The Best Offense in the Conference

Any discussion about offenses should start out with one most important point.  The team that scores more points wins the game, not the team with the most yards piled up.  Defense and Special Teams have to play their parts in successful seasons, but the offense that can avoid turnovers and finish drives will make the difference in the power packed Big Ten.  On most preseason lists, three offenses will be the likeliest candidates for best in the conference: Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Before any rabid fan bases complain, the Spartans and Buckeyes may not contend for the best for a couple of reasons.  Michigan State has a significant amount of experience on the line and and exceptional running back in La'Veon Bell.  But the loss of Kirk Cousins is sure to have a major impact on the offense.  Their defense and running game would be enough to win them the conference with a few things going their way, but they may not end up with the best offensive numbers.  Ohio State should also challenge with a mobile QB like Braxton Miller and the talent surrounding him, but they lost starts at the offensive line and their top running back.

To start with, everyone who follows college football has heard his nickname: Shoelace.  Denard Robinson is the main reason that Michigan is poised to be the best offense in the conference.  Mobile quarterbacks are the most difficult players to stop in college football.  But mobile quarterback who are as fast as he is can barely be touched.  In the backfield with him is Fitzgerald Toussaint, who was second to only Wisconsin's Montee Ball with 5.9 yards/carry last year.  Roy Roundtree at receiver could end up being one of the top in the country, let alone the conference.  If they can overcome the graduation of an All American Center on the line and the loss of their top receiver, this offense will continue to be explosive.

For Wisconsin, it is all about the running game.  Montee Ball is a 6.8 yards/carry running back and could end up a Heisman finalist.  The Badgers do have to replace 3 experiences players on the line, but they consistently have one of the best in the nation.  The run-oriented attack will continue to provide the power needed to get Ball back to nearly 2000 yards and his 33 touchdowns.  The only question mark would be Danny O'Brien.  He will have some success this year because of the type of line he will have and targets in Jared Abbrederis (WR) and Jacob Pederson (TE).  But his showing last year (150/266 - 56.4, 1648 yards, 7 TD, 10 int) does not inspire confidence.

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And then there are the Huskers.  Taylor Martinez is garnering much attention for his off season work in passing mechanics.  As long as the ball gets to the right player, mechanics do not matter.  If Martinez can make the right decision whether to tuck and run, throw it away, or just take a sack, he could earn Big Ten honors.  Joining him in the backfield is Mr. Consistency, Rex Burkhead.  He may not burn people for the score, but this Weeble does not fall down (except forward for more yards).  As for receiver targets, Kenny Bell (WR) returns and has popped up on some pre-season watch lists.  He was the top receiver as a freshman last year and the offense returns 7 of the 8 top receivers.  Targets like Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton make great tight end outlets.  While the line loses three starters, the players stepping into the open spots are considered very highly touted.

So which team will end up in the top spot?  I go with Nebraska for one reason only: they are the only team to return the top QB, RB, and WR of these three.  It would be difficult to see the Huskers not top last year's total yardage, especially in the passing game.  Wisconsin will absolutely have more rushing yards, but the questions at QB persist.  Michigan and Nebraska will likely end up +/- a hundred yards within each other at the end of the season for total offense, so going with Nebraska has to be a judgment call.

