Please take a look at last week’s article where I ranked Nebraska Football’s schedule by level of important - 12 through 7. That article was much easier to write compared to this.
I knew going into this article of who my number one was going to be, but as far as six through two it kind of felt like throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.
So if you are looking for a source of consistency and logic when you clicked on this article then I apologize in advance.
That is why it is a power ranking. It is fluid and can change at any time.
Here we go!
#6 - At Michigan State - September 25th
Mel Tucker beat Scott Frost in his lone season as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes and looks to do it again for Michigan State in 2021.
Michigan State is not in Nebraska’s division but they have lost 27 players to the transfer portal since the end of the 2020 season. There is a lot of experience walking out of that door for the Spartans which would lead one to believe that 2021 could be a rough year for Michigan State as Tucker starts to build that program back up.
This is a game that Nebraska should expect to win.
With the assumption that Nebraska beats Illinois, Fordham, and Buffalo, the opportunity against Michigan State is huge as Nebraska could either start 3-2 or 4-1 going into the rest of the Big Ten slate starting with Northwestern.
If Nebraska wins this game then they are two wins away from being bowl eligible. Hopefully Nebraska could find two wins in seven games? Maybe not, but getting to that six win mark gets extremely difficult if Nebraska drops this one.
#5 - Purdue - October 30th
Thank goodness Rondale Moore is gone. There shouldn’t be anybody else to worry about right? Oh, crap David Bell is still there.
Divisional games are huge especially in the west where Nebraska has the ABILITY to beat anybody in the division with the exception of maybe Wisconsin. With that said they could absolutely lose to every single team in this division as well. It appears to be a theme.
Nebraska’s offense appeared to have found itself a bit last year against Purdue as they climbed to a 34-13 lead halfway through the third quarter. Purdue definitely came back to make things interesting but Nebraska found a way to win.
Purdue is one of those teams Nebraska plays in that seven team stretch where they need two wins. If you were looking for one win against Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa or Minnesota I think the most probable would be Purdue.
#4 - Northwestern - October 2nd
The best coached team in the division ended up winning the west in 2020. A really bad Nebraska team should have beaten them but they shot themselves in the foot. Truly frustrating.
Well there were a lot of things that were frustrating about Nebraska’s 2020 season.
Here is an excerpt from the recap on Huskers.com from the Northwestern game:
McCaffrey returned to lead the offense and quickly completed three passes and rushed twice for 21 yards to drive the Huskers back inside the Northwestern red zone. A Northwestern pass interference penalty on the next play put the Huskers 1st-and-Goal at the Wildcat 3. After a pair of unsuccessful McCaffrey runs, Northwestern was called for pass interference again in the end zone to give the Big Red another chance on 1st-and-Goal at the NU 2. Mills was thrown for a two-yard loss, before a McCaffrey pass on the next play was intercepted by Chris Bergin to end another long Husker drive with no points.
Even after that disaster Nebraska had the ball in the Northwestern red-zone with a chance to tie at the end of the game.
For whatever reason the Nebraska-Northwestern matchups have gone back-and-forth since Nebraska entered the Big Ten.
If Nebraska beats Northwestern then it could possibly start 5-1 before the weekly body blows start to follow.
#3 - Iowa - November 26th
This will be short. Nebraska has lost to Iowa for six straight seasons. Since Frost arrived the losses have been by an average of four points and two of the games Iowa was ranked while Nebraska was...well not ranked.
It’s time to get over the hump.
#2 - At Minnesota - October 16th
Lets be clear. Last year’s loss to Minnesota has to be the worst loss since Scott Frost arrived. Michigan in 2018 was the worst in terms of margin of victory/loss but Minnesota in 2020 was the worst in terms of plain old embarrassment.
Minnesota was missing THIRTY-THREE PLAYERS as a result of Covid-19. They had two starting offensive linemen out, only four defensive tackles available and only two tight ends. The game was in Lincoln. There are zero reasons why Nebraska should not have won that game easily yet Nebraska found a way to embarrass itself.
In the terms of stepping stones Minnesota is below Iowa and Wisconsin in terms of the division.
Regarding this power ranking I could easily swap Iowa and Minnesota. However, the way Nebraska laid an egg last year made me put Minnesota at #2.
#1 - At Illinois - August 28th
The last time Nebraska went up against a Bret Bielema coached team they lost 70-31.
It gets another shot the first game of the 2020 season and it is a must win in my opinion.
Nebraska fans are in “show-me” mode in regards to Nebraska football. We may believe that Scott Frost has been developing depth throughout the program. We may agree that the wide receiver room is the best it has been since he arrived. Adrian Martinez is a step-and-a-half quicker. This could be the best offensive line and defensive from top to bottom. The special teams should be improved.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
It all may be true but we want to see it translated to the field and win some football games. We want to see it week one against an Illinois team with a brand new football coach. The hope of getting through the Michigan State game at 4-1 requires this to be a win.
Any chance of getting to six wins in order to qualify for a bowl game requires this to be a win.
While this game doesn’t have the chance to “make” the 2021 Nebraska football season, it does however provide an opportunity to break it.