Huskers Taylor-made for Big Ten

Taylor Martinez has the potential to put up big-time numbers in the Big Ten next season. Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire

We often don't know about a coach's greatness until he reaches a point where he has to adapt his team to a new environment.

Take Bill Parcells and the New York Giants. From 1984 to '88, Parcells went with a pass-heavy offense led by quarterback Phil Simms as a strategy to exploit the weakness of the passing defense of the Giants' top threat in the NFC, the Chicago Bears.

Fast-forward to 1990. By this time, the Giants' offensive personnel had changed and so had the NFC. Simms was still a great quarterback, but New York's offensive line had become one of the best run-blocking groups in the league. In addition, the San Francisco 49ers had taken over as the best team in the conference, and they had an offense good enough to beat any team in a shootout.

As a result, Parcells adjusted to a power running-focused offense, which ended up being a key reason the Giants won a classic 15-13 NFC championship tilt over the Niners.

Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini is in a similar boat heading into the 2011 college football season. His team is going from the Big 12, whose defenses were run at more often than in any other BCS automatic-qualifying conference, to the Big Ten, whose defenses were run at the least among all BCS conferences. The Big Ten also allowed the second-highest yards per pass attempt (7.0) of any of the BCS leagues (see tables below).

In other words, Big Ten offenses last year found that the best way to attack Big Ten defenses was through the air (running less and passing more), and they found good success while doing so (high YPA numbers). On the surface, this looks to pose a problem for the Huskers, who boasted an exceptional running game in 2010 (ninth in the nation in rushing yards per game) and a limited passing game (113th in passing yards per game). The team seems to have acknowledged its need to adjust the offensive playbook, as new Huskers offensive coordinator Tim Beck has indicated he will operate an offense that aims to attack defensive weaknesses.

The better news for the team is that a metric and tape review shows Nebraska has the majority of the personnel needed to make that change -- and it all starts with redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez.