Team preview: Nebraska

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(All information as of June 20, 2008)

In 1999, a down-on-its-luck Big 12 program took a chance and hired a hotshot defensive coordinator from an SEC school and gave him his first head-coaching job. That coach was raised in blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio, where he graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School and went on to a solid career as a Big Ten defensive back.

That move has worked out pretty well for Oklahoma and Bob Stoops. Nebraska fans are dreaming of similar success with Bo Pelini, who followed a spookily similar career track. Pelini, 40, is from the same hometown, went to the same high school, played free safety at Ohio State (Stoops went to Iowa) and was most recently the defensive coordinator at 2007 BCS national champion LSU (Stoops was at Florida).

The biggest difference, of course, is that Pelini worked in Lincoln before and the Huskers let him get away. He was Frank Solich's defensive coordinator in 2003, when Nebraska finished No. 1 in the country in pass-efficiency defense, No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 11 in total defense while tying a school record with 47 takeaways. When Solich was fired after a 9-3 regular season, Pelini piloted the team to a 17-3 victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl and fans serenaded the interim coach with chants of "We want Bo!"

After what he considers a token interview with former athletic director Steve Pederson, Pelini joined Stoops and directed a Sooner defense that ranked third nationally in scoring defense and sixth against the run in 2004. Les Miles plucked Pelini away from Norman in 2005 and LSU finished No. 3 in the nation in total defense in each of the past three years.