Date with CU: Sept. 8, 1:30 p.m. MT, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Head coach: Scott Frost, 1st year (19-7 career)
Series: Nebraska leads 49-18-2
Cornhuskers in 2017: 4-8, 3-6 in Big Ten
Returning starters: 14 – 6 on offense, 8 on defense
Offensive players to watch: RB Greg Bell, Jr. (two-time first-team junior college all-American at Arizona Western C.C.); RB Tre Bryant, Jr. (51 att., 299 yards, 2 TD in two games before ACL injury); G/C Tanner Farmer, Sr. (two-year starter at right guard); G Jerald Foster, Sr. (started all 12 games); QB Tristan Gebbia, Fr.; QB Adrian Martinez, Fr.; WR Stanley Morgan, Sr. (61 catches, 986 yards, 10 TD); WR/KR JD Spielman, So. (55 catches, 830 yards, 2 TD; 24.8 avg. on kickoff returns, 1 TD); RB Mikale Wilbon, Sr. (88 att., 379 yards, 6 TD).
Defensive players to watch: DE Freedom Akinmoladun, Sr. (24 tackles, 1 sack); DE Carlos Davis, Jr. (42 tackles, 2.5 sacks); OLB Luke Gifford, Sr. (39 tackles, 5 TFL, 1.5 sacks); ILB Will Honas, Jr. (JUCO transfer; 96 tackles, 2 INT last year); CB Lamar Jackson, Jr. (38 tackles, 3 PBU); NG Mick Stoltenberg, Sr. (33 tackles, 4 TFL); SS Aaron Williams, Sr. (48 tackles, 2 INT); ILB Dedrick Young, Sr. (80 tackles, 4 TFL).
Notable: Colorado and Nebraska will be meeting for the first time since 2010, when both were in the Big 12. … Nebraska had a streak of nine consecutive bowl seasons come to an end last year. … During the last three years, the Cornhuskers are 19-19 overall and 12-14 in the Big Ten. … In 11 years as a coach, including nine as an assistant, Frost’s teams have a combined 122-25 record with at least nine wins in 10 of those seasons. … Five returning offensive linemen started at least four games in 2017. … Bell ran for 2,404 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry in junior college. … Morgan set a school record in receiving yards and came within 14 yards of posting the first 1,000-yard season in Nebraska history. … Defensively, the Huskers had just 14 sacks (ranking 119th nationally) and produced only 12 turnovers (115th).
A busy offseason on the college football coaching carousel has led to some very intriguing teams to watch this season.
There may not be a more anticipated new hire than at Nebraska, however.
Former Cornhuskers quarterback Scott Frost returned to Lincoln this offseason to take the reins of a once-proud program that is coming off its worst season in over 50 years.
Frost’s first season with the Huskers will include the renewal of an old rivalry with the Colorado Buffaloes, on Sept. 8. This month, Buffzone.com is previewing each of Colorado’s opponents, with this installment focusing on Nebraska, which went 4-8 a year ago under Mike Riley.
The hiring of Frost has been a huge jolt for the fan base, which has spent the offseason celebrating his homecoming. A native of Lincoln, Frost quarterbacked the Cornhuskers to their last national title, in 1997.
Last year – just his second as a head coach – Frost led Central Florida to a 13-0 record. Two years earlier, the Knights went 0-12. Naturally, the Husker faithful are envisioning the same type of turnaround from Frost in Lincoln.
Playing in the Big Ten, Nebraska may not experience the same, dramatic resurgence as UCF did, but the tools are in place for Frost to make the Huskers better.
“The team we were coaching before this probably didn’t click until fall camp of year two,” Frost told local media after Nebraska’s spring game. “I hope it happens sooner than that here, but that’s really when two years of work with (strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval) in the weight room kind of took hold; that’s when two years of recruiting helped supplement our team; that’s two years of being in our culture, two years of figuring out how to play as a team and care about each other.
“Nothing happens overnight or at the flip of a switch, but you can just feel it coalescing and coming together. I think it’ll happen faster here from a culture standpoint, because the guys are so hungry to do it, but the rest of it is still going to take time, and we’ll see when it all comes together and pops.”
Nebraska’s entire coaching staff followed Frost from UCF, including defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and offensive coordinator Troy Walters (who coached receivers at CU from 2013-15).
Staff continuity should help the Cornhuskers, who have 14 returning starters and one of the best receivers in the country: senior Stanley Morgan.
Nebraska, however, has to rebuild a defense that was one of the worst in the country last year, yielding 36.4 points and 436.2 yards per game.
The Cornhuskers also need to find a quarterback. They will go into the season with no experience at the position, and it could be redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and true freshman Adrian Martinez battling for the job in the fall.
An early enrollee in January, Martinez wasn’t perfect in the spring game, but accounted for four touchdowns and generated some excitement.
“The one thing that really impresses me is his composure as an 18-year-old that should still be in high school to come out and do some good things,” Frost said at the time.
Frost won’t get too excited just yet, though. He knows there’s a lot of work to be done, and a difficult Big Ten schedule – including road trips to Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State – to get through.
For now, however, Nebraska appears to be on the right track.
“It’s the first step in a journey for us,” Frost said in the spring. “I think the guys have come a long way already.”