turn out in real life.

In reality, Nebraska was blasted with offseason attrition as its best player graduated and four others transferred. The graduate was do-it-all senior guard Tai Webster and the four transfers were Nick Fuller, Jeriah Horne, Michael Jacobson, and Ed Morrow. Instead of returning a deep roster loaded with experience, Nebraska now loses three of its top six players in total minutes, including its most productive player.

The biggest loss, of course, for Nebraska will be Webster. He averaged 34.7 minutes, 17.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game last season. Webster played the most minutes on Nebraska’s team, was the team’s most utilized player offensively, and facilitated the offense. He will gone down as one of Nebraska’s better players of all-time, finishing 26th on the program’s career scoring chart.

Along with Webster, Nebraska will also have to deal with the departures of four others. The most significant departures of this group will be Jacobson and Morrow. Both averaged over 20 minutes a game and spent the vast majority of the season in the starting lineup. While freshman Jordy Tshimanga emerged late, Jacobson and Morrow were the two players that dominated the team’s playing time upfront.

If just one of these two players had left, things wouldn’t be too concerning. Both Jacobson and Morrow had their flaws. However, Jacobson was limited offensively and Morrow had turnover and shooting issues. On paper, these are the kind of contributions that a program can replace in a single offseason. Neither Jacobson or Morrow were all-time greats for the Huskers, after all.

But alas, Nebraska now has to replace both. This is where the problems arise. Because instead of a young team replacing a single starter, Nebraska needs to replace three. For perspective, just look at Nebraska’s season finale against Penn State last season. During that game, Webster, Jacobson, and Morrow combined for 85 minutes. Even in an overtime game, that’s a lot of minutes to replace for a 12-win team.

Oh, and there’s more.

Nebraska will also be losing Fuller and Horne to transfer as well. It would be misleading to imply either of these guys were core pieces for the Huskers last season. However, they did play. Horne averaged 11.8 minutes in 29 games and Fuller saw action in 15 games as well. These were two players that Husker fans hoped could take step forwards this season. The team will now have to look elsewhere.

There’s really no way to describe Nebraska’s offseason departures this year other than devastating. I hate to make such a depressing comment so early in this preview, but it needs to be said. Replacing a player like Webster would have been tough enough by itself. But the Huskers will now have to try and do that while also replacing two frontcourt starters and two other depth options. It’s not going to be an easy task.

3. New Additions

This season, the Huskers will be adding three new recruits and three transfers. The recruits are Thomas Allen, Nana Akenten, and Thorir Thorbjarnarson. Allen is a four-star prospect, Akenten is a three-star, and Thorbjarnarson is unranked by 247Sports. All three are listed as shooting guards. The transfers are Isaac Copeland from Georgetown, Duby Okeke from Winthrop, and James Palmer from Miami (FL).

While it’s hard to see Akenten or Thorbjarnarson contributing early for the Huskers, Allen arrives on campus with considerable hype. He was a North Carolina State commit until the program made a coaching change and he reoped his recruitment. He is ranked No. 102 nationally and as the No. 21 shooting guard in the class.

Allen is expected to make his biggest contributions offensively. He is a quality shooter that can make plays off the bounce as well. This is great news considering that Allen will likely be asked to replace some of the production lost by Webster. It’s probably unrealistic to expect that he can fully replace Webster’s contributions, but Allen can at least make a dent if he hits the ground running.

The other newcomers to watch will be the three transfers. The one receiving the most hype is Copeland, who arrives in Lincoln after three seasons with the Hoyas. While his final season with Georgetown was limited by injury, Copeland played in 33 games during the 2015-’16 season while averaging 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. For context, the only Huskers to average over 10 points a game last season were Webster and Glynn Watson.

Copeland spent much of his time with Georgetown playing on the wing either at the three or at the four. That’s good news for the Huskers since all four of the transfers played or provided depth at the three and/or four spots. There’s little debating that Copeland will see substantial minutes this season and figures to move in a starting role with the program’s recent departures.

