Phil Steele — who produces the most exhaustive college football bible out there, a handy go-to item for sportswriters the minute it hits stands in mid-June — has predicted in his preseason rankings that Nebraska will finish No. 16.
“NU has a great shot at getting back to the Big Ten Title game,” Steele’s prediction concludes.
Some interesting notes:
>> Steele projects Vincent Valentine, Greg McMullen and Jared Afalava as redshirt freshmen starters on defense.
>> Steele projects Grand Island redshirt freshman Sam Foltz as starting punter and sophomore Mauro Bondi as starting kicker.
>> Given that Steele ranked Northwestern No. 32, Michigan No. 24 and Michigan State No. 23, Nebraska is his clear favorite to return to the Big Ten title game. And given that Penn State is No. 34 and Wisconsin is No. 20, Steele also has NU has as his No. 2 Big Ten team overall.
In my offseason top 25 — I’ll have another in early August — I ranked Nebraska No. 13, Michigan 19, and Northwestern 25. I have Michigan State just outside the top 25 around 28 or so. Wisconsin and Penn State are outside my top 30. For those believing I’m too soft on NU, recall that I ranked Nebraska No. 23 in my 2012 offseason rankings. The Huskers started last year at No. 17, but finished at No. 25.