Nebraska may finally have its answer to get back to a bowl game this season.

It’s the same story Husker fans have heard before, but the makeup of this team — on paper — is trending in the right direction. After the spring game, ESPN’s Pete Thamel is fully a believer that Matt Rhule can turn things around this fall.

During the latest episode of the College GameDay Podcast, Thamel said he can see a “leap” in store for the Huskers. A key aspect of the team could be more playmakers at receiver and a group of returning offensive linemen who may be overlooked.

“When I look at the Big Ten for this year, I can see a leap coming from Nebraska. I watched their spring game a couple of weeks ago, they have a bunch of talent at receiver which you may not have necessarily said last year,” Thamel explained. “They have an upgrade seemingly coming at QB with Dylan Raiola and they seem to have a sneaky amount of returners on the offensive line.”

The other aspect in Nebraska’s favor is a schedule that avoids most of the B1G’s heavy hitters. Outside of a road trip against Ohio State, Nebraska misses Michigan, Oregon and Penn State on this year’s schedule.

Depending on how fans feel about the nonconference game against Colorado, Thamel believes it could be late October before the Huskers experience a game as an underdog:

“I don’t think Nebraska will be an underdog in a game until they go to Ohio State on Oct. 26. There’s a good runway to find their footing,” said Thamel.

Analyzing the claim

There appears to be growing momentum around the idea of Nebraska getting back to a bowl game this fall, but how high the Huskers reach is certainly up for debate. The preseason win total for the Huskers is set at 7.5 while ESPN Bet has +110 odds on the over and -140 on the under. Fans can track the latest odds with Tradition’s Ohio betting apps.

As for the schedule, Nebraska gets home games against UTEP, Colorado and Northern Iowa in nonconference play to go with B1G home games against Illinois, Rutgers, UCLA and Wisconsin. With 7 games at home, the Huskers have a great shot at finishing above .500 at 4-3 or even better.

If the Huskers are able to win 4 of their home games, they will need just 2 victories from road trips to Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State, USC and Iowa to reach a bowl game. Nothing is a given for any team in college football, but that’s a favorable slate in a key season for Rhule.

Now, as it pertains to the 7.5-win total, Nebraska has a shot at hitting the over — and the value in the odds is there — but it’s a tough projection for a program that has not even reached a bowl game since 2016. It will take an upset or two to reach the over, and it’s hard to feel confident in that until Nebraska carves out its breakthrough.