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Comments 15 comments so far

And since we’re from Nebraska, they get the nod. Not surprising really, but I do agree. If things gel.
It will take some doing, but they can do it. If Taylor can really and truly get his footwork and passing skills upgraded and we see a real noticeable difference, I think we may be the juggernaut of the B1G, if not the country. Heck, our running game now was 15th in the country as it is.
It all rests on Taylor Martinez, but maybe even more so, the receiving corps. Kenny Bell will have a great year, but if we really want to reach the level that we want, I think they have to successfully exploit the talents of Jamal Turner. There has got to be a wild card and he’s it. No one knows about him yet. Remember though, he is a true sophomore that didn’t get a chance to redshirt, and from the looks of things, he probably should have been. He’s young. But he is, in some minds including mine, the best open field, juke you out of your pants runner we have on the team. He’s a little like Eric Haag was…so good you have to have him on the field. We simply have to get him the ball anyway we can in the open field and let him work. Then there is Kyler Reed. Imagine if his output was the same as it was in 2010! If he does, he is one of the best TE’s in the country.
Imagine if they let Martinez loose so he can showcase his explosive running game again like early 2010, and his increased passing game is solidly there and opposing teams know it so they have to respect the pass with out multitude of passing options, and Burkhead is, well, Burkhead, and Kenny Bell is firing on all cylinders AND we have Jamal Turner having a breakout season, along with Ameer Abduhlla having a breakout year as well…wow. That is some firepower! We will not be a three headed monster like Michigan with Robinson, Roundtree and Toissoint, we will be a Quad monster with 4 or even 5 huge scoring threats. That’s explosion time.
I would also like to mention our O line should be greatly improved as well…if Cotton can take advantage of the talent he has that is. Highly questionable but how do you fire a guy who has 3 kids on the team? We’re stacked with 4 star and a 5 star talent. Rodriguez was a highly touted 5 star and there are several 4 stars coming up that will play this year. Tyler Moore is going to be the next O line All American at NU.
Should be a huge year. The nice thing is we’ve got the talent. Now comes coaching.

Since you bring up coaching, that’s one area I didn’t really discuss.  Wisconsin brings in a brand new offensive coordinator this year.  Most of the time that can mean a step back in one area, and my guess is going to be passing.  Both Michigan’s H.C. Hoke and O.C. Borges have another year in a very successful system, and year two can often mean continued or improved success.  Nebraska O.C. Beck is also entering his second year in a system and everyone should be more comfortable.  Like I said, coin flip for Mich/Neb.

Have to agree with you PE. Except I feel this years backfield will be a force to be reckoned with. We have Rex, we have Ameer, we have Taylor. But the difference this year will be Mike Marrow. He came in at 250+ and from what I hear he is down about 20lbs, still super strong, and MUCH faster than expected. Add to that the Jamal factor, a hungry for respect O line and I think we could have something special about to happen.

Ahhhhh…..the Jamal factor! I’m really hoping he breaks out this year. He’s one of the most talented athletes on the team. If we can get him on the field and the ball in his hands, and I don’t mean neccessarily catching the ball, I think ESPN highlight reels will follow. We never did get much of an explanation as to why he wsn’t used more in the second half of last season. Only that he was a little immature. He really only dropped one ball from I remember. But that highlight of him in that one game early on last year (can’t remember who against), and his highlights in the red and white Spring game, are phenominal. I mean that guy lit memorial Stadium up as a true freshman! That’s something. He’s got a way of stopping on a dime and juking the heck out of anybody that goes after him. Very exciting to watch. If we use him right, this team can really be something. I hope the coaches use him right. It seems like some programs, like Oregon, know how to debut a rising star better than us.
I never considered Marrow. He’ll be a special use type of back I think. I’d like to see Imani Cross do some things. Aaron Green is going to be sorry he left!

I think we are all in agreement here that the Husker offense is ready to explode.  We saw a taste of it in the first quarter against a strong South Carolina squad in the bowl game. If the power running game is working and Martinez hits the receivers in stride with play action passes, this offense will be a force to reckon with.


Yes, jamal is an excellent player, but he was put on bench last year cause of his attitude. Let’s hope this year brings maturity and strength, GBR!

Actually I never did read anything about an attitude problem as jay suggested but I do remember reading something saying that Jamal did not have his blocking down and his knowledge of the playbook was weak.

