Here we are. Gameday is here in Lincoln, and Northwestern will face a critical test against Nebraska, which will go a long way toward determining each team’s bowl game chances. To learn a little more about the Cornhuskers, Inside NU had the chance to ask a few questions to the writers at Corn Nation, Nebraska’s SB Nation site. Here’s what they had to say:
Inside NU: We’re now four games into the Heinrich Haarberg Experience. How are Huskers fans feeling about him, and the offense as a whole?
Jill: He seems to have steadied the ship compared to the Jeff Sims experience. I think we still expect the defense to be the reason we win games, but the offense is a bit more consistent with HH. I do wish he’d quit trucking linebackers when he takes off and runs. Starters last longer when they slide.
Bri: He seems a bit more consistent than Sims and steady on his feet, but the jury is still out on the passing game.
Todd: He shows improvement from game to game. He has had some big runs.
Patrick: He is serviceable. Not too shabby.
Brian: Most Huskers fans have been pleased with him since Nebraska is 3-1 since he took over for the injured Sims and his turnovers haven’t cost Nebraska any games. The fans want the offense to be more productive, but the sense that I get is that the fans are enjoying the return of a physical run game.
INU: It’s obviously early, but rate your satisfaction with Matt Rhule so far on a scale from 2022 Scott Frost to 10.
Jill: I’ll admit I was slow to accept the failure of the Frost era, but even I was well aware of how it would end by the first few games in 2022. Rhule is much better at not creating bulletin board material. He also seems to actually be fixing some of the little things Frost said he was going to fix. So, I give Rhule a 7. It might be higher if the Minnesota game ended differently.
Bri: That’s a big scale. Currently, I am going with a 6. I mean I didn’t expect miracles this year, but I have to stay cautious as I’ve been burned by head coaches too many times before.
Todd: I put him at eight because he has built an infrastructure that works mostly behind the scenes that will serve the program well going forward. It is obvious now that there are adults in the room who have been able to put a decent team on the field in spite of the total dysfunction they inherited.
Patrick: I’m going with a 6. There’s a lot of promise and it actually looks like he’s pulling a rebuild and not a quick fix. Something we all need to remember as this season moves along.
Brian: 10. It’s still early, but Rhule is a true leader and the program builder that this university needs. He’s adapting to the players he has but still has player development in mind.
INU: Nebraska’s defense, particularly against the run, has been really great so far. What (or who) has been behind that, and do you see it continuing against Northwestern and through the rest of the year?
Jill: Well, Nebraska fans are hoping no one notices the work Tony White is doing and hires him away. Also, the emergence of the Polar Bear (Nash Hutmacher) has been big in that regard. I do see them continuing to perform well unless the injury bug hits.
Bri: Tony White deserves a lot of credit, but there were some solid pieces of the defense that we have seen doing good things for the last few years. Luke Reimer and Isaac Gifford have been consistent.
Todd: Some good players had been brought in by the previous regime and have been supplemented by the current staff with some portal transfers. Tony White has schemed very well and all of the position coaches have coached them up. It has been a team effort.
Patrick: There have been some decent players who saw a lot of time last year that have really come through this season. Like everyone said, all on Tony White for coaching them up and making this defense into something that works well. As long as NU doesn’t pass, we should be fine.
Brian: I was very skeptical of the 3-3-5 when Rhule announced the hiring of Tony White. However White has been remarkable and now I’m worried a team like USC is going to try and poach him away. I’m a bit surprised they’ve been able to be so good against the run with a bit of smaller defensive line, but they should only get better as they continue to recruit big athletes.
INU: Outside of Haarberg, Anthony Grant and Billy Kemp, give us one UNL skill position player who you think has a shot at catching everyone by surprise on Saturday.
Jill: We’ve been waiting for tight end Thomas Fidone to break out but after two serious knee injuries that may take longer than expected. I’ll go with one of our freshman wideouts. Theyll have to break out or we will reach Iowa levels of offense.
Bri: Perhaps Saturday is the day that we really see all the hype around Malachi Coleman come to fruition.
Todd: Jeff Sims, if he sees the field.
Patrick: Don’t sleep on Billy Kemp IV. The guy can make plays.
Brian: Malachi Coleman is getting the start since Marcus Washington is lost for the season. He’s a former five-star receiver that Deion and the Buffaloes really wanted. He’s tall and has elite track speed. I’d love to see Nebraska take a shot with him down the field.
INU: Give us a score prediction. Who wins, and why?
Jill: The Huskers and Wildcats are rarely boring so I don’t see a blowout. I’m going to pick the Huskers just because, but it will be a close one. Huskers 21 Wildcats 17
Bri: The Huskers win 35-17 because the Husker defense scores some points and puts the game away early.
Todd: I’m not a prediction guy so I will give the same answer I give every game. Nebraska will win 35-21. Why? Nebraska is the better team and despite the dumpster fire that was our team the last seven years, they are not facing the same challenges as Northwestern. The fact that the Wildcats have been in games and have three wins is remarkable. Hats off to the coaching staff and players. However, Nebraska has to win this game and I believe they will do it convincingly.
Patrick: University of Nebraska 9 Northwestern University 7. Nebraska wins because they have a coach.
Brian: Nebraska 27 Northwestern 10. I believe Nebraska will have two big splash play touchdowns on a long quarterback run and a pass. Defensively I think they’ll likely shut down the Wildcats but they tend to give up one scoring drive early in every game.