June 16, 2024

Huskers becoming a needle in the haystack in expanded Big Ten

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

(Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Several eyebrows were raised when the Big Ten released its’ schedule for the 2024 and 2025 season Tuesday afternoon.

The most loyal fan base in the country instantly found out that the conference didn’t make their program a priority, and instead an afterthought. After all, Nebraska is coming off six-straight losing seasons, which means its’ value to the Big Ten has diminished significantly.

And that’s mind-boggling, considering the Huskers invaded the prestigious conference in 2011. The brand carried a lot of weight back then. Everyone knew the team with the red ‘N’ on the white helmet represented physicality, tradition and most importantly winning. However, after a decade-plus in the league the Huskers have registered a 75-72 record overall, including a 47-56 mark against Big Ten foes.

Nebraska did clinch a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. It turned out to be one of the worst losses in program history though. The Huskers are currently on their fourth head coach since landing in the Big Ten, and basically have nowhere to go, but up. Still, that might be a harder mountain to climb with the addition of USC and UCLA.

Which is why Big Red Nation was expecting the worst and hoping for the best when the conference schedule was released for all 16 teams. Nebraska only received one protected rival, which was Iowa. It’s a plus that UCLA will be on the conference slate in 2024 and 2025. Regardless, the Big Ten disrespected Nebraska when it failed to let it host USC.

Memorial Stadium packs nearly 90,000 fans, has the nation’s longest sellout streak, and the Sea of Red is visually mesmerizing. Instead the Huskers have to travel to the legendary Coliseum, where the venue is hardly ever sold out. The fans will enjoy the two trips to Los Angeles though, especially the Rose Bowl. It’s no mystery that Nebraska fans travel well and follow their team wherever they go.

The 2024 schedule is somewhat favorable, but in 2025 it gets brutal and the Big Ten did the Huskers no favors. Nebraska hosts Michigan, and plays Ohio State and USC on the road. That’s why the next three years are going to be vital for the program’s future.

New coach Matt Rhule has hit the ground running with recruiting and the transfer portal. Now he’s going to need that same energy to carry over to the gridiron. The nation has been waiting on Nebraska to return to prominence for the last two decades. With the College football landscape constantly evolving, including realignment and Playoff expansion in 2024, the Huskers have a slim margin for error.

There’s no denying an elite Nebraska squad is great for the sport, but the 1990’s success was so long ago. The Huskers are on the clock now. Above all,  the program has the NIL money, facilities, a smart Athletic Director, a credible coach and the best fans to burst out of the Big Ten cellar and compete at a high level. Rhule has been promising so far laying down the foundation. It’s still going to take an effort from all parties involved to get the Huskers back to the promised land.