Nebraska football schedule analysis: Colorado is most intriguing, what’s next?


LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska learned four more kickoff times Thursday ahead of the 2024 season as announcements rained down across college football.

The Huskers will open on Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m. CT against UTEP on Fox and finish the regular season on Nov. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Iowa on NBC. In addition, a Week 3 visit by Northern Iowa to Memorial Stadium will kick off at night, and the Huskers will start at 11 a.m. at Purdue in Week 5.

Evening kickoffs in Lincoln against Illinois on a Friday night and Colorado were announced previously.

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Game times for the first five weeks and a half of the season are known. With that, here’s an analysis of the newly configured schedule for coach Matt Rhule’s second team at Nebraska — with games ranked from least intriguing to most.

12. Northern Iowa

Date: Sept. 14 at Memorial Stadium, 6:30 p.m. CT, BTN
2023 record: 6-5, 5-3 (third, Missouri Valley)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Northern Iowa: first meeting
Coach (record): Mark Farley (179-101, 23 years at Northern Iowa)

The FCS opponent on the Huskers’ slate comes to Lincoln with a unique storyline. New Nebraska athletic director Troy Dannen is a UNI graduate and served as AD at the school from 2008 to 2015. He worked alongside Farley and helped keep the coach entrenched. The Panthers under Farley have beaten Iowa State three times, most recently in 2016, and played the Cyclones within one score in 2019 and 2021. They also nearly upset Iowa in 2009.

Date: Sept. 28 at Ross-Ade Stadium, 11 a.m. CT
2023 record: 4-8, 3-6 (fourth, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Purdue: 6-6
Last meeting: Oct. 28, 2023; Nebraska 31-14
Coach (record): Ryan Walters (4-8, one year at Purdue)

The Huskers are 3-3 in West Lafayette since they joined the Big Ten. Walters engineered a defensive revival at Illinois to earn this opportunity. His first year as a head coach featured inconsistent play, including a visit to Lincoln in which the Huskers largely had their way with the Boilermakers in winning a third consecutive October game. Expect better play on defense from Purdue. For Nebraska, this first road trip of the season is conveniently situated after a Friday night home game.

Date: Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium, time TBD
2023 record: 7-6, 3-6 (fifth, Big Ten East)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Rutgers: 6-0
Last meeting: Oct. 7, 2022; Nebraska 14-13
Coach (record): Greg Schiano (87-95,15 years at Rutgers)

The Scarlet Knights broke through in the fourth year of Schiano’s return to New Jersey with a seven-win season that included a win in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami. Rutgers has never beaten Nebraska, but Schiano is accustomed to leading this program over artificial barriers. QB Athan Kaliakmanis, the Minnesota transfer who beat Nebraska last year in the season opener and led the Gophers from behind to a win in Lincoln two years ago, is set to take over at Rutgers in 2024.

Date: Oct. 19 at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium, time TBD
2023 record: 3-9, 1-8 (seventh, Big Ten East)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Indiana: 9-10-3
Last meeting: Oct. 1, 2022; Nebraska 35-21
Coach (record): Curt Cignetti (first year at Indiana; 119-35, 13 years overall)

Nebraska has made only one trip to Bloomington in 12 years as a member of the Big Ten, a five-point win that took the Huskers to 6-0 in 2016 under second-year coach Mike Riley. This year, the Hoosiers are the seventh foe for Nebraska, showing up on the schedule after a bye week for both squads. Cignetti won big at James Madison. He’s got a talent hole in the Big Ten out of which to dig. Ohio transfer Kurtis Rourke has the edge over Tayven Jackson to man the QB spot.

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Nebraska will host its fourth consecutive home game in 2024 on Sept. 20 against Illinois. (Ron Johnson / USA Today)

8. Illinois

Date: Sept. 20 at Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m. CT, Fox
2023 record: 5-7, 3-6 (fourth, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Illinois: 14-6-1
Last meeting: Oct. 6, 2023; Nebraska 20-7
Coach (record): Bret Bielema (18-19, three years at Illinois; 115-77, 15 years overall)

Friday night football in Lincoln debuts with the Big Ten opener. The Illini seek to turn the tables on Nebraska, which won in Champaign on a Friday last year. This fourth game of the season is also set to mark the 400th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, an event certain to bring some celebratory vibes. The pain of reshuffling high school kickoffs around the state of Nebraska and working around the logistics of a Friday game on campus is worth the potential benefit delivered by a prime-time, national TV showcase.

