Year One Under Matt Rhule: How Will it Go? Part 2

As we inch closer to the 2023 season, the hopes of a successful season increase for Cornhusker nation.

The Nebraska football team has six straight weeks before going into the bye week. Including big games against Colorado, Michigan, and even Illinois. The bye couldn’t come at a better time.

Looking back at my prediction in part one, Nebraska will start 4-0 before going into week five against Michigan. Nebraska will lose against the Wolverines and then drop another game to Illinois in a shortened week in week six.

Here is the second-half prediction for the 2023 season.

Year One Under Matt Rhule (Part 2)

Week Eight

Who: Northwestern Wildcats

When: Sat., Oct 21 TBA

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska)

The Cornhuskers return from their bye week to take on the Northwestern Wildcats at home. Nebraska is also set to wear their 100th year of Memorial Stadium throwback jerseys.

Northwestern shocked the Huskers last year in the Aer Lingus Classic in Dublin 31-28 in their only win in 2022. Which would eventually lead to the firing of former head coach Scott Frost.

Over the off-season, Northwestern dealt with allegations within the football program and it led to the firing of Pat Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was heading into his 18th season as the head coach and he also played in Evanston as well.

Offensive Coordinator David Braun was elevated as interim head coach for the 2023 season and he inherits a program that has a lot to improve upon.

The 2023 season will be a rebuilding year and a season to allow Braun and Northwestern to pick up the pieces after a tough offseason.

Nebraska will be the outright better team in the week eight matchup and they will improve to 5-2 on the season.

Prediction: Nebraska (5-2): 45 Northwestern: 17

Week Nine

Who: Purdue Boilermakers

When: Sat., Oct. 28 TBA

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska)

The Purdue Boilermakers come into town to take on Nebraska during homecoming weekend.

The Boilermakers got the best of the Huskers last season, winning 43-37 in a shootout. The 2023 Purdue Boilermakers will look a lot different than the 2022 team.

Former Head Coach Jeff Brohm left for Louisville over the offseason and Ryan Walters was hired as the next head coach. Walters was the defensive coordinator for Illinois, who had the No. 1 scoring defense last season.

Purdue lost quarterback Aiden O’Connell to the NFL but replaced him with Hudson Card, a transfer from Texas. They also return sophomore running back Devin Mockobee, who rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown against the Huskers in 2022.

There is a lot up in the air for the Boilermakers, especially regarding how their offense will look with a lot of new faces.

With that being said, Nebraska gets the best of their talent on the roster and the Huskers get a victory on homecoming weekend.

Just like that, Nebraska is bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2016 season.

Prediction: Nebraska (6-2): 28 Purdue: 24

Week 10

Who: Michigan State Spartans

When: Sat., Nov. 4 TBA

Where: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, Michigan)

Nebraska goes back on the road to a tough environment up in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State is coming off a very disappointing campaign in 2022, after going 11-2 in the season prior.

Head Coach Mel Tucker is coming into his fourth season at Michigan State and will be looking to improve from a 5-7 record last season.

Over the offseason, the Spartans lost a two-year starter, junior quarterback Payton Thorne, and junior wide receiver Keon Coleman to the transfer portal. Thorne is expected to be replaced by junior Noah Kim to lead the Spartans offense in 2023. Junior running back Jalen Berger is back for another season and will be a player to watch on the offense.

This game will be a tough matchup for Nebraska, especially being on the road. It will come down to this. Can the offense get things going and can the defense play well?

Nebraska will be coming off a tough win at home against Purdue and this game has “trap game” written all over it. With that in mind, Nebraska will drop this game and fall to 6-3 on the season.

Prediction: Nebraska (6-3): 24 Michigan State: 27

Week 11

Who: Maryland Terrapins

When: Sat., Nov 11 TBA

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska)

The Cornhuskers return home after a rough loss to Michigan State. The question will be asked, How can they rebound after that?

