It’s been a while since the Nebraska Cornhuskers were a national powerhouse and head coach Bo Pelini knows it. It’s been 15 years since the once formidable Cornhuskers won a conference title. With just 12 returning starts, five on offense and seven on defense, Nebraska will hope to end their conference title drought.
Coming off a 6-6 finish in 2013, it looked like the Florida Atlantic Owls had something solid to build off of heading into 2014. However, with just 11 total starters returning and a new head coach, the 2014 season might, in fact, be a step back from what had been accomplished last season.
Nebraska is starting a season without quarterback Taylor Martinez for the first time in what seems like forever. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. will look to fill in for the graduated dual-threat QB and he will do so with some experience already under his belt. Armstrong Jr. finished the 2013 season with 966 pass yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions in eight starts last season. With another year under his belt, he will be much more prepared to make an impact. He will have the luxury of having top wide out Kenny Bell to toss the ball to. Bell finished the 2013 season with just 52 catches for 577 yards and four scores, however. Don’t forget the run game behind monster back Ameer Abdullah who is good for at least 1,000 yards every year.
Florida Atlantic has some solid talent on offense despite returning just five starters. Dual-threat junior quarterback Jaquez Johnson will look to improve on his passing numbers from last year as he had just 1,876 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air while also leading the team in rushing with an impressive 772 yards and 10 touchdowns. Johnson has two solid wide outs returning in William Dukes, 35 catches for 553 yards, and Jenson Stoshak, 23 catches for 298 yards. Jay Warren is the only returning running back with any real experience as he rushed for 340 yards in 10 games last season while making three starts.
Defensively, the Owls were one of the best units in the nation, surprisingly. The Owls ranked second in the entire nation against the pass while ranking 26th in scoring defense and 11th in total defense. Nebraska, on the other hand, was not as impressive. The Cornhuskers return seven starters to a defense that ranked 50th in scoring and 40th in total yards allowed per game.
Florida Atlantic will travel to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network.
PREDICTION: Florida Atlantic 10, Nebraska 42
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.