If you're keeping track, the streak is at five. Nebraska has won nine or more games in five straight seasons since Bo Pelini took over as coach. The number matters because nine wins was the longtime standard: The Huskers won that many for 33 straight years between 1969 and 2001, setting an NCAA record. Can NU do it again in 2013? It looks possible. The Huskers play their first five games at home and don't start seeing their toughest Big Ten opponents until November.
Nine wins would also extend the Huskers' bowl streak to six and maybe put them in the hunt for a second straight Legends Division title. Maybe.
Aug. 31: vs. Wyoming
7 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, BTN
No speed limit: Nebraska came out firing on most cylinders last season, putting up 632 yards and 49 points against Southern Mississippi. This is an even more polished and experienced offensive unit, so Wyoming will have its hands full slowing the Huskers, especially since the Cowboys ranked 106th in total defense last season. And: NU has scored at least 40 points in seven straight season-opening games.
Obey the signs: This will be the unveiling of a rebuilt Nebraska defense, so nobody knows exactly what to expect from a Blackshirt unit that is replacing seven starters. Wyoming was OK offensively last season (390.6 yards per game) and returns third-year starter Brett Smith at quarterback, so it could cause some problems. But the Cowboys will have to find a way to control the clock and tempo — as head coach Dave Christensen takes over the play-calling duties — and keep its own defense off the field as much as possible.
The score: Nebraska 44, Wyoming 17
Sept. 7: vs. Southern Mississippi
5 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, BTN
No speed limit: Southern Miss allowed 34 or more points to nine of 12 opponents in 2012, including Nebraska. Is it going to happen again? Maybe, if the Eagles can't shore up a once-proud defense that allowed 426.5 yards per game and 6.1 per play last fall. Their bigger problems might be on offense, however, considering the lack of play-makers and a unit that scored more than 24 points just twice a year ago.
Obey the signs: Best not to fall asleep on the Eagles, who won a Conference USA championship in 2011 and still have some players left on the roster from that 12-win team. Southern Miss was one of the nation's most solid non-BCS programs for a long stretch, when it built a reputation for going anywhere and playing anyone. Remember what happened in Lincoln in 2004?
Where it all leads: Nobody knew Southern Miss was headed for an 0-12 season last year when Nebraska punished the Eagles 49-20 in Lincoln, so that victory started to lose a little luster as the weeks wore on. This one was supposed to be played in Hattiesburg, and the change only makes the task that much harder for first-year coach Todd Monken. Look for the Nebraska defense to build a little confidence before UCLA comes to town.
The score: Nebraska 40, Southern Mississippi 10
Sept. 14: vs. UCLA
11 a.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, ABC
No speed limit: This is the first significant test for Nebraska's defense, which should put a few better athletes on the field than it did last year in Pasadena but also several who haven't yet played in this type of game. The speed and ability, however, will be necessary to counter what UCLA is capable of doing after averaging 466.5 yards per game last season. The Huskers know they can move the ball on the Bruins, but it will take a cleaner and more consistent effort if this game is another close one.
Obey the signs: UCLA returns quarterback Brett Hundley and six other starters from the offense that torched the Huskers for 653 yards in a 36-30 win last September in the Rose Bowl. Hundley was just a redshirt freshman making his second career start in that one and is now a year further along in head coach Jim Mora's system. A good number of NU fans are predicting a 7-0 record heading into November, but this is the one that reminds you to tap the brakes a little first.
Where it all leads: Nebraska has lost two of its past three against Pac-12 teams and is just 4-6 against BCS teams from outside the Big Ten and Big 12 during the Bo Pelini era (including bowls and regular-season nonconference games). For a program struggling to take that next step, there might be a little “must-win” feel attached to this one. And that's something else to watch.
The score: Nebraska 34, UCLA 30
Sept. 21: vs. South Dakota State
TBA, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, TBD
No speed limit: Nebraska put up at least 435 total yards on 12 of 14 opponents last season — including Georgia, Ohio State and Wisconsin twice — so the deck will be stacked against the Football Championship Subdivision opponent coming down I-29. The biggest adjustment for SDSU is the speed it just doesn't see week to week at its own level. The Husker engine should be humming by this point, and it might be an opportunity to look at some backups should all go well.
Obey the signs: As much as it appears a mismatch on paper, it doesn't take a long memory to recall that SDSU gave the Huskers all they wanted just three seasons ago. The Jackrabbits outschemed NU and seriously flustered Taylor Martinez in a game that was in doubt until late (Nebraska won 17-3). And SDSU is picked second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference behind defending FCS national champion North Dakota State.
Where it all leads: Nebraska can't afford any kind of letdown if it happens to be coming off a win over UCLA and with a bye week on deck. And if this team is serious about pushing its way back toward the Top 10, fooling around at all with the Jackrabbits would not be advisable.