Well, Nebraska gets to host the Maryland Terrapins, who return one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Taulia Tagovailoa, a senior quarterback, is the younger brother of former Alabama Crimson Tide and current Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The younger Tagovailoa is coming off an All-B1G season and is on the Maxwell Award watchlist.

Terrapins also brought in Kevin Sumlin as offensive coordinator, which helped bring their offense to the next level.

With Tagovailoa with the potential of an All-B1G season once again, Maryland poses an interesting challenge for Coach Rhule and Nebraska.

With it being at home for Nebraska, in front of over 85,000 fans, it will be a difficult challenge for the Terrapins. Despite this, Nebraska will struggle against an athletic Maryland Terrapins team and fall to 6-4

Prediction: Nebraska (6-4): 24 Maryland: 31

Week 12

Who: Wisconsin Badgers

When: Sat., Nov. 18 TBA

Where: Camp Randall Stadium (Madison, Wisconsin)

Matt Rhule vs. Luke Fickell for the Freedom Trophy. This is a big matchup for both sides as it’s two first-year head coaches facing off for the first time.

Wisconsin poses as Nebraska’s most challenging road game of the season and Wisconsin will be a threat to win the west division.

Wisconsin is coming off a rough 2022 season, finishing 7-6 with a bowl victory in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl versus Oklahoma State. The Badgers have a new face at quarterback with senior quarterback transfer Tanner Mordecai from SMU.

Alongside Mordecai, Fickell brought in Phil Longo, former offensive coordinator for North Carolina. Longo brings an Air Raid style offense and Mordecai fits the mold for that offense. Wisconsin should have a good defense as usual as well.

Also if we are talking about Wisconsin football, you have to talk about Braelon Allen. The junior running back is a dark-horse Heisman candidate and will have a serious role for the Badgers in 2023.

This game will be very tough for Nebraska, having to go into Camp Randall where Nebraska hasn’t won at since 1966. Nebraska also is on a nine-game losing streak against the Badgers.

Unfortunately for Nebraska, the losing streak will increase to 10 straight losses to the Badgers and the Huskers will fall to 6-5 on the season.

Prediction: Nebraska (6-5): 20 Wisconsin: 28

Week 13

Who: Iowa Hawkeyes

When: Fri., Nov. 24, 11:00 a.m. CBS

Where: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Nebraska)

This Black Friday matchup will be a big one. This will be Coach Rhule’s first opportunity to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.

In the last decade, this matchup has been dominated by the Hawkeyes. In fact, since 2013, Iowa has won this game eight of the last 10 games. This included a seven-game winning streak for Iowa in the Hero’s game. That streak was ended last year when Nebraska went into Iowa City and upset the Iowa Hawkeyes 24-17. This seemingly knocked them out of the West division title race and allowed Purdue to go to Indianapolis.

Nebraska will be going into this game on a brutal three-game losing streak but will be looking to end the season on a high note, before going into bowl season. The question is, will Iowa’s offense improve in 2022?

If you didn’t know, Iowa’s offense last season was abysmal, to say the least. They had the 123rd-ranked scoring offense (17.7 ppg) in the country last season. The reason why Iowa won eight games last season was their defense. They had the 2nd ranked scoring defense in the country only allowing 13.3 points per game last season.

Iowa brought in some players to help boost their offense. Senior quarterback Cade McNamara transferred to the Hawkeyes from Michigan. The Hawkeyes also brought in some wide receiver help out of the transfer portal to help the offense as well.

Now back to this game, it’s gonna be close like it usually is. The last five matchups were decided by one score and it’s gonna be no different.

Beating your main rival in your first year as a head coach can say a lot about what the team could do in the future and Nebraska can do that. Being at home will play a factor and Nebraska will keep the trophy in Lincoln to finish the regular season 7-5.

Prediction: Nebraska (7-5): 30 Iowa: 27 

Main Image: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

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