Nebraska opens its 120th season of college football this weekend at Memorial Stadium, taking on the Florida Atlantic Owls. The matchup pits two teams that each finished the 2008 season on a high note.
Nebraska won its final four games, and six of its last seven to finish with a 9-4 record in Bo Pelini’s first season as head coach. Florida Atlantic finished with a similar flurry, winning six of its final seven contests to finish the year with a 7-6 record. The Owls are in just their ninth season of football, but enter the 2009 season having won bowl games in each of the past two seasons.
Florida Atlantic is the first of three Sun Belt Conference opponents that will visit Memorial Stadium in September. The Huskers will also entertain Sun Belt members Arkansas State (Sept. 12) and Louisiana-Lafayette (Sept. 26).
The matchup will be the first meeting between Nebraska and Florida Atlantic. The meeting with Florida Atlantic will be the Huskers’ first against a Sun Belt Conference foe since defeating Troy at Memorial Stadium in 2006. FAU will be Nebraska’s first opponent from the state of Florida since a 2002 Rose Bowl meeting with Miami.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 10-4 record in his second season with the Huskers. Pelini guided Nebraska to nine wins in his first season as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich as the only Nebraska coaches to win nine games in their first season leading the Cornhuskers. Prior to taking over as the Huskers’ head coach, Pelini served as defensive coordinator at NU, Oklahoma and LSU. Previously, he had stints as an NFL assistant with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay.
Florida Atlantic: Howard Schnellenberger (Kentucky, ‘56) has built the Florida Atlantic football program from its infancy. Schnellenberger is the only coach in the program’s history and has a 48-48 record in eight seasons. He owns a 148-125-3 overall record as a collegiate head coach, including stops at Oklahoma, Louisville and Miami. He is 1-1 against Nebraska in his career.
· Nebraska is 817-337-40 all-time, one of just six schools with 800 all-time victories
· Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
· The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
· Nebraska’s 45 all-time bowl appearances rank fifth nationally.
· Since 1970, Nebraska has 383 wins, 27 more than any other school.
· Nebraska’s 98 football Academic All-Americans leads the nation.
· The Huskers have had 106 All-Americans in school history.
Nebraska looks to Build on Season-Opening Win Streak
Nebraska enters this weekend’s season opener with victories in each of its past 23 season openers. The Huskers’ streak leads the nation, bettering Florida’s 19 straight victories. NU’s last loss in a season opener was a 17-13 setback against Florida State at Memorial Stadium in 1985.
· NU has won each of the 23 games by at least 10 points, and has scored at least 40 points in 16 of the 23 games, including the last three seasons.
· The Cornhuskers have limited the opponent to 14 points or less 15 times in the winning streak.
· Nebraska is 88-26-5 all-time in season openers. The 2009 season
· marks the 10th straight year Nebraska has opened with a home game.
Sunshine State Visitor
Florida Atlantic will be the first team from the state of Florida to visit Memorial Stadium since Central Florida played in Lincoln in 1997. Saturday’s game also marks the Huskers’ first game against an opponent from Florida since a loss to Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl.
Nebraska is 6-2 all-time at home against teams from the state of Florida. That record includes a 2-2 mark against Florida State, a 3-0 record against Miami and the 1997 win over Central Florida.
The Sun Belt Moves North
Lincoln, Nebraska is not regulary considered part of the Sun Belt, but at least for the month of September that will change. Three members of the Sun Belt Conference will visit Memorial Stadium in September, including Florida Atlantic this weekend. Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette will also travel to Lincoln to meet the Huskers during non-conference play.
Nebraska owns a 6-0 all-time record against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. The Huskers are 4-0 against Troy and 1-0 against both North Texas and Middle Tennessee.
The Huskers are scheduled to play Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt in 2010.
Nebraska Carries Win Streak into 2009
Nebraska finished 5-1 in the second half of the 2008 regular season, a vast improvement over a 1-5 record in the final six games of 2007. Nebraska’s only loss in the second half of 2008 was on the road against BCS Championship game participant Oklahoma. Nebraska added a 26-21 victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl to secure a 6-1 finish to the 2008 season.
· NU’s second-half record in 2008 was the best seven-game finish to a season for Nebraska since 1999, when NU was also 6-1. Nebraska was one of only 16 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision to win six of its final seven games last season.
· Just 12 teams carry a winning streak of at least four games into the 2009 season, including only seven with winning streaks longer than NU’s four-game streak.
· Nebraska will face two other teams with very strong finishes during non-league play. Florida Atlantic also won six of its last seven games last season, while Virginia Tech carries a four-game winning streak into this week’s season opener against Alabama.