The score: Nebraska 53, South Dakota State 7
Oct. 5: vs. Illinois
11 a.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, TBD
No speed limit: The Illini, playing NU for the first time as a Big Ten opponent, have been somewhat of a train wreck after starting 6-0 in 2011 (3-18 record since, coaching change, no Big Ten wins). If the NU defense is struggling at all heading into Big Ten play, Illinois might have trouble testing it after barely scratching together 1,000 total yards over its last four games of 2012. You'll know more about the Illini after September games at Cincinnati and with Washington in Chicago.
Obey the signs: Illinois is expecting some kind of offensive turnaround with eight returning starters. One requirement will be better health for quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, the former Husker recruiting target who led the Illini to bowl wins after both his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Illini are installing a new system under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, but NU will have four games to study as well as a bye week before the Big Ten opener.
Where it all leads: Nothing is more telling for Illinois than its 1-5 record against the trio of Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana the past two seasons. The Illini are not in good shape and second-year coach Tim Beckman is hearing it, especially when rival Northwestern is winning. The schedule-makers do Nebraska a favor here after the Huskers started Big Ten play each of the past two seasons with Wisconsin.
The score: Nebraska 34, Illinois 13
Oct. 12: at Purdue
TBA, Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind., TBD
No speed limit: The Boilermakers appeared to be making some minor progress offensively as they won their last three regular-season games a year ago, but they enter this season with a new coach and very little proven talent at the skill positions. Not much to worry as the Huskers hit the road for the first time in 2013 after they won at Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa a year ago. Just a whole new place to go.
Obey the signs: Purdue didn't wow anybody with its 6-7 record last season, but it did have great shots to upset unbeatens Notre Dame and Ohio State — and both on the road. That alone should have the Huskers' attention as they take on a program that is 7-9 in Big Ten play the past two years. the Boilermakers might have a new attitude after the coaching change from Danny Hope to Darrell Hazell, although three of their first five games come against BCS bowl teams from 2012 (Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois).
Where it all leads: Careful before penciling in this one as a win. The Purdue defense forced 25 turnovers last season, and taking care of the football has been one of NU's ongoing issues. That Boilermaker unit also features studs at defensive tackle (Bruce Gaston) and cornerback (Ricardo Allen) among a total of eight returning starters. We'll see if the Huskers can find the right traction on the Ross-Ade Stadium grass.
The score: Nebraska 28, Purdue 23
Oct. 26: at Minnesota
TBA, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, TBD
No speed limit: The rebuilding Gophers have caused very little trouble for Nebraska since it joined the Big Ten, falling behind the Huskers 34-0 and 38-0 in their first two meetings. Last year, NU had a 306-60 edge in total offense at halftime, and Taylor Martinez picked apart Minnesota by completing 21 of 29 passes for 308 yards. The Gophers also need to weed out the mistakes that have led to Nebraska defensive touchdowns in both games.
Obey the signs: Jerry Kill is just 9-16 in two seasons, but Minnesota made progress last year with a bowl appearance and this should be his best team with 16 returning starters. (And keep in mind that Kill won 10 games in his third seasons at Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois.) The Gophers might have the ability to stay with more teams if their defense keeps improving after they ranked a respectable fifth in the Big Ten and No. 33 nationally last year by allowing 358.6 yards per game.
Where it all leads: The Gophers overhauled themselves offensively in 2012 — giving chances to a number of underclassmen — and now see if it starts paying off. It wasn't pretty when they visited Lincoln last November (177 total yards), and they managed just 54 total points in their final four regular-season games before scoring 31 on Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Nebraska will be coming off a bye for this one and catching Minnesota after back-to-back road games with Michigan and Northwestern.
The score: Nebraska 34, Minnesota 9
Nov. 2: vs. Northwestern
TBA, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, TBD
No speed limit: Nebraska's season might have turned last year on the 29-28 win at Northwestern, when it rallied from a 28-16 deficit in the final six minutes. That started a six-game winning streak that led the Huskers to their first Big Ten championship game. It also might have shown the difference between one program with a history of winning and another that is on the right path but still trying to clear the taller hurdles. Nebraska put up 543 total yards in that game to overcome three lost fumbles.
Obey the signs: Had the Wildcats held on in Evanston, Pat Fitzgerald would have been 2-0 against Nebraska and the Huskers would have been sitting at 4-3 overall. Just a reminder of how Nebraska continues to walk a precarious line — and how a Northwestern visit to Lincoln should not be taken lightly. This Wildcat bunch also happens to feature 15 returning starters, and Fitzgerald is getting preseason love as a possible Big Ten coach of the year candidate.
Where it all leads: The NU-NU matchup starts the November meat grinder that should determine just how far the Huskers go. This has the makings of a fun one, with two flammable offenses and a host of playmakers. The determining factor might be which defense is further along at this point in the season, something that's hard to predict in August.
The score: Nebraska 38, Northwestern 28
Nov. 9: at Michigan
TBA, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich., TBD
No speed limit: If all goes well, Nebraska could be headed to Ann Arbor with an 8-0 record and a rather lofty perch in the Top 25. And if that does happen, the Huskers will have the kind of momentum that could lead to success at Michigan Stadium. And how hard will the Wolverines be to defend? That's hard to say after a transition year with quarterbacks in which they finished the season ranked No. 78 nationally in total offense and now have some question marks at other skill positions.
