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Nebraska Closing Arguments 2023: Hope is really all we have left

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Media Day Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

In a world where we are forced to suspend disbelief around every corner - be it our faith in longstanding systems, the ability to avoid impending doom of the planet, or the inevitability of the death machine that is football revenue ruining what we love most - it is easy to be cynical about every positive thing that may be happening. This, unfortunately, is ever more true as a Nebraska Cornhuskers football fan in the year of our Lord, 2023.

How did we get here?

Maybe it really did all start with Frank Solich? Maybe it was a deal with the devil that brought the last remnants of joy for Cornhusker fans? Maybe it was that time they thought it would be a really cool idea to hire Mike Riley instead of literally almost anyone else? Maybe it was the second coming of Tom Osborne himself, a native son who had the potential to change the offensive narrative of Nebraska football, but uh, turns out Scott Frost sucked.

My point is, we are roughly 200 words into this thing, and you could excuse most Nebraska fans if they were a bit skeptical at ‘ANOTHER GREAT HIRE’ for our favorite team. In fact, you might think that the only rational thing would be for us to expect doom from here on out.

Friends, readers, WSR, I am here to implore you to suspend disbelief once again and believe in what the Nebraska Cornhuskers are capable of. In a world of ESPN talking heads and Gannett-owned AI writers, let me be the Ted Lasso in the room. It is okay to have hope for Nebraska. Perhaps this year will not totally get it right, but it does seem like there is an actual adult in the room again, and if there is anything I have learned as a parent, sometimes being the adult matters.

With that in mind, let’s make some closing arguments for the 2023 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football team.

I. Opening

A. Case History

The last winning record for Nebraska came under Mike Riley in 2016. Since that point, the high-water mark came in Scott Frost’s second year (2019) where 5-7 almost seemed like a sign that things were on the right track. Dear friends, when your ceiling is 5-7 over a seven year period, things are not - in fact - a real good time.

An incredible buyout later, we are onto the next era of Nebraska coach in Matt Rhule. Sure, you could look at the fact that his availability is due to what can be best summed up as a complete failure in the NFL, but perhaps it’s better to think about his college successes first. Taking over a moribund Baylor, Coach Matt Rhule was nothing short of a miracle worker and turned that program around in a few short years. His previous stint at Temple would argue that it wasn’t a fluke.

With presumptions about his coaching aside, the case for Nebraska lies in a few very obvious places:

1) Did Scott Frost leave enough in the cupboard, with what was okay recruiting but awful development, to actually result in some better overall play? AND

2) Can Matt Rhule do what has not been done in Lincoln in the better part of two decades? Can he develop talent and coach for four quarters without doing something incredibly stupid?

We willnot be able to fully answer these questions until the first whistle blows in a week, but this is what Nebraska’s success hinges on. So instead of diving into that, let’s take some time to re-adjust our expectations and try and find hope in other places.

B. Opening Statement

[Opens ChatGPT, types in “opening statements for Nebraska being good”, sees the computer explode, and proceeds with the following]

Ladies and gentlemen, today we come together, not to adjudicate the merits, relative talents, or even the dedication of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team. No, we come together to search for the thing that has eluded this team for longer than they would like to admit.

What is that you ask?


Yes, while you may be able to Google past closing arguments that this poor, not-lawyer has written about Nebraska over the past decade. And, you may be able to point out that his optimism is jaded only by his ability to believe that this is the year the Offensive Line will learn how to block the defenders in front of them. But this is a new era, and this era... is about hope.

What, then, are we hopeful about? Is it the specter of Playoff Championships? The hope for a Big Ten trophy? Perhaps a division crown?


No, the hope that this - nay - that I have is that this will be a team that is fun to watch. This will be a team that I don’t wake up on Saturdays dreading to follow. THIS, will be a year that may not be filled with any more than six wins, but it will decidedly be less dreadful than the existential fear that would fill each player on the sideline in red as the fourth quarter began.

THIS, is what we are here to discover today. Nebraska will likely not be a decidedly good team this year, but there is hope that they will not be a depressing team. AND THAT, is something worth celebrating if you are a faithful of Dear old Nebraska U.

II. Discovery

A. What has been written

[Searches Google... Um... I uh, have not been here much so huge shout out to DeadRed and BigRedTwice for being decidedly less useless than me. I uh... I’m still kind of an editor here I guess in theory]

2023 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Preview: Roster, Schedule, Depth Chart: It’s the hope that kills you...


Matt Rhule Was The Most Baffling Football Coaching Hire In Recent Memory...For The NFL

[Um, this is actually a positive piece of evidence. Focus on Nebraska’s good luck here!]

Did Nebraska Football Curse Matt Rhule Before He Could Coach A Game?

[sees pictures... shudders...]