And to that I say “so what”! Get the guy the ball and let him score touchdowns and in the meantime work with him on that. Don’t take the guy off the field! It wasn’t a bad attitude problem, it was he wasn’t practicing as hard as he should have been, or blocking like we like to have our receivers block, or something like that. The guy has a great attitude. The object is to win.
I watched most of the Capitol One game last night. If Ameer hadn’t fumbled on the 5 yard line, we probably would have scored, making it 20-9. Then Bret missed a 35 yard field goal that would have made it 23-9. As it was, we were only down 3 points going into the 4th quarter. But we just couldn’t get anything else going offensively. Their defense was awesome and had us figured out. When I went to bed they were driving us backwards and we had to punt a few times. They were clearly a better team at that point, but it was a game going into the 4th quarter. We blew it frankly, but their D line simply overwhelmed our weak O line, and our D line couldn’t do a thing. there were several times their QB had all the time in the world and still got sacked because our secondary had the receivers locked down.

The offensive line is the key in my mind. It seems like the two bugaboos for the OL in the past several years has been depth (lack of) and injuries. It is time for Barney Cotton to start proving that he has the coaching expertise, knowledge and ability who deserves to be the OL coach at Nebraska. His OLs thus far have not lived up to the standards we had become accustomed to during those great years of the “pipeline”, where depth was never a problem, we just reloaded.

Your damn right it is. But I think Barney Cotton is NOT the guy we need frankly. There hasn’t been any progression there and we have the talent. Our line hasn’t been good at all under his direction. The D line is just as important though. Just read an article on Bleacher Report listing the top 25 D lines in the country. While we are on that list, the DE’s and DT’s that some of these teams have are monsters compared to our guys. Beasts compared to the Teddy Bears we have. When we have been at our best, we’ve had anawesome D lines and watching the Gamecocks last night (Capitol One game) they really dominated us to the point that we couldn’t do a thing.

I really do love reading articles like this to get myself pumped for the upcoming season. We return a lot of great players and get to look forward to the likes of Turner, Marrow, and Imani Cross will be fun to watch also. But when you’re talking about winning games and championships, it was our D that really dropped the ball last season. There’s no doubt we’ll be able to score points on anyone and everyone. the question is, will our defense be able to stop anybody this season? I like to be optimistic, but we have to see some results on that D line, stuff some runs and contain all of these mobile QB’s in the B1G, or we’re gonna be looking at another 9 win season. Could be worse, i guess, but we’ve got the talent to be back on top! Cheers and GBR!

Geeesh Brian….did you “have” to bring that up right in the middle of my double shot of kool-aid?

Haha….just kidding. You bet it’s a question mark. But like others, I’m betting our offense is gonna light some people up hard.

Not to worry Brian. No way Bo lets the D fall further than last year. His D was made for Big12 spread not downhill rush. Linebackers are back in the picture! And did you notice the three additional walk ons not listed on the roster are all linebackers. Mix up that blackshirt berry kool-aid!! GBR!!!

@ PE
Bo Pelini has stated that just because a player is very physically talented does not mean that they are ready to play. Obviously Bo didn’t have as much faith in Jamal as some of the other players. Maybe it was attitude, or work ethic, or maybe even just inexperience/youth that kept him off the field. Either way we have to assume that Bo Pelini knows alot more about what is going on within the program than any fan on this website. I’m sure we will see alot more of Turner in the coming years, but last year as a true freshman, he probably shouldn’t even have been playing yet, it really just burned a full year of eligibility for a kid that was a bit too small to be playing FBS football.

I have not heard Bo say that explicitly, but your right and I think a lot of people second guess Bo and Company. They do know what’s what with the players. I have often felt that we should redshirt more players but hey, fans want wins and if you’ve got a guy like Jamal Turner on your team, who is supremely talented, you want to use him. More and more freshmen seemm to be playing these days and some make huge contributions. Marcus Latimore being a prime example. Some are ready and some are not. But if this kid can light up Memorial stadium like he did, more than once btw, I’d have to say he’s ready. He was leading the team in receptions at one point, so I’d say that he was needing development, but he was ready. He showed what he could do. My only thing is he didn’t play AT ALL the second half of the season, when he clearly could have contributed. This is second guessing again, but I wonder sometimes if maybe he and Bo got into it, or other players get in Bo’s doghouse and it’s really a discipline thing.

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