The two other transfers don’t bring nearly as much hype as Copeland, but both could contribute as well. Palmer redshirted last season with the Huskers, but played in 72 games during his first two seasons with the Miami Hurricanes. While Palmer wasn’t a great shooter at Miami, he was a decent player inside in limited minutes and was a decent rebounder for his size.

Okeke should provide the Huskers with much needed depth and experience upfront. He arrives in Lincoln after three seasons at Winthrop. During last season, he averaged 3.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.0 minutes per game. It’s unlikely that Okeke will work his way into the starting lineup this season, but the Huskers will hope to get 10 to 15 minutes out of the experience big man.

There’s little debating that Nebraska is adding a deep group of newcomers this season that should have an immediate impact. Allen and Copeland figure to be in the discussion for starting roles and the Huskers add four others that have the chance to contribute in backup roles.

4. Points of Optimism

Nebraska was not a great team last season. Even if you believe it had more to do with inconsistency than an inept roster (put me in this group), Nebraska still wasn’t great. The Huskers finished outside the top 100 on KenPom for a reason and fell far short of even being in serious NCAA Tournament consideration.

More simply put, Nebraska needs to improve.

Generally, there two ways for a team to improve. The first is to get more production from the same pieces. Players routinely improve with more experience, better conditioning, and/or better coaching. More simply put, the concept with this approach is to make a better cake with the same ingredients. It can be done, but it’s not easy. The other method is to find new pieces, whether through recruiting or the transfer market. If the ingredients aren’t working, get new ones.

Husker fans are hoping that this year’s Nebraska team will fall in the latter category. As discussed, Nebraska was not a great team last season and is losing a substantial amount of last season’s contributors. Some of those departures were expected, while others weren’t. Either way, this roster is going to look immensely different.

And with so many new players, Nebraska’s season could go in a litany of different directions. Perhaps the new players hit the ground running, or maybe they make little to no impact this season. A reasonable projection figures that it will lie somewhere in the middle. Some of the newcomers will contribute, but not all. However, it’s also not insane to think three, or even four, of Nebraska’s newcomers can make an immediate impact, which should build optimism for next season.

Of course, one may wonder why having “unknowns” is a positive thing. But let’s put things into perspective. To start, Nebraska already returns a proven player in Glynn Watson at the point guard position, an intriguing underclassman in Jordy Tshimanga upfront, and some depth pieces like Jack McVeigh and Isaiah Roby. Those players aren’t going to push the Huskers to any major success by themselves, but they do give Miles something to build around.

And that is what makes these newcomers interesting. If Allen and Copeland are good enough to start, Nebraska should have a respectable lineup. And if another newcomer or two can provide 15 to 20 minutes a game, there might even be functional depth too. The likelihood of three or four newcomers making an impact is up for debate, but it’s far from impossible, which should make fans excited.

The Huskers also figure to have impressive depth on the wing heading into this season. McVeigh and Roby return after respectable 2016-’17 seasons and the team will be adding Akenten, Copeland, and Palmer to the mix. Anton Gill should also be back from injury. Palmer will likely spend a lot of time in the backcourt, but that should be more than enough depth for this season.

5. Points of Concern

This is probably going to seem like a massive contradiction to the section above, but Nebraska’s biggest concern is its lack of known commodities. My point above was that the sheer number and potential of the newcomers will give Husker fans some hope. This falls in line with a classic Abraham Lincoln quote. He once said that it’s better to be thought of as a bad team than to be known to be a bad team.

Ok, maybe he didn’t say that, but you get the point. While analysts may not love Nebraska’s roster heading into this season, we don’t know that it’s bad at this time.

Unfortunately, that optimism only goes so far. The only player Nebraska returns that produced at a high level last season is Watson. Even if freshmen like Roby and Tshimanga showed encouraging signs, we’re talking about players that averaged 5.0 and 3.1 points a game, respectively. Neither of those two even averaged 20 minutes a game for a team that went 12-19. That’s not a great sign.

