Nebraska football: Predicting Huskers' final record in 2023
Nebraska headed into the 2023 season with new head coach Matt Rhule and a new-look roster to begin his tenure. Those changes had fans hoping for a strong debut season in Lincoln this fall.
Unfortunately, the early portion of the season was derailed by a disastrous string of turnovers from starting quarterback Jeff Sims. He was also injured in a Week 2 loss to Colorado, and Heinrich Haarberg has since taken the reins of the offense.
Offensively, the Huskers are still a work in progress, particularly considering the injuries on that side of the ball. The wide receiver group will get a look at some of the young receivers down the stretch, and Nebraska also lost a pair of running backs to season-ending injuries early on.
The good news is Nebraska has a stout defense that should keep the team in just about every remaining game on the schedule. The Huskers have limited 5 of their opponents to 14 points or less and are averaging 19.3 points allowed per game.
If that trend of defensive play holds up (and it should), Nebraska stands a great shot at getting to 6 wins and a bowl game in Rhule’s first season with the program. The rest of the season is also a great time to get key snaps and growth for a number of young players on the roster.
After a 4-3 start, here’s how Nebraska will finish the 2023 season:
Week 9: vs. Purdue
Skinny: Purdue has been up and down during Ryan Walters’ first season with the program. The offense has shown an ability to move the ball but the Boilermaker defense has been porous against quality competition. In 7 games, QB Hudson Card has been sacked 17 times and thrown 5 interceptions. Look for the front of the Husker defense to get after Card on a regular basis and flip the field with a key turnover or two. Nebraska’s offense will also match up well against a Purdue defense allowing over 150 rushing yards per game.
Prediction: Nebraska 27, Purdue 13
Week 10: at Michigan State
Skinny: With a win in Week 9, Nebraska would be playing for a bowl game in Week 10. That goal will provide some extra juice for the road trip to East Lansing. Nebraska will also face a Michigan State program that will likely be on the heels of a sixth straight loss coming out of Week 9. The Spartans have not done anything particularly well since the in-season firing of Mel Tucker, and the Spartans have handed the reins of the offense to redshirt freshman Katin Houser. He has the upside, but a lack of experience could get Houser in trouble against the Husker defense. This game is not likely to be particularly close.
Prediction: Nebraska 28, Michigan State 13
Week 11: vs. Maryland
Skinny: The Terrapins have lost a pair of games since a strong start to the season, but Mike Locksley’s program is among the top group of teams in the B1G this season. Maryland also presents some matchup problems for the Huskers with QB Taulia Tagovailoa and a group of receivers able to stretch the field vertically. Nebraska has a shot to turn Maryland into a one-dimensional attack, but this is the team built to handle that if Tagovailoa is protected. Even at home, this one looks like a loss for Nebraska.
Prediction: Maryland 31, Nebraska 17
Week 12: at Wisconsin
Skinny: The matchup vs. Nebraska was leveled a bit when the Badgers lost starting QB Tanner Mordecai to an injury. Until Braedyn Locke showed what he could do in crunch time in Week 8. Locke threw for 2 touchdowns in the fourth quarter while rallying Wisconsin in a win over Illinois. Even if Nebraska’s run defense can shut down (or at least limit) Braelon Allen, there’s a new-found confidence for Luke Fickell’s team in Locke provided Mordecai is still sidelined. The Badgers also get this game in Madison and will still be fighting for the B1G West in this one.
Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 17
Week 13: vs. Iowa
Skinny: This one sets up as a great chance for Nebraska to record another rivalry win against Iowa, right? The anemic Hawkeye offense and the fact this game will be in Memorial Stadium surely point toward Rhule getting a statement win to cap the season. However, we all know weird things happen in almost every game Iowa plays, and there’s a chance for the youth of Nebraska to be exploited in this matchup. Nebraska will also face the two teams (likely) left fighting for a B1G West title in the final two weeks of the season, so that’s an unpleasant aspect to consider.
Prediction: Iowa 18, Nebraska 10
Final Nebraska regular-season record: 6-6
Imagine being told in the preseason Matt Rhule would go 6-6 in his first year and the Huskers would reach a bowl game for the first time since 2016. Most fans would be overjoyed at that.
Though losing the final 3 games of the regular season would sour things a bit, Nebraska will look on the bright side of things when it’s all said and done. That includes a bowl game with an extra month of practices for a young up-and-coming squad under Rhule.