Looking ahead to the 2023 Nebraska football season, here are five bold predictions for the Huskers.
We are less than 100 days away from the Nebraska football season and the excitement from Husker fans is palpable.
It’s hard to know what to expect under Matt Rhule, but there is little doubt that Nebraska will be better next season. The Huskers should be more physical and fundamentally sound.
The Huskers won four games a year ago. Will they get back to a bowl game? That’s one of the biggest questions facing this team and we’ll answer it and more with five bold predictions for the 2023 Nebraska football season.
Jeff Sims plays so well he’s one and done
Nebraska fans have been ecstatic about the commitment of 2024 quarterback Daniel Kaelin, at least most of them, and there’s an idea that he could take over in 2025 after two years of Jeff Sims.
The only problem with that is it assumes Sims will be back for the 2024 season. He very well could be. But there’s a reason he keeps getting mentioned as a Heisman dark horse — he’s extremely talented and if he can stay healthy, he will have a true breakout season for Nebraska football.
Sims impressed me during the spring game with his legs. Yet, his arm was even better than I expected. He bought time and extended plays but delivered the ball with accuracy.
To be blunt, Sims might be the first real weapon the Huskers have had at quarterback since Taylor Martinez played quarterback. Except Sims has all the NFL skills you need and if he can stay healthy, be accurate, and protect the ball, he’s got an NFL future, maybe sooner than fans might want.
The Huskers are going bowling
I’ve said for a while now that I think Matt Rhule is going to be a revelation. He can be Nebraska’s Jim Harbaugh — a guy who can take the existing talent and get the most out of it.
For years, the Huskers were the best-looking team in the Big Ten West, getting off the bus. They just didn’t play like it often. It was look like Tarzan, play like Jane type of thing.
But that’s not going to be the case anymore. This program went through a tough spring and the players are responding. You can tell they are bought in and my bet is that Nebraska wins at least six games.
I actually believe they’ll have a winning season, winning at least seven of their 12 regular-season games.
Thomas Fidone has an All-Big Ten season
It’s hard to predict the exact numbers for any player, let alone Fidone, who has missed the first two seasons of his Nebraska football career due to injury.
But the former top 50 overall recruit is healthy and looks damn good. There was a video on Twitter making the rounds of Fidone catching passes from Kaelin in a private workout and Fidone looks fit.
Rarely, do you see the combination of size, speed, and hands that the Huskers have in Fidone. The four-star recruit was talking about being a first or second-round draft pick and this season, he’ll take a big step in that direction.
Not only do I think Fidone will play a bunch this season, but he’s also going to play well. He’s got as much raw ability as any tight end in the Big Ten and by season’s end, the production will finally start matching the talent.
Just for the fun of it, I’m going to say Fidone has at least 500 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions.
Malcolm Hartzog picks off five passes
Making a bold prediction isn’t always easy but when it comes to Malcolm Hartzog, intercepting five passes doesn’t even seem like a huge stretch.
Last season, the freshman was dynamic at cornerback. He played in all 12 games and picked off three passes in eight starts. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Under new DC Tony White, it’s going to be interesting to see how the Huskers use Hartzog. There has been talk of him being a nickel or safety type in the 3-3-5 alignment. Either way, Hartzog is one of those guys that just finds the ball.
That’s not going to change. In fact, with White running the show, my guess is that he’ll find more creative ways to use his best players and Hartzog will be a DUDE in 2023.
Take that to the bank.
Nebraska football offensive line will deliver
Football isn’t a complicated game. You have to be able to block, tackle and out-physical your opponent. As much as the game has changed, the play in the trenches decides most games, especially in the Big Ten.
That’s why one of the big objectives this season for Nebraska football is offensive line improvement. Bryce Benhart looked like a different player in the spring to me. He seemed to be in better shape and his movement was noticeably better as a pass blocker and getting to the second level.
The addition of Ben Scott is going to be huge. Sims is the transfer fans know the most, but Scott will be right there in terms of impact.
When you talk about Teddy Prochazka returning from injury to start at left tackle or Nouredin Nouili returning from suspension to start at guard, Nebraska is essentially getting three new starters.
And if the coaching staff can get the most out of Benhart and Turner Corcoran, two former blue-chip talents, this offensive line could be respectable. Hell, it might even be good.
It will be improved from last season, that’s a guarantee and honestly, it couldn’t get any worse.
Nebraska Football could utilize two QBs vs. Michigan
Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule gave an update in his press conference on Thursday with regards to the quarterback position. Rhule indicated that Jeff Sims is not 100%, but he has practiced all throughout the week. Heinrich Haarberg, who was also battling injuries following the last weekend’s game, practiced this week as well.
This is certainly encouraging as it relates to the health of the quarterbacks. For one, Sims is apparently progressing. It also means that Haarberg is at a point where he is not too bothered by his injury. This is reassuring, given that he has been a key part of the offense of the last couple weeks.
Nebraska football as a team is going to need both to be healthy on Saturday. Haarberg is the presumed starter, but it would be nice to add Sims in for his running ability in certain situations.
I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the program using both quarterbacks. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a very smart play. It gives Nebraska football versatility at the position, and allows two explosive athletes to get their shot on the field.
