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Friday Night Lights, 6/22

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost (left) watches drills with Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez during Friday Night Lights in June at Memorial Stadium.

Somebody stop me. Stop the madness.

I'm seriously considering predicting an 8-4 record for the Nebraska football team this season.

But I'm also trying to talk myself out of it.

The Cranberries would hardly believe the conversations "in my head":

Think about it, amigo. You know Scott Frost is twice as good of a head coach as Mike Riley. Maybe that alone gets Nebraska from 4-8 last season to 8-4. Plus, Bob Diaco is gone. The nightmare is over, the black clouds departed. The Blackshirts should be much better with all those new faces, especially in the secondary. But most of all, Diaco is gone. An improved vibe alone might be worth a couple of wins.

Foolishness, right?

Quick, someone tell me predicting 8-4 in Frost's first year at Nebraska is venturing way too far out on a limb. Tell me that my brain is frozen from too many Frosty drinks. Tell me to slow my roll and not get caught up in August hype. 

Frost actually helped Friday with that annual occurrence.

Following the seventh practice of preseason drills, Frost said he would like to see his young quarterbacks farther ahead in their development. He was pleased with the group's progress during the spring, but progress didn't necessarily continue into preseason camp, at least not at a level Frost desires.

Do I really think Nebraska's going to go 8-4 against that schedule with a freshman (most likely Adrian Martinez or Tristan Gebbia) at the controls?

Yeah, I know, true freshman QB Jake Fromm led Georgia to last season's national championship game. But he had Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, not to mention the nation's sixth-ranked defense on which to lean in times of trouble.

"Everything's just got to operate faster for them, and that'll come when they're familiar enough with the offense that it clicks in their mind faster," Frost says of his quarterbacks.

Nebraska's manageable nonconference schedule could provide a measure of comfort. Akron's defense was abysmal last season, so those nine returning starters isn't necessarily a positive for the Zips. Colorado was even worse against the run (109th nationally) than Akron (106th). Troy is arguably NU's toughest nonconference opponent.

Bottom line, if Nebraska hopes to go 8-4, it better be 3-0 before Big Ten action begins.

If Nebraska can build a 6-2 record entering its Nov. 3 game at Ohio State, 8-4 seems doable. The Buckeyes return their top seven receivers and top two running backs. If you're a Husker fan predicting an upset at the Horseshoe, you're even wackier than me.

So, say Nebraska takes a 6-3 record into its final three regular-season games: Illinois, Michigan State and Iowa on the road. C'mon, tell me 8-4 isn't in the cards in that scenario.

Someone, fast, remind me of how last season ended, of how dismal it became.

Please, someone, stifle the voices in my head: Hey, bro, remember what you were thinking last September as you watched Purdue play Michigan close in Ann Arbor? The Boilermakers were playing fast! It was astonishing. Their new head coach, Jeff Brohm, flipped that culture in a hurry. Purdue was 3-9 in 2016, then 7-6 last season with a bowl win. That's an improvement of four wins. That's what Frost is about to do at Nebraska.

Somebody save me from myself.

On the other hand, Frost often praises Nebraska strength coach Zach Duval. The Huskers will be stronger and faster, Frost says. But show me a head coach who doesn't say that this time of year.

Frost says it's important to have players who are willing to "fight and strain." (Diaco flashback!). Nebraska players too often shut it down in difficult moments last season. The culture in Riley's program fostered a soft mentality. These Huskers will be mentally tougher, but how much tougher?

Stanley Morgan does all he can in that regard -- always going full tilt, Frost says. The coach mentioned four other players who'll fight to the end: Luke Gifford, Mohamed Barry, Will Honas and Dedrick Young. The coach surely could mention others.

I'm guessing running back Tre Bryant fits that category. You saw what I saw last season before Bryant's right knee gave out. Nebraska coaches were unsure of Bryant's health status for the season, "but he's looked great in camp," Frost says.

Bryant's return to full-go, or close to it, was gigantic news last week. Meanwhile, Greg Bell and Maurice Washington could make an immediate impact.

"I think we're starting to get to a point where we have some home-run hitters in the backfield," Frost says.

That could reduce heat on the young quarterbacks.

Of course, improved defense also could help matters. Frost says he saw more interceptions and plays on the ball during the first practice this month than he saw "in five practices put together in the spring."

"I think adding some new talent in the secondary -- getting some competition back there -- along with just understanding the scheme and playing harder has led to more turnovers," Frost says.

This team will take steps forward in 2018. Colossal steps. But it's a team with 52 new players and an entirely new coaching staff, so Frost must quickly get the horses moving in the right direction. There are bound to be ugly missteps.

But come Sept. 1 against Akron, the energy along Stadium Drive will be incredible. Yeah, that energy Nebraska fans are feeling now is as real as a glass of cherry Kool-Aid. Drink it up. Nebraska will indeed finish 8-4 in the regular season, 7-5 at the worst, and it'll be cause for celebration.

Enjoy the madness.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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