A New Scoring Explosion, Thirty Years Later?
Those of us who starting watching Nebraska football in the mid 1970's or early 1980's can't forget the 1983 team. It was the team that didn't win the national championship despite the general consensus that they were the best team in college football. If you think people talk a lot about the 1995 squad today, that's how often you heard about the '83 team in the decade that followed their magical season. Thirty years later, are we about to see history repeat itself?
The parallels are many. The Huskers bring back a quarterback with loads of experience and accomplishments. Turner Gill was the best dual-threat quarterback Nebraska ever had. That is, until a generation of quarterbacks coached by Gill came along (Tommie Frazier, Scott Frost, and Eric Crouch). Taylor Martinez is Nebraska's all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns and appears likely to displace Eric Crouch in rushing yards by an NU quarterback.
At running back, Ameer Abdullah is a standout running back (though admittedly not yet on the level as then All-American Mike Rozier). He seems likely to be on a number of preseason all-conference teams. It's also worth noting that Abdullah was a more productive sophomore than Rozier. Wideout Kenny Bell has already surpassed the career receiving production of standout Irving Fryar. Fryar gets the edge over NU's current crop of punt returners. Abdullah and Bell get the edge returning kickoffs. Put the quarterback-running back-receiver trio together and you've got an awfully potent group in 2013, just as NU did thirty years earlier.
Despite the great season that guard Dean Steinkuhler would have in 1983, he was not even an honorable mention all-conference player prior to his senior season. In fact, none of the returning lineman for the '83 season had been honored in 1982. Nebraska brings back an all-conference guard in Spencer Long and a second-team all conference tackle in Jeremiah Sirles. Even if you still give an edge to the '83 o-line, it may not be a big one.
The '83 team struggled defensively. If we were to forecast the 2013 season, that may prove true again. The 1983 team had a favorable schedule. Only Penn State and Miami were ranked at game time, though UCLA was by season's end. There's an interesting number of common opponents for the 2013 team with the 1983 team despite the recent conference change. Both schedules featured games with Penn State, Wyoming, Minnesota, and UCLA. This year's team gets the advantage of eight home games, though a conference championship game with an 11 or 12-win Ohio State team would certainly make this year's slate tougher by contrast.
A couple of advantages for the 1983 team might be confidence and detail-orientation. That team didn't turn the ball over like recent Husker squads. They also were coming off of a season (1982) where they were also just one play (or perhaps one official's call) from a national championship. This Husker team will need to improve ball security and swagger before it's ready to be one play from a national title. Still, you should expect to see a lot of touchdowns this year.