This means that Nebraska fans are going to have to hope that players like Roby and Tshimanga take substantial steps forward, Nebraska’s newcomers can contribute immediately, or some combination or those two scenarios. That might seem obvious, but it’s important to remember that Nebraska not only needs to replace the players leaving this offseason, but needs to get better. Those players only won 12 games.

What this analysis creates is a scenario where unrealistic expectations are going to be thrown on players like Roby and Tshimanga, or newcomers like Allen and Copeland. Husker fans should be excited about all four. They all have potential. However, expecting most, if not all, to emerge as All-Big Ten players is also pretty unrealistic.

For perspective, think about it this way. Watson will lock down a starting role and Tshimanga figures to start upfront. The rest of the lineup is uncertain. And even if Allen and Copeland can produce as starters from day one (not unlikely), Nebraska still has to figure out another starter on the wing. Maybe it’s Gill, Palmer, or Evan Taylor, but these three are players that would likely serve in reserve roles on quality teams. It’s asking a lot to assume one of these guys can be a quality Big Ten starter and that doesn’t even take into account the team’s depth concerns.

Moreover, this scenario also assumes Tshimanga takes the necessary steps forward as a sophomore and Allen will be a quality starter as a freshman. Both players have plenty of potential, but this is another optimistic perspective. While it’s reasonable to assume some of these things will go well, we start moving into homer territory when we assume everything is going to turn out well.

Nebraska also faces the challenge of improving its offensive numbers. The Huskers finished 306th in three-point shooting percentage and 157th in overall offensive efficiency last season. The team also had trouble finishing around the rim and a poor turnover rate. The one caveat here is that with so many newcomers projected to be in the rotation, Nebraska’s offense should look significantly different than last season.

6. Top Player

Heading into last season, there was some uncertainty regarding the best player on Nebraska’s roster. However, the top returner was pretty obvious. Here’s what I wrote then:

“Webster trailed pretty significantly behind Shields and White in the advanced stats last season, but he’s also pretty clearly the team’s top returner, at least in terms of overall contributions. That might not put a ton of confidence in some Husker fans, but it’s a reality of the result of losing so many major contributors this offseason.

The obvious contenders outside of Webster to compete for the spot as Nebraska’s best player are Anton Gill and Glynn Watson. Each came to Nebraska with a borderline elite recruiting pedigree and both project to play in major roles for the Huskers this season. If Gill can come in and make a similar impact to White or Watson can improve from his freshman campaign, both should be right in the running with Webster, if not in front of him.It’s hard to project how exactly Gill will perform as a new addition to the team this season, but considering how he projects as a shooter on a team that desperately needs long range shooting, he’s probably the safest bet to be Nebraska’s best player this season.”

Unfortunately, with Webster moving on from the program, there’s a lot of uncertainty in this area once again. As mentioned above, Nebraska’s top returner is clearly Watson. He averaged 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game last season and took a significant share of the offense. Most figure that Watson will continue to improve and should be the frontrunner for Nebraska’s best player this season.

The most likely challenger to this designation will be Copeland. If he can produce similarly to how he did at Georgetown, he should be in this discussion. The other potential contenders are Allen and Tshimanga. Both have plenty of raw potential and Allen joins the program as a top 100 prospect. Unfortunately, both are also still young and likely at least a year away from hitting their ceilings.

Watson and Copeland should get most of the attention in this regard, but it should be an interesting competition between this group.

