Five Straight Night Games
Perhaps Nebraska should be flattered that all five football games where a start time is known in 2014 will be night games. The Huskers last experienced that in 2006 which might have been considered the best regular season Nebraska had under coach Bill Callahan. Callahan's team went 4-1 over the night game stretch with the only loss to a top 5 USC team as the visitor. Like this year, three of the five games were on the road and three of the five were against conference foes.
There were differences though. The 2006 Huskers had a returning starter in Zac Taylor at quarterback who had led the team in total offense and already had the most prolific passing season in school history including a game where he'd topped 400 passing yards and another close to it in 2005. Taylor would go on to be the Big 12 offensive player of the year in 2006. No one is forecasting that kind of season for Tommy Armstrong in 2014.
Both teams had standout defensive ends returning. For the 2006 squad it was Adam Carriker and this year's Husker team features Randy Gregory. Maurice Purify emerged as a playmaking receiver that year. While physically different, his impact was similar to Kenny Bell. Brandon Jackson emerged at running back, though expectations are probably higher for Ameer Abdullah this year.
The difficulty of the five game stretches might be different too. A game at USC in 2006 would be seen as almost unwinnable for any team. A game at Michigan State will be very difficult, but not nearly as intimidating. Nebraska was facing a team that had beaten them in 2005 when they hosted Kansas. No team on this year's schedule beat NU a year ago, though Miami holds serve from the last meeting (the 2002 Rose Bowl).
There's a good argument to be made that NU will benefit from all of these prime time outings. The Huskers climbed to their best ranking of the year by the end of their five game stretch in 2006. Things got worse when they allowed Texas to escape with a victory right after the streak of night games ended and then ran out of gas defensively (recall Kevin Cosgrove was the defensive coordinator) against Oklahoma State the next Saturday afternoon.
Five straight night games is neither unprecedented nor impossible to navigate. The 2006 squad was Callahan's only division champion. If the Huskers duplicate that feat, that might be enough to surpass expectations by many of where NU was going to finish in Big Ten West standings.