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Is Nebraska “Slumming It” in the Big Ten? 2023 Huskers Football Mailbag Preview, Pt. I

On THAT tweet, the Scott Frost legacy, and the hire of Matt Rhule to lead Nebraska football.

Northwestern Wildcats v Nebraska Cornhuskers - Aer Lingus College Football Classic 2022 Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile via Getty Images

It’s almost Iowa Week, and we can’t think of anything Hawkeyes fans love reading about more than Nebraska Cornhuskers football!

You had plenty of questions for our Corn Crib, and finally, just in time for Iowa Week, they’ve got answers! Part 1 now, Part 2 if you behave:

The Absurdity of Nebraska

How does it feel to not have to slum it up in the B1G west for much longer?
—87 Rides A Surfboard

MNW: This is not my mailbag and as such will constitute my only appearance:

Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the Cornhuskers are 47-55 in Big Ten play.

By sheer damn luck, Northwestern is also 47-55 in Big Ten play.


Jesse: Look, I don’t claim Tom Shatel as a real columnist and neither should you!

Dead Read: I cannot defend that statement, and I have no further response.

BRT: There’s a certain type of guy who honestly believes they’d win every fight, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and apparently Shatel is one such guy. But actually, I think this tweet was probably fan service - for our neighbors to the east, who I think comprise the bulk of his reader base.

Was it playing the season opener in Ireland that fatally borked Nebraska in 2022, or did the power of Scott Frost transcend such mortal considerations as gameday geography?

Jesse: After reading and listening to insiders close to the program, apparently Scott Frost didn’t believe in things like ‘planning’ and ‘accountability’ which seems like kind of important parts of coaching. But hey, there’s nothing better than moving to Lincoln, NE to party it up like the good ol’ days. At least I can firmly say he’s def peak small-town Nebraska?

Dead Read: I will not blame the Emerald Isle. So, I’ll take the other choice. Frost was an absolute disaster of a football coach. I thought he would be great. I was very, very wrong.

BRT: Ireland did nothing wrong here, except perhaps allow Nebraska and Northwestern to sully their shores with that sad exhibition of football.

When a coach makes a questionable decision that backfires, any chance of coining a phrase such as ‘He had a Frost(y) moment’? Lest we ever forget the saga of our once illustrious Scott Frost.

Jesse: I mean... Have you all forgotten the time that Mike Riley decided it would be super cool to call a RPO at a windy Illinois that could’ve been a run that salted the game away but didn’t? Because I sure do.

Dead Read: I have called the litany of recent football bloopers and boners the “Frost Follies” on this site. I will stick with that.

BRT: I think it works better when there’s a specific phrase one can return to (ie: “dagger in the heart of the program”), but you’re sure welcome to make fetch Frosty happen!

How many games until the announced sell-out is ACTUALLY sold-out with actual butts-in-the-seats?

Jesse: Um... Probably one? You’re obviously misjudging the absurdity of our fanbase.

Dead Read: ^Almost certainly.

BRT: I understand that there is rightful skepticism of the sell-out when there are visibly empty seats - but I also think there is widespread misunderstanding that “sold tickets” and “game day attendance” are the same thing, and this annoys me just as much.

Expectations for 2023

What sign of improvement are you most hoping for with the Huskers this season and what could happen during the summer to make you think it will come to pass in the fall?

Jesse: Tackling? Penalties? Not doing literally the worst possible thing in the fourth quarter? I’m not sure the summer brings on any true indicators of success there, but I do think Rhule seems to be an adult and that’s nice.

Dead Read: One thing that I will look for is the absence of drama — not wanting to hide behind my hands while watching special teams, for example. In failure, I want to see mistakes that appear fixable (one guy missing an assignment physically or mentally, as opposed to mass confusion). I want the opponent to be the hurdle, not Nebraska’s own mistakes.

All sorts of important things happen during the summer, but the results are only known in early October. Team cohesion and accountability are built in summer workouts. To read the local press, it always goes well (it does not always go well). We will know by the time we play Michigan. Apart from that, the absence of legal trouble would be a good indicator that things are on the right track.

BRT: I don’t pay attention to football in the summer. I’m only interested when games are being played. Sorry, that’s what you get with this half-bit “writer.”

But I can answer the first part of that, and I’d love to see them win a close conference game - to be on the ropes and close the deal, rather than just farting it away in creative and dramatic fashion, as has been the recent norm.

Serious: What’s the marker for success or proof-of-concept with Rhule for this season?

Jesse: All jokes aside, development of players we’ve long wanted to not suck would be success. We aren’t winning the division or anything but I do think there is some serious chance to look like we have a plan and guys are playing their part. Would love to see the run game look competent. I think the defense will take two years with a brand new scheme and philosophy install. Would be cool to see more than one guy at a time be competent at catching the football. That’s the stuff I’m looking for.

Dead Read: I want to see a systematic approach to football — not eleven mercenaries that appear to have met one another in the walk-through. I’ve seen it before in Lincoln, but not for quite a while. You know it when you see it.

BRT: I really like both of my distinguished colleagues’ answers. I think what will make people most happy are 1) improving the W-L (doable, as the bar is so low of late), and 2) winning a close game or two. As less of a proof-of-concept and more just straight-up making fans happy, beating Colorado in the second game would create a lot of goodwill for Rhule.


What marks success under Matt Rhule in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    8 wins or bust
    (10 votes)
  • 36%
    A bowl game, bare minimum
    (88 votes)
  • 13%
    Winning close games, irrespective of record
    (33 votes)
  • 45%
    Just competence. That’s how low the bar is.
    (110 votes)
241 votes total Vote Now

Part 2, coming soon!