7. 2017-’18 Schedule Breakdown

  • 11/7 - Northwood (Michigan)
  • 11/11 - Eastern Illinois
  • 11/13 - North Texas
  • 11/16 - at St. John’s
  • 11/19 - North Dakota
  • 11/23 - UCF (Orlando, FL)
  • 11/24 - Marist or West Virginia (Orlando, FL)
  • 11/26 - TBA (Orlando, FL)
  • 11/29 - Boston College
  • 12/3 - at Michigan State
  • 12/5 - Minnesota
  • 12/9 - at Creighton
  • 12/16 - Kansas
  • 12/20 - UTSA
  • 12/22 - Delaware State
  • 12/29 - Stetson
  • 1/2 - at Northwestern
  • 1/6 - at Purdue
  • 1/9 - Wisconsin
  • 1/12 - at Penn State
  • 1/15 - Illinois
  • 1/18 - Michigan
  • 1/22 - at Ohio State
  • 1/24 - at Rutgers
  • 1/27 - Iowa
  • 1/29 - at Wisconsin
  • 2/6 - at Minnesota
  • 2/10 - Rutgers
  • 2/13 - Maryland
  • 2/18 - at Illinois
  • 2/20 - Indiana
  • 2/25 - Penn State

For anyone who follows college basketball, they know that scheduling is more of an art than a science. The goal is to put together a slate that challenges the team and is exciting for the fans, but not so challenging that it can stunt the growth of the program. The projected strength of the team will also have an obvious impact on how a coach decides to schedule.

There’s little debating that this year’s schedule came as the result of the hopes of yesteryear. Given how some of the recruiting had worked out in years past, this appeared to be the season when things would blossom. Unfortunately, with so many unexpected offseason departures, Nebraska is now set to face one of the more challenging slates in the Big Ten.

Let’s start with non-conference play. Nebraska not only hosts Kansas in mid-December, but the Huskers are also going on the road to face Creighton and St. John’s, get an improving UCF, and a potential matchup with West Virginia in Orlando. That’s five games against teams that made the top 100 in KenPom last season and the only one at home comes against Kansas.

Ruh roh.

The Big Ten schedule also figures to be brutal for the Huskers. Nebraska gets Minnesota and Wisconsin in double-plays and road games against Michigan State, Northwestern, and Purdue. Barring something really surprising, that’s seven games right off the top that look immensely challenging.

And those seven games don’t even include home games against Maryland and Michigan and four other conference road trips. While KenPom’s preseason ratings aren’t always accurate, Nebraska is currently an underdog in 16 (!!!) of its Big Ten games, with the lone exceptions being home games against Illinois and Rutgers. Even if many of those are in the 40 to 49 area, that’s an uphill battle.

To put just how challenging Nebraska’s schedule is into perspective, look at this slate in late November through mid-December:

  • 11/23 - UCF (Orlando, FL)
  • 11/24 - Marist or West Virginia (Orlando, FL)
  • 11/26 - TBA (Orlando, FL)
  • 11/29 - Boston College
  • 12/3 - at Michigan State
  • 12/5 - Minnesota
  • 12/9 - at Creighton
  • 12/16 - Kansas

That’s an eight-game slate that would be on par with an NCAA Tournament run to the Final Four. Nebraska not only gets potential Final Four teams in Kansas and Michigan State, but also a road trip to Creighton, a game against a talented Minnesota team, and a challenging game against UCF. The only reprieve is a home game against an underwhelming Boston College team.

It’s certainly possible that Nebraska can find a way to navigate this schedule to a respectful overall record. After all, there are some easy games in non-conference play and the team could pull some upsets at home. However, Nebraska is going to have to take care of its winnable games this season, which is something it has failed to recently. Otherwise, things could get rough.

8. Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG: Glynn Watson (Jr.) - 95%
  • SG: James Palmer (Rs. Jr.) - 85%
  • SF: Jack McVeigh (Jr.) - 65%
  • PF: Isaac Copeland (Rs. Jr.) - 90%
  • C: Jordy Tshimanga (So.) - 80%

(Percentage likelihood of starting at season tip-off.)

