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5 thoughts ahead of Nebraska football vs. Minnesota



Nebraska football
Malcolm Hartzog (13) celebrates during the NCAA football game, Saturday, Oct, 15, 2022, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Malcolm Hartzog Celebrates A First Quarter Stop Against The Purdue Boilermakers Saturday Oct 15 2022 At Ross Ade Stadium In West Lafayette

The 2023 Nebraska football season will start on the road Thursday night in a Big Ten West matchup with Minnesota that will also be on national television.

Minnesota is viewed as one of the top contenders in the Big Ten West and has been consistently picked ahead of the Huskers, who have been projected fifth in the division by most pundits.

Nebraska football has lost four consecutive games to the Gophers and the Huskers are 5-7 overall since moving to the Big Ten against their rivals to the North.

Many people think about Iowa as the Huskers’ main rival, but there is no love lost with Minnesota either, and looking ahead to Week 1, here are five thoughts on Nebraska football vs. Minnesota.

Huskers have to play a clean game

Maybe the biggest difference between Minnesota and Nebraska football over the years is takeaways. Minnesota has excelled at winning the takeaway battle, while the Huskers haven’t.

Over the past four seasons, Minnesota has averaged just 1.05 turnovers per game. In the past three seasons, the Gophers have averaged just one per game.

Nebraska football, on the other hand, has averaged 1.77 turnovers per game in that same time period. That difference in turnovers is enormous that’s .72 more turnovers per game by the Huskers.

In every season of the Frost era, the Huskers averaged at least 1.5 giveaways per game, which isn’t a recipe for winning and if the Huskers lose the turnover battle on Thursday, they will lose the game.

Both quarterbacks have questions to answer

Athan Kaliakmanis is a big-time talent at quarterback for Minnesota. He’s 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, and he can run a little bit too, unlike Tanner Morgan.

Kaliakmanis came off the bench to beat Nebraska last season, but he also has a lot to prove. He averaged 8.5 yards per pass attempt but completed just 54.1 percent to go along with three touchdowns compared to four interceptions.

The running game should be solid, but Minnesota has some real weapons, so the passing game could be much better this season, as long as Kaliakmanis can improve.

That’ll be a big question on Thursday. Jeff Sims has similar questions about accuracy and taking care of the ball. He’s got 23 career interceptions and is just a 57.5 percent passer for his career. He’s going to need to play well if the Huskers are going to pull the upset and we’ll see if he’s ready for the big stage.

This isn’t Georgia Tech.

A physical football game

This is going to be an NFL-style slugfest. Minnesota loves to control the tempo and the clock. That’s not going to change. The Gophers have their identity and it has led to three consecutive seasons with at least nine victories, outside of the COVID year.

Minnesota’s offensive line is big and all of the starters are upperclassmen. Nebraska isn’t quite as old, but it has guys like Ty Robinson and Nash Hutmacher on defense, plus Ben Scott and a bunch of experienced dudes coming back up front.

Fleck wants to pound the rock and so does Matt Rhule, at least from everything we have heard from the Nebraska head coach.

So I expect both teams to run the football…a lot. I don’t think it’s going to be a high-scoring affair, but it will be a physical, Big Ten battle.

The depth chart is fluid

Nebraska football released its depth chart last Friday and it caused a bunch of chatter among fans. But the truth is that it’s going to change.

Once guys get healthy and once the live bullets start flying, it’s going to be adjusted. Also, just because we don’t see Malachi Coleman’s name, doesn’t mean he won’t play or see some passes in the first game.

Rhule and the coaches have talked about how they want to play a bunch of players, especially on defense. Blaise Gunnerson and Cameron Lenhardt both have a lot to prove and so does a guy like Raquan Buckley.

Malcolm Hartzog wasn’t all that high on the depth chart in Week 1 last season, but in a few weeks, he became a starter. So a lot can and will change.

Tony White will impress

This is more of a prediction. Yet, I think Nebraska football fans are going to be happy with their new defensive coordinator after the game on Thursday.

Winning is going to be a tall order. But think White’s defense will keep Minnesota in check and that will be a good sign moving forward because the Gophers have the potential to be really explosive.

Minnesota is familiar with the 3-3-5 after seeing Syracuse in their bowl game, but White will keep the Gophers on their toes and the defense keeps the Huskers in it Thursday night.

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Nebraska Football: Matt Rhule not afraid to play two quarterbacks



Nebraska football
Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule addressed the possibility of playing two quarterbacks for Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech. It doesn’t exactly sound like he is opposed to doing that.

Jeff Sims was the starter for Nebraska for the first two games of the season. An ankle injury kept him out of last Saturday’s contest against Northern Illinois. Heinrich Haarberg filled in for Sims and played well, tallying three total touchdowns for the game.