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

Nebraska Football Mailbag, Part II: Bowl Game or Bust, Basketball Woes, and CORN—RANKED

[I am disappointed no one talked shit about me ranking Corn Pudding as the best corn]

B. What can we learn from Pop Culture

So, a fairly depressing thing happened to me this summer. I was informed that I graduated from high school 20 years ago, thus solidifying the painful reality that I am both (a) a lot older than I like to admit, and (b) wildly out of touch with whatever pop culture is in 2023. The obvious win here would be that I should reference Ted Lasso and try and find some optimistic bend, but after the absolute absurd stretch of time Nebraska - and quite frankly the world - has been on fire, I’m going in a different direction:

“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain

You don’t like my point of view

You think that I’m insane

It’s not sane

It’s not sane”

Look, I think Nebraska wins six games this year. It’s not really that sane, but I’d like to keep my cheeks dry as well. Blind Melon, you just hit harder the older I get...

III. Schedule of Events

Nebraska Schedule

Date Opponent
Date Opponent
Thu, Aug 31 @ Minnesota
Sat, Sep 9 @ Colorado
Sat, Sep 16 vs Northern Illinois
Sat, Sep 23 vs Louisiana Tech
Sat, Sep 30 vs 2 Michigan
Fri, Oct 6 @ Illinois
Sat, Oct 21 vs Northwestern
Sat, Oct 28 vs Purdue
Sat, Nov 4 @ Michigan State
Sat, Nov 11 vs Maryland
Sat, Nov 18 @ 19 Wisconsin
Fri, Nov 24 vs 25 Iowa

My takeaway here is that Thursday football to start the season is stupid. I guess at least it’s not the world’s dumbest game, live from a rugby stadium in Ireland. Who would do that stupid of a... dammit.

IV. (Non)Emotional Appeal

Look, I am now roughly 1300 words into this thing, and I hope that most all of you have ‘No Rain’ stuck in your heads and have given up on my extremely tangential ramblings. For those of you who are still here, let me lay out some defense (which is more defending than Nebraska has done in years lololol... dammit I’m old).

The Nebraska offense will be a work in progress this year. Matt Rhule has said he wants to run the ball which is definitely not a thing that we saw being done successfully under Scott Frost. But, there is a glimmer of hope. Nebraska is going back to a dual threat QB in Jeff Simms, who has been known to uh, throw the ball to the other team, but also has legit running ability. It still goes three or four deep in talented Running Backs with Gabe Ervin and Rahmir Johnson getting the two-deep nod, and Anthony Grant probably the leader in the house to get equal carries.

The wideout situation is sketchy, but the one thing that Nebraska has done successfully over the past few years is get transfer wideouts, and Marcus Washington - here last year and formerly of Texas - and Billy Kemp Jr (of Virginia) look the parts. If the extremely talented TE room led by former 4* Thomas Fidone can be healthy, I think that relieves some pressure from a very heavily recruited O-Line. If THEY can take a step forward, then maybe this offense can be a reasonably useful unit. Lots of ifs here, but you can see there is at least some talent to make this happen. Get some help from some of the speedy freshmen (Malachi Coleman out of Omaha being the lead candidate) and voila! Some offense!

Oh and we have a fullback, so that’s uh... fun?

Defensively, the scheme is the story as new DC Tony White brings his 3-3-5 to Lincoln. What does that mean? I honestly have no clue, but I do like the idea that you put a bunch of guys on the field and tell them to see the guy with the ball, hit the guy with the ball, and get ready for the next play. We haven’t been good at either of those things lately so any improvement would be fun. As an interesting sidebar, it does seem like the coaches are bullish on the defensive side of the ball (maybe at the expense of a bad offense), but I’m hoping that guys like Nash Hutmacher, Isaac Gifford, Nick Henrich, and Ty Robinson really takeoff with new coaching. They all are getting a lot of praise out of fall camp, but who knows what that means in reality.

Oh, and Nebraska has a real Special Teams coordinator, so that’s also fun!

All of these names aside, I think Nebraska has some talent to win games this year and while I also think it would be naive to expect anything more than 5-7 or 6-6, I’d definitely see that as improvement so long as it’s not punctuated by gut-punch loss after gut-punch loss. Sometimes the other team is more talented, and sometimes you blow your foot off with a machine gun. I’d like to see losses stop falling into the latter category.

V. The Verdict

So apparently Chorus hates tables... Here we are.

Um, 6-6? Sure, I’ll take it!


Nebraska is winning

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    0 games (it would be kinda funny)
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    1-3 games (gross)
    (10 votes)
  • 27%
    4-5 games (ugh)
    (60 votes)
  • 54%
    6-7 games (maybe?)
    (119 votes)
  • 10%
    8+ (lololol no)
    (23 votes)
218 votes total Vote Now