While Nebraska doesn’t return many proven pieces, most of the team’s starting lineup is easy to project. That’s not only a function of some of the newcomers, but also of the team’s depth chart. There just simply won’t be many battles for starting positions in the backcourt or the frontcourt.

At the point, Watson figures to lock down a starting role after a solid sophomore season. Watson was an efficient player that hit 40 percent from three-point range and avoided turnovers at an impressive rate. He is easily Nebraska’s most proven returner and warrants projections as such. There’s little doubt that he will lock down a starting position and figures to lead the team in plenty of statistical categories.

Alongside Watson, there should be far more drama. Not only will Nebraska return Gill and Taylor, but it also adds a major prospect in Allen and a player in Palmer that could slide over and play at the two. All four should compete for playing time.

On the wing, the two newcomers in Palmer and Copeland figure to be the team’s starters. Palmer never put up overly impressive numbers at Miami (FL), but Copeland shined during his time with Georgetown. Nebraska figures to have a deep, albeit unknown, wing group and these two should lead the charge. Expect Copeland to be somewhere around 30 minutes a game when healthy.

Palmer’s playing time should be far more competitive. McVeigh and Roby will also return on the wing after improved 2016-’17 seasons and Nebraska will be adding freshmen Nana Akenten and Thorir Thorbjarnarson. My assumption is that Akenten and Thorbjarnarson will be limited to bench time or redshirt seasons, but it wouldn’t be shocking for any of those four players to see serious minutes. However, Palmer still appears to be the frontrunner.

In the frontcourt, the minutes are going to be dominated by Tshimanga and Winthrop transfer Okeke. They are the only legitimate big men on the roster and will see minutes corresponding with that fact. Tshimanga figures to be the frontrunner given his raw skillset and potential, but both will probably be close to 20 minutes a game.

Overall, Nebraska figures to have an interesting lineup filled with potential. Watson and Copeland figure to be the leaders with some nice rotational pieces around them. The major questions will be whether Tshimanga takes a step forward and who the Huskers put at the two and three spots.

9. Team Perspective From Patrick Gerhart of Corn Nation

“The Huskers are going into coach Tim Miles sixth season with a little bit if urgency to perform. With the team coming off of three straight losing seasons and a new athletic director, the heat is on in the Miles era at NU.

Returning guard Glynn Watson Jr. will lead this team with help from incoming transfers James Pamer Jr. (Miami) and Issac Copeland (Georgetown). The increase in talent will hopefully lead to and increase in scoring as the Huskers have been less than stellar in that department over the past few years.

While there is a lot of unproven players, there is a lot of hope that this is going to be the best team Miles has had on the court since arriving in Lincoln. While the non conference slate is no walk in the park it should help develop this team in preparation for Big Ten play. A lot of what this team can do is still speculation but there is belief that they should be able to hold their own against better opponents as the season goes on.”

10. Overall Season Outlook

Heading into this season, there are some legitimate reasons to be hopeful about Nebraska’s chances in the Big Ten and nationally. Watson returns after a solid sophomore season, the team has other intriguing returners, and there are enough newcomers to elevate Nebraska’s play. Fans have enough to buy in to the Huskers.

Unfortunately, optimism can only take one so far with this Nebraska team. There are fundamental issues that likely won’t be solved this season.

To start, the bird’s eye view of Nebraska’s roster is not a good one. This is a team coming off a 12-win season that lost three starters and two backups, including one of the program’s best players of all-time. Turnover can sometimes be good for struggling teams, but not usually in this amount.

Moreover, the players replacing those departures don’t lend a ton of confidence. Allen and Copeland look like really nice additions, but all the other newcomers have significant questions and Allen is a true freshman too. The returners outside of Watson are also far from proven. Most saw limited minutes for the Huskers last season.

These facts paint a picture of a team that is aimed to go through a rebuilding year. That may be unfortunate news for Miles, but that’s the projection. He will have to work some magic or face the potential of finding a new job next offseason.

Big Ten Prediction: 14th Place