Coach Rhule said Jeff Sims still isn’t 100% but has practiced all week along with Heinrich Haarberg. Says he could use both vs. Michigan. #Huskers
— Huskers Talk | 𝙉𝙚𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙨𝙠𝙖 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙨 (@TalkHuskers) September 28, 2023
Nebraska football will need to have all hands-on deck against a rushing defense that is second in the conference with 80.5 yards allowed per game. They also have allowed only one rushing touchdown on the season. They rank second behind Nebraska with 2.8 yards allowed per carry. The bottom line is, Nebraska football is going to have their work cut out for them.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the quarterback situation on Saturday. Will we see both quarterbacks? Time will tell, but at least the room itself is restocked and somewhat healthy again. The Huskers have depth at the quarterback position and that is never a bad thing. How they utilize it will be interesting, as they look to get above. 500.
3 keys to an upset win for Nebraska football vs. Michigan
Is an upset possible for Nebraska football on Saturday? Here are three keys to pulling it off.
After a pair of confidence-building wins, Nebraska football will welcome No. 2 Michigan to Lincoln Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
It’s going to be a huge test. It’s also a major opportunity for Matt Rhule and company to score a defining win. I can’t even remember the last time Nebraska beat a team as good as Michigan. Probably since Eric Crouch caught that touchdown pass to beat Oklahoma.
Nebraska football has its work cut out for it. The Huskers are 17-point underdogs and this Michigan team is a juggernaut that’s won 16 consecutive Big Ten games.
J.J. McCarthy (QB) and Blake Corum, the running back, are Heisman candidates. Plus, the defense has only surrendered 23 points in four games leading all of college football in scoring defense.
It’s going to be a huge challenge but Nebraska isn’t a pushover. It’s the toughest game for Michigan so far and the Wolverines’ first road game.
If Nebraska wants to pull the upset, here are three keys to making it happen.
Contain Michigan’s run game
You might think that’s not possible, but in three of four games this season, Michigan has rushed for 200 yards or less. One reason for that is more throwing with McCarthy. The pass offense is better and games are also going quicker especially if you use a pace like Michigan or Nebraska.
Blake Corum is the bell cow but Donovan Edwards is dangerous. He had over 200 yards in the win against Ohio State last November.
Michigan’s offensive line has used a few different combinations and hasn’t been quite as good. Nebraska football also leads the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed. The Blackshirts surrender just 1.8 yards per rush and if they can limit Michigan’s ground game (150 yards or less), an upset becomes much more likely.
Nebraska football must win the turnover battle
You could list this as a key for just about every single game in college football this week. But Nebraska is at a disadvantage talent-wise compared to Michigan.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of. The Wolverines have about 20 players that could get drafted this April. Nebraska is a team with talent too — it actually ranks 26th in terms of blue-chip players (4-star recruits or higher) being on the roster.
But the Huskers are going to need some short fields or maybe even some points from the defense to pull this one off. A big return, some kind of play like that will need to happen.
McCarthy didn’t throw an interception in three of the four games for Michigan. Yet, against Bowling Green, he tossed three and if the Huskers could get 1-2, you’d have to like their chances of pulling the upset.
Heinrich Haarberg needs 100 yards rushing
Michigan hasn’t allowed a single team to run for 100 yards. Their run defense is spectacular but Haarberg will need to break a big run or two if the Huskers are going to have a shot.
That touchdown run against Louisiana Tech reminded me a little of T-Magic. Haarberg also has been fine throwing the ball. His arm isn’t elite. He also hasn’t thrown any interceptions.
Nebraska has been using more option principles and running QBs have given Michigan some struggles over the years. Haarberg isn’t a statue. He’s also a gamer and after two starts, he’s improving.
We’ll see if he can deliver on Saturday, but if Haarberg can run the way he did in his first two starts (a very big ask) Nebraska should have a shot to win on Saturday.
Nebraska Football flips local TE Eric Ingwerson after long pursuit
Nebraska football landed a commitment from 2024 tight end Eric Ingwerson on Wednesday, according to multiple media reports.
Ingwerson is the 128th overall athlete in the 2024 class, and the ninth overall player in the class from the state of Nebraska per the 247Sports composite rankings. He has a numerical rating of 86 overall.
This is a solid commitment for several reasons. For one, Nebraska football has been interested in him for quite a while. He received an offer from the program on April 11, and had him and for an official visit on June 16.
Ingwerson joins a tight end room that is already in good hands for 2024. Carter Nelson headlines the room, with Ian Flynt also part of the room as well.
It is also worth noting that Ingwerson played on the defensive side of football as a defensive lineman for Papillion-LaVista. He could definitely play the position for Nebraska, as he measures in at six-foot-seven, 235 pounds. There is the chance that he could play a different position other than tight end. However, his size makes him an intriguing option at the position itself.
There can also be the possibility that Nebraska football could be looking at him as an offensive lineman. The size is there. This staff knows how to develop offensive lineman. Ingwerson could fit well in the positional group.
Currently, the 2024 Nebraska football recruiting class ranks 23rd overall in the country per the 247Sports rankings. This class has a solid high school group, and Ingwerson certainly adds to that. The 2024 class has the potential to be a cornerstone class of Matt Rhule’s tenure.
Ingwerson will be an asset to Nebraska football, no matter what position he plays. Furthermore, this is a great flip by the program. Once again, they have shown the ability to identify a prospect they want, and pursue him until they land him. The staff has done a good job of being able to flip recruits. Ingwerson is certainly a part of that distinction.
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