Obey the signs: Nebraska would be advised to forget what happened two years ago at Michigan Stadium, when it melted down with poor defense and turnovers in a 45-17 loss. And although NU has won in some tough places, it has been outscored 156-72 combined in its first Big Ten trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State. Better get that solved — and fast.
Where it all leads: Although Northwestern and Michigan State will have a say, this one could determine who's in the driver's seat in the Legends Division. And you'd better believe the Wolverines will be motivated to reach the Big Ten championship game after missing the first two. If the teams turn out to be pretty even, don't underestimate the role that coaching might play with three of the highest-paid coordinators in the league involved.
The score: Michigan 26, Nebraska 23
Nov. 16: vs. Michigan State
TBA, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, TBD
No speed limit: Nebraska is 2-0 against Michigan State as Big Ten foes, beating the Spartans 24-3 with a stifling defensive performance in 2011 and then a gutsy 28-24 comeback win on the road in '12. The Spartans go into this season with concerns about their quarterback play.TBD
Obey the signs: It's possible that nobody on the Huskers' schedule will be as well-equipped to slow them down as the Spartans, who ranked No. 4 nationally in total defense and No. 9 in scoring defense last year. NU will need to stay ahead of the chains on first and second down because Michigan State is nails on third down (allowing just a 30.5 percent conversion rate last season), and turnovers easily could come into play if the Huskers have to gamble at all.TBD
Where it all leads: Nebraska would set the tone from the start if it could somehow mimic that 2011 defensive effort in Lincoln (187 total yards, four sacks), but that unit also featured Lavonte David, Alfonzo Dennard, Baker Steinkuhler, Will Compton, Eric Martin and others. The Spartans are pretty solid everywhere and return 15 starters, but success might hinge on improvement at quarterback. With a bye week after hosting rival Michigan, they should be locked in for NU. TBD
The score: Nebraska 28, Michigan State 13
Nov. 23: at Penn State
TBA, Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa., TBD
No speed limit: Nebraska used an overpowering second half to bounce back from a 20-6 deficit and beat the Nittany Lions 32-23 last year in Lincoln. The Huskers rolled up 250 total yards after halftime against the Big Ten's fourth-ranked defense. Penn State starts the season with a new quarterback, and Nebraska will look to be better prepared for tailback Zach Zwinak after the junior ran for 141 yards and a touchdown on the Huskers a year ago.
Obey the signs: Penn State was one of eight teams that either led or was tied with Nebraska at halftime last season, and the Huskers managed to win five of those games. Flirting with that kind of peril again, especially on the road, easily could lead to some different results in 2013. The Lions surprised many last season with an 8-4 record under Bill O'Brien, but watch to see if they sustain that momentum or if the weight of their NCAA sanctions starts to add up.
Where it all leads: This will be the Huskers' fourth road trip in a six-game stretch, testing their mettle and their depth as the Big Ten races heat up. NU went into State College and won 17-14 in mid-November in 2011, but under perfect weather conditions and with Penn State reeling from a surreal week that included the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno. Not so easy this time around.
The score: Penn State 27, Nebraska 23
Nov. 29: vs. Iowa
11 a.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, ABC
No speed limit: The hopes of creating a Nebraska-Iowa rivalry and some post-Thanksgiving fun have been shot down by the Hawkeyes' lack of any oomph the past two seasons. It's hard to see that changing this year: Iowa has no quarterback who took a single snap last season and no real preseason All-Big Ten candidates on offense.
Obey the signs: For all of its lack of offensive punch and general mediocrity, Iowa hasn't exactly allowed NU to run away with the past two meetings (20-7 and 13-7). The Hawkeyes do have some defensive talent, led by the linebacking trio of James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey. And even if the season isn't going as they hoped, playing spoiler against the Huskers should provide a little incentive. It seemed to last November in Iowa City.
Where it all leads: It will be interesting to find out what Iowa has left after it has to play Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan in a six-game stretch before visiting Lincoln. The Hawkeyes' last seven opponents went a combined 61-31 in 2012. If that has taken its toll, the Hawkeyes won't be walking into a good situation at all, and NU might be poised to finally put a solid hurting on Kirk Ferentz's bunch.
The score: Nebraska 34, Iowa 10
Is a 6-2 Big Ten record good enough to win the Legends Division? It might hinge on that Nov. 9 game at Michigan if the head-to-head matchup ends up determining who goes to the Big Ten title game. Don’t, however, count out Northwestern or Michigan State, making the Spartans’ and Wildcats’ visits to Lincoln other big ones. If Nebraska can’t make it to Indianapolis and get its shot at a Rose Bowl bid, it should have enough wins banked to put it in the Capital One, Outback or Gator Bowl — with maybe an outside shot at a BCS bid with a 10-win season.