year one under Matt Rhule

Year One Under Matt Rhule: How Will It Go? Part 1

The 2023 season is almost here! After a long offseason, the first year of the Matt Rhule era is about to be underway in Lincoln.

After a rough five straight losing seasons under former head coach Scott Frost, there is hope that the Cornhuskers can get to that six-win threshold and get into bowl eligibility.

At the last two stops for Coach Rhule, it took a couple of years to get those teams to bowl games and compete for conference championships. Year one at both Temple (2-10 in 2013) and Baylor (1-11 in 2017) were rough starts.

Is Nebraska at that level where they were when Coach Rhule got there? No, Nebraska has a big amount of players returning for another year. Those that aren’t were replaced by transfer portal commits and from the 2023 recruiting class.

With all of that out of the way, here is my 2023 Nebraska Football game-by-game prediction.

Year One Under Matt Rhule: How Will It Go? Part 1

Week One

Who: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Where: Huntington Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

When: Thu, Aug. 31 at 7:00 p.m. FOX

Coach Rhule doesn’t have the easiest start to his first year at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers go on the road to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are coming off a solid 9-4 season in 2022.

Golden Gophers’ Head Coach P.J. Fleck is coming into his seventh season in Minneapolis and he should have this Gopher football team competing for the Big Ten West once again.

The quarterback battle between Gophers’ quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and Huskers’ quarterback Jeff Sims should be interesting to watch. It will also be interesting to watch how the Minnesota offense handles going against Coach Tony White’s 3-3-5 defense.

This should be an excellent way to start week one and should be a close game all the way. With that being said, I think Nebraska can get the victory against Minnesota and start off the 2023 season in the right direction.

Prediction: Nebraska (1-0): 31 Minnesota: 28

Week Two

Who: Colorado Buffaloes

Where: Folsom Field (Boulder, Colorado)

When: Sat, Sept. 9 at 11:00 a.m. FOX

This week two matchup is a big one. The return of a historic and heated rivalry. New Colorado Buffaloes Head Coach Deion Sanders’ first home game.

A lot is riding on this matchup for both sides. For Nebraska, it’s important to win a rivalry game, especially of one of this magnitude. For Colorado, it’s the same reasons and it being Coach Sanders’ first home game is important.

Colorado has a lot of turnover from only a season ago, with over 70 players transferring out of the program since the beginning of 2022. Coach Sanders’ has done a good job of bringing talent, especially in the transfer portal.

There is another great quarterback battle with Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders against Sims. Another intriguing thing is with Travis Hunter for Colorado.

This game will be close and I think it will come down to whether Nebraska’s defense can shut down Colorado’s defense. Nebraska’s defense will be up to the task and the Huskers will leave Boulder with a two-score victory.

Prediction: Nebraska (2-0): 35 Colorado: 24

Week Three

Who: Northern Illinois Huskies 

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska) 

When: Sat, Sept. 16 6:30 p.m. FS1

Coach Rhule finally gets his home debut in the third week of the season. The Northern Illinois Huskies come to Lincoln for the third time since 2017.

Northern Illinois returns senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi for another season. Lombardi only played in four games before suffering a season-ending injury.

The Huskies also return a decent amount of talent for another season as well. They include junior wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph, senior offensive lineman Nolan Potter, and junior defensive lineman Devonte O’Malley

Northern Illinois poses a challenge for the Huskers but the Huskies will have to stay close with Nebraska through the entire game to have a chance. 

With that being said, Nebraska will just be too much for Northern Illinois and the Huskers get a good win in Coach Rhule’s first home game. 

Prediction: Nebraska (3-0): 42 Northern Illinois: 21

Week Four

Who: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska)

When: Sat, Sep 23 TBA

Louisiana Tech has come to Lincoln for the first time since 2006. The week four matchup could be a trap game for Nebraska. It can’t be overlooked with a huge matchup versus Michigan in the next week. 

Lousiana Tech brought in junior quarterback transfer Hank Bachmeier from Boise State. The Bulldogs also return senior wide receiver Smoke Harris, who caught 65 passes for 635 yards and five touchdowns. 

Despite this game possibly being a trap game, Nebraska should be able to care of business. As long as they can slow down Louisiana Tech’s potentially explosive offense, Nebraska will win the game. 

Prediction: Nebraska (4-0): 38 Louisiana Tech: 21

Week Five

Who: Michigan Wolverines

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska)

When: Sat, Sep. 23 11:00 a.m. FOX

The hype in Cornhusker Nation will be real as a top-five team will be in town to take on an undefeated Nebraska team. Unfortunately, the Michigan Wolverines are primed for another Big Ten Championship. 

The Wolverines return their best offensive contributors with junior quarterback JJ McCarthy and senior running back Blake Corum. Alongside Corum, junior running back Donovan Edwards. Together those make up one of the best backfields in the country. 

After losing in the College Football Playoff last season, Michigan still has something to prove to win a national championship

It will be tough for Nebraska to pull off the upset, even being at home. The Huskers just don’t have enough to take down the Wolverines.  

Prediction: Nebraska (4-1): 17 Michigan: 38 

Week Six

Who: Illinois Fighting Illini

Where: University of Illinois Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Illinois)

When: Fri., Oct. 6, 7:00 p.m. FS1

After a rough matchup with the Wolverines, Nebraska has a shortened week for their face-off against Illinois on a Friday night. 

Illinois had an impressive season last year, finishing 8-5 and second in the Big Ten West. They also had the No. 1 scoring defense in the country last season. 

Unfortunately, Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters took the job at Purdue and lost a few starters to the NFL over the offseason. Despite this, 10 out of the 12 returning starters are All-B1G caliber and with a wide-open west division, Illinois could make some noise. 

Illinois’s defense will make things difficult for a Nebraska team that’s coming off a tough loss the week before. With this game being on a Friday night, it will work to Illinois’ advantage and will send Nebraska into the bye week with a loss. 

Prediction: Nebraska (4-2): 17 Illinois: 27

Bye Week

The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for Nebraska, especially after losing two straight. This will allow the Huskers to recover and get ready for an interesting second half of the season. 

Main Image: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

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