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2022 football season preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

The best 3-9 team in college football a season ago is looking to bounce back in 2022!

Purdue v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

It is time for the 2022 Wisconsin Badgers football season preview extravaganza to begin! Over the next (almost) two months we will be preparing you for the upcoming football season. We’ve got previews of every team on Wisconsin’s schedule, we’ve got positional breakdowns of each group at UW, we’ll have predictions for the full conference, rankings of the top units in the Big Ten as well as a couple of larger features that we think are interesting.

Next up we take a look at the Big Ten’s failure project, Nebraska!

Team: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Head coach: Scott Frost, fifth season, 15-29

2021 record: 3-9 overall, 1-8 Big Ten Conference

Game info: Saturday, November 19th, TBD, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE

Top returning players

  • Junior, OLB, Garrett Nelson, lead the team with five sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss
  • Junior, ILB, Luke Reimer, 108 tackles, one sack, six pass breakups
  • Junior, RB, Rahmir Johnson, 112 carries, 495 yards, four touchdowns
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Nebraska at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Top newcomers

  • QB Casey Thompson, a transfer from the University of Texas, Thompson started the final 10 games for the Longhorns completing 63% of his passes. throwing for 2,113 yards and 24 touchdowns
  • CB Jaeden Gould is the top-ranked player in the class of 2022 and could push for a cornerback spot this Fall

2021 Season Review:

Much like every season Nebraska’s preseasons expectations were high coming into 2021, and much like every season Nebraska failed to come close to meeting those expecations. Last season Nebraska opened the college football season taking on Illinois in Champaign where they fell 22-30. After that, the Huskers picked up two wins against Fordham and Buffalo.

The following week Nebraska traveled to Oklahoma to renew an old Big 12 rivalry. In that contest, Nebraska fought their hearts out, but ultimately made too many mistakes and fell to the Sooners by just one score. That trend would continue throughout the entire season.

The following week Nebraska traveled to East Lansing to take on the 20th-ranked Michigan State Spartans. It appeared Nebraska had the Spartans down for dead until late in the 4th quarter when a special teams blunder allowed the Spartans to tie the game, and an interception in overtime by Adrian Martinez killed any hopes of a victory. Another one-score loss in the books.

The week after Nebraska took out some frustrations on Northwestern 56-7, but the one-score losses continued the rest of the way out as they lost their final six games of the regular season. Five of those losses (Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Iowa) came by one score or less. The sixth, from Ohio State, came by just nine points.

There’s hardly a lot you can take from a 3-9 season that is good, but the Huskers DID play a lot of good teams close which apparently counts for something in the year 2022. Jokes aside, it did feel like this team had the ability to be a lot better than what their record showed. Poor special teams and turnovers on offense ultimately did them in, but a few bounces the other way could spur a positive change. At least that’s what the Nebraska faithful is telling themselves heading into 2022.

2022 season preview:

Nebraska hopes they can get some bounces to go the other way this season, but there will be plenty of new faces in the fold to try and do so as Scott Frost fired all but one offensive assistant from last year. One major change was Head Coach Scott Frost turning over the keys of the offense to offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Whipple was the offensive coordinator at Pitt a season ago, and helped Heisman nominee Kenny Pickett put up monster numbers last year.

Whipple will have a new quarterback to work with in Texas transfer Casey Thompson. Thompson started the final 10 games for Texas a season ago and has shown flashes of potential throughout his career. Around him, four of the top five rushers return, but last year's leading rusher does not. That would be Adrian Martinez, who departed for Kansas State. Additionally, leading receiver Samori Toure departed, so there are holes to fill in the wideout room. Up front, Cam Jurgens will be a tough one to replace at center.

One reason Nebraska was in so many one-score games was the defense, which ranked as a top 50 unit nationally. This year their entire linebacker core comes back headlined by Garrett Nelson and Luke Reimer who led the team in sacks and tackles, respectively. That is good news. The bad news, nearly everything else departed and must be replaced.

The defensive line will be almost all new faces with a couple coming from the portal headlined Ochaun Mathis formerly of TCU. In the Big Ten West stopping the run is the main concern, and if that unit does not show up it will hurt the overall performance of this defense. A weak defensive line is something Nebraska has dealt with before, and certainly something they don't want to reappear in 2022.

Ultimately, Nebraska will need to be better in all three phases of the game in 2022. On offense, care for the football, and strong play on the line will be the deciding factor. On defense, trenches seem to be the area that needs to step up. On special teams, they need a complete overhaul as they ranked nearly dead last in all categories a season ago.

There is optimism for 2022, as there is every year, but real change has to be shown before many will buy in. The schedule is a little easier, and if they get some bounces to go their way a winning season and bowl bid are possible. If it doesn't, 3-9 is possible too.