Top 25 Countdown
No. 21 Nebraska
• Last Season: 9-4 (defeated Clemson in the Gator Bowl).
• Returning Starters: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense).
• Key Game: at Kansas, Nov. 14.
Why They're Worth Watching
In a conference that has put a premium on offensive production, the Cornhuskers have a sturdy defense. Last season, Nebraska ranked second in the Big 12 and 55th nationally in total defense, allowing 349.9 yards per game. It starts up front for the Cornhuskers. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had 19 tackles for a loss last season, is a force in the middle of a solid line. Strong safety Larry Asante (Hayfield High), who has made 22 consecutive starts, is a presence in the secondary.
Player to Watch
Ndamukong Suh, Sr., DT
To illustrate how valuable Suh was to Nebraska last season, consider that he led the team in sacks (7 1/2 ) and also tied for the lead in interceptions (two). The senior is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2010 draft.
Why They're Vulnerable
The Cornhuskers' offense is a concern, particularly at quarterback. With the departure of Joe Ganz, Nebraska was in search of a successor. But there was a twist last spring: Patrick Witt, the most experienced backup, announced he was transferring. Now the Cornhuskers will turn to junior Zac Lee, who has thrown two passes in his career. Making that transition more difficult, Nebraska has to replace top wide receivers Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. With such transition on offense, the Cornhuskers could struggle against a schedule that includes a trip to Virginia Tech and home games against Big 12 South opponents Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
-- Mark Viera