As we near the start of yet another Big Ten football season, we are going to start rolling out previews of each conference opponent the Michigan State Spartans will play this year. Big Ten SB Nation site managers (including Ryan O’Bleness from The Only Colors) have been gracious enough to provide valuable and detailed insights into their respective school they cover, though some are still working on finishing these. As a result, we will do our best to run these articles in the order they appear on the schedule, but some differences may result (such as Nebraska being published prior to Northwestern, despite NU being the season opener).
Michigan State welcomes the Nebraska Cornhuskers to Spartan Stadium for the first time since 2014. It will mark just the third time UNL has visited East Lansing since joining the conference exactly one decade ago. To help us learn more about MSU’s second conference opponent, Jon Johnston, managing editor of Corn Nation — the quintessential website for all things Nebraska — has provided in-depth answers about what to expect from the Cornhuskers in 2021.
With that introduction done, let’s jump right into it.
List your team’s key departures:
- WR Wan’Dale Robinson - do-everything guy to Kentucky
- RB Dedrick Mills, left for NFL, dependable with tough yardage (key word - “dependable”)
- Brenden Jaimes - offensive tackle to NFL
- QB Luke McCaffrey - Transferred to Louisville, then to Rice
- CB DiCaprio Bootle - very experienced, off to the NFL
List your team’s key returnees:
- QB Adrian Martinez - the ONLY experienced quarterback
- Center Cam Jurgens - this is the year he’ll figure out how to snap the ball well all of the time
- TE Austin Allen - top returning receiver
- LB/S Jojo Domann - linebacker/safety hybrid
- CB Cam Taylor-Britt
- S Deontai Williams
List a few true freshmen or transfers that will make an instant impact:
- FCS Montana wide receiver Samori Toure
- Former USC running back Markese Stepp [Editor’s Note: The same player criticized by me for recent comments using anti-gay slurs]
- Former Ohio State cornerback Tyreke Johnson
- Jaquez Yant, running back, true freshman who showed he could run over people in the spring game
- Gabe Ervin Jr, running back, because I hope he will. You get the idea we really need a running back?
Brief overview of 2021 team:
Everyone expected Scott Frost’s teams to explode, win the Big Ten West, win the Big Ten and take over the world, perhaps the universe. Frost has gone 12-20 in three years. His offenses have been inept. They turn the ball over.
Enter 2021. The defense has experience. Nine of 11 starters return, including the top eight tacklers. The defense should be pretty decent.
The offense has terrible returning production, but massive amounts of potential. The offensive line depth looks pretty decent. There are about 230 running backs and receivers, increasing the chances someone will play well. At quarterback, there is Adrian Martinez.
In 2021, Nebraska is going to do one of two things; explode or implode. There’s no middlin’ to this team. We don’t need more talent to win. We have talent enough to win the Big Ten West. The team has to mentally get itself together and if it can’t, then it will go down in flaming, horrifying glory of doom fail.
What’s your team’s biggest strength?
Nine of 11 starters return on a defense that finally has some pretty decent talent and an attitude that they’re not going to get run over anymore.
What’s your team’s biggest weakness?
Adrian Martinez is the only quarterback on the roster who has played in a college football game. If that isn’t bad enough, Marvin Scott has the most returning rushing yardage with 62.
How does your fanbase feel about your coach and his staff?
Well, 40 percent want to see him get more time because he is the favorite son. Then there is the 20 percent who have stopped caring about football. The other 40 percent hate him so much they wish the ‘90s had never happened so they never had such high hopes and dreams for football in the first place.
Who is your team’s MVP this season and why?
Adrian Martinez. He’s been blamed for everything but global warming. If he has a bad season in 2021, he’ll be blamed for that as Scott Frost’s seat heats up.
I believe he’ll have an exceptional season. He has athletes all around him. It’s time for him to become the winner Nebraskans want and need.
Predict your team’s record, its best win, and a potential surprise loss:
Record: 10-2. Yes, I am an eternally optimistic homer who is forever disappointed. I’m still glad the ‘90s happened, though, so not all is lost.
Nebraska somehow beats Oklahoma, then loses to Ohio State, and Iowa. Iowa is the horrifying, surprise loss.
What else should we know about your team this year?
If Nebraska somehow loses to Illinois, count on the entire state of Nebraska not giving a single shit about football ever again or until Scott Frost is set on fire and fans get to fuel the flames with paper listing his false promises of glory.
It sounds like Nebraska may be in for a key season of proving it on the field in the Scott Frost era. Thank you to Jon for giving us a great picture on the Huskers. You can follow Corn Nation on Twitter here, which is mostly tweets by Jon, though not always.