Date: Nov. 2 at Memorial Stadium, time TBD
2023 record: 8-5, 4-5 (seventh, Pac-12)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. UCLA: 7-6
Last meeting: Dec. 26, 2015; Nebraska 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl
Coach (record): DeShaun Foster (first year at UCLA and overall)

Here comes the first taste for Nebraska of the Big Ten’s westward expansion. The Bruins are a national brand and will provide an iconic setting when the Huskers visit the Rose Bowl in 2025. But first, a November trip for UCLA awaits. Perhaps it’ll get an early taste of winter. UCLA last visited in 2013, its second win in six trips. Nebraska under former coach Tom Osborne stomped the Bruins four times in Lincoln.

6. UTEP

Date: Aug. 31 at Memorial Stadium, 2:30 p.m. CT, Fox
2023 record: 3-9, 2-6 (sixth, Conference USA)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. UTEP: first meeting
Coach (record): Scotty Walden (first year at UTEP; 34-20, five years overall)

Anticipation is already high for the unveiling of Rhule’s second team. If Dylan Raiola gets the nod, as expected, to take the controls at quarterback, excitement levels will jump. Expectations for the actual game are a step below. Walden, 34-years-old, replaces Dana Dimel, the former longtime Kansas State assistant who was fired in December after six seasons at UTEP. Walden comes from Austin Peay. His debut gets national treatment on Fox.

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Date: Nov. 23 at Memorial Stadium, time TBD
2023 record: 7-6, 5-4 (second, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Wisconsin: 4-13
Last meeting: Nov. 18, 2023; Wisconsin 24-17 in OT
Coach (record): Luke Fickell (8-6, one year at Wisconsin; 71-31, eight years overall)

Is this finally the year for Nebraska to get over the Badgers, who’ve won 10 consecutive games in the series? Five of the 10, including the past three, were decided by one score. While Nebraska fends off the hype machine after one mediocre season under a new coach, Wisconsin is facing perceived uncertainty. Tyler Van Dyke, a transfer from Miami, appears in position to take over at quarterback.

Date: Oct. 26 at Ohio Stadium, time TBD
2023 record: 11-2, 8-1 (second Big Ten East)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Ohio State: 1-9
Last meeting: Nov. 6, 2021; Ohio State 26-17
Coach (record): Ryan Day (56-8, five years at Ohio State)

Aside from its remarkable accumulation of skill at quarterback, Ohio State sits in a small class of programs nationally that can overwhelm almost any foe with its talent. Nebraska included. The intrigue, in fact, would rate higher for the Huskers’ first trip to the Horseshoe to play in front of a full house since 2018 if they appeared in better shape to push Ohio State. Notably for the Huskers, Raiola was once committed to play at Ohio State. In its third road game in a five-week stretch, Nebraska can’t afford to lose more than just a game on the last Saturday of October.

3. Iowa

Date: Nov. 29 at Kinnick Stadium, 6:30 p.m. CT, NBC
2023 record: 10-4, 7-2 (first, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Iowa: 30-21-3
Last meeting: Nov. 24, 2023; Iowa 13-10
Coach (record): Kirk Ferentz (196-119, 25 years at Iowa; 208-140, 28 years overall)

There will be no Big Ten West title at stake — and likely no berth in the conference championship game. But the pressure remains high when these border rivals clash. The Huskers won in their most recent visit to Iowa City, the only victory for Nebraska in the series since 2014. Iowa returned the favor in Lincoln last year on Black Friday with a dramatic win. And how about a kickoff under the lights at Kinnick after Thanksgiving? It adds to the intrigue.

Date: Nov. 16 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, time TBD
2023 record: 8-5, 5-4 (fourth, Pac-12)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. USC: 0-4-1
Last meeting: Dec. 27, 2014; USC 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl
Coach (record): Lincoln Riley (19-8, two years at USC; 74-18, seven years overall)

Riley had never lost more than three games in a season until 2023. He also lost Heisman Trophy-winning QB Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears as the top pick in the NFL Draft. An inaugural Nebraska trip to the West for a Big Ten clash delivers a dash of spice to the matchup. But it’s already historic. Nebraska last played in the Coliseum in 2006. The Trojans, transitioning to a new league with a roster in flux, might be as vulnerable as the Huskers will see them any time soon. A win for Rhule in L.A. could validate his progress.

1. Colorado

Date: Sept. 7 at Memorial Stadium, 6:30 p.m. CT, NBC
2023 record: 4-8, 1-8 (12th, Pac-12)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Colorado: 49-21-2
Last meeting: Sept. 9, 2023; Colorado 36-14
Coach (record): Deion Sanders (4-8, one year at Colorado; 31-14, four years overall)

Tickets are going for thousands of dollars. The game is billed as a barometer for Nebraska, which has yet to beat the Buffs in three tries since 2018. The coaching matchup presents a contrast in styles between Rhule’s methodical and detail-oriented approach and Sanders’ flash and swag. NBC primetime is en route to Lincoln for Week 2. What more needs to be said?

(Top photo: Reese Strickland / USA Today)



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