On the heels of its bye week, Northwestern enters the second portion of its 2023 season on the road in Lincoln, Nebraska. With both teams at 3-3 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play, a significant stake in the conference standings hinges on Saturday afternoon’s outcome. Will the Wildcats move to above .500 for the first time since they took down the Huskers to start 2022? Here’s what our staff writers forecast.
Iggy Dowling: Nebraska 23, Northwestern 9
Assuming it’s Brendan Sullivan at quarterback, it’s going to be tough for Northwestern to put up points on the road given how they’ve fared on the road. The Huskers have one of the better pass rushes in the division. The D-line should make life difficult for whoever’s behind center on Saturday given the Northwestern offensive line’s struggles thus far. I think it forces multiple turnovers that decide the game early.
David Gold: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 10
This is the game that will decide the ‘Cats’ season. With Ben Bryant out, I do not think the ‘Cats have enough firepower on offense to win the game. Nebraska’s QBs do not inspire confidence, so I’m expecting David Braun to load the box and force the Cornhuskers to beat the Wildcats through the air.
Bradley Locker: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13
I don’t think Northwestern will emerge victorious in this one regardless of who’s playing under center, but the injury to Ben Bryant only magnifies my concern. The Wildcats’ defense should have its hands full with Heinrich Haarberg and Anthony Grant on the ground, while the Cornhuskers’ stingy run defense could further imbalance issues for Mike Bajakian’s unit. On top of that, although UNL has committed 13 turnovers through six games, Northwestern has only five takeaways this year — and two have come on defense in non-garbage time situations. The Wildcats’ defense will need to actually snare or scoop the ball, and I’m not putting my faith in that to happen. NU drops its third straight game in Lincoln.
Ethan Segall: Nebraska 20, Northwestern 13
I’m genuinely nervous for this game which feels... amazing! It’s great to have Wildcat football with high stakes again — with a win the team has a real path to bowl eligibility! If this game were in Evanston, maybe I flip my pick, but the team has failed to show up for both of their previous road contests. I sure hope I’m wrong but I’ll go with the Huskers, who I actually think are a bit underrated at the moment.
Noah Poser: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13
Neither of these teams inspire much confidence. Northwestern is coming off a bye, which was sorely needed after a homecoming win that didn’t feel like much cause for celebration. Nebraska is also coming off a bye. In the team’s last game before that, however, it showed signs of progress and quarterback Heinrich Haarberg had a solid game. That alone is encouraging to the team’s cause. Ultimately, what leads me to pick Nebraska is that the game is in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers are 2-1 at home this season, with the lone loss coming to No. 2 Michigan. The Wildcats are 0-2 on the road and neither game has been close. Expect them to make it 0-3.
Natalie Wells: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 10
The Cornhuskers have the third-most rushing yards in the B1G. The ‘Cats have allowed the third-most rushing yards in the B1G — not a good combination. Sophomore quarterback Heinrich Haarberg will gash NU’s defense for at least 100 yards with his legs as Nebraska gets over .500 for the first time this season.
Ascher Levin: Northwestern 21, Nebraska 17
Coming off a bye week, the ‘Cats have had the ability to get healthier for their game against Nebraska. A.J. Henning, Richie Hagarty and Jack Lausch are all going to be back, but the question is if Ben Bryant is going to start. If Bryant is healthy for the game, Northwestern has a great opportunity to win this important game for their bowl aspirations. Nebraska’s starting quarterback, Heinrich Haarberg, leads the Cornhuskers in rushing yards with 352 this season. This year, the ‘Cats haven’t been great at stopping a mobile quarterback, most notably against Duke’s Riley Leonard. Northwestern will have to limit the quarterback run game if it wants to be successful defensively. While Nebraska has home-field advantage and has won three of its last four games, I am predicting an upset Saturday afternoon.
Brendan Preisman: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 20
No, I’m not only making this prediction so I’m allowed back in the state over winter break. Over the last couple of weeks, one thing’s become clear about Northwestern’s defense: it can’t hold up in the second half. Obviously Penn State running away in the second half is understandable, but allowing an FCS Howard team to outscore you 20-0 after halftime does not inspire confidence. The Huskers, meanwhile, seem to have found a new key to the offense in quarterback Heinrich Haarberg, and he's got 237 rushing yards in his last three games. Nebraska will play a much cleaner game than last year, and that will be the difference.
5-1: Bradley Locker, Natalie Wells
5-0: Noah Poser
4-2: Iggy Dowling, David Gold, Ascher Levin
4-1: Brendan Preisman
4-0: Patrick Winograd
3-2: John Olsen, Ashleigh Provoost, Ethan Segall
2-2: Adam Beck
2-0: Sammy Krimstein
1-0: Jeremy Song
0-2: John Ferrara