May 25, 2024

Huskers looking for win at Spartan Stadium to become bowl eligible

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska Coach Matt Rhule glances up at the scoreboard during a timeout in the fourth quarter against Colorado Saturday September 9, 2023 at Folsom Field. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Nebraska has parted ways with two Athletic Directors and two head coaches since the last time it reached postseason glory.

It’s mind-blogging that a program in the top-10 nationally for all-time victories, is on a seven-year bowl drought. There’s no denying the Huskers have the best fans in all of College football when it comes to passion and loyalty. Big Red Nation has witnessed some hard times over the past 20 years too.

Although the glory days of the 1990’s are in the rearview mirror, Nebraska is starting to gain some traction under Matt Rhule.

The first-year coach appears to have the Huskers ahead of schedule, after winning five of his last six games. Now Nebraska (5-3) is one victory away from reaching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016. However, it’s the month of November, and the stakes are always higher.

The Huskers are currently in a four-way tie atop the Big Ten West standings, so every game is vital. It just so happens that a 2-6 Michigan State team is up next for Nebraska. The Spartans fired their head coach back in September, and are on a six-game losing streak. That doesn’t mean Nebraska should be overlooking Michigan State. After all, the Huskers have lost their two trips to Spartan Stadium, including their last one in overtime.

Still, Nebraska leads the series 9-3 against Michigan State, and this time around the teams are going in opposite directions. The Huskers are winning games with their rushing attack and stifling defense. It’s hard to argue against that when Nebraska leads the entire Big Ten in rushing offense, and the Blackshirts are 14th nationally in total defense.

Rhule’s squad has a glaring weakness though, and that’s turnover margin. The Huskers are tied for dead last in the Power Five, and 126th in the FBS in turnover margin. Fumbling has been a major issue all season, along with interceptions. Regardless, Nebraska is scrappy, and Rhule knows how to find ways to overcome those mistakes.

No doubt the Huskers will have a slim margin for error on the road. Spartan Stadium packs 75,000-plus fans, which is by far the most Nebraska has seen away from home this season. The Spartan faithful desperately want the losing skid to come to an end, so that’s going to make it a hostile environment for the Huskers.

It’s going to be important for Rhule’s offense to combat the noise with hand signals, and strike early. The Huskers have led at halftime in each of their past three games, so that formula works. Many feel Michigan State fans have already checked out on the season, and are ready for basketball. One more loss will guarantee a losing campaign and no bowl game for Sparty, so their backs are against the wall, which makes them dangerous.

On paper Michigan State looks like the inferior opponent, but it’s still any given Autumn Saturday. This is likely Nebraska’s best chance to secure its’ sixth win, considering Mayland, Wisconsin and Iowa all have winning records.

Rhule needs to keep his players focused on the task at hand. The team is getting close to the finish line, and Big Red Nation can taste it. Rhule taking the Huskers bowling in year one will do wonders for the program, and make the near future look as bright as ever. Which is why Saturday afternoon can’t get here fast enough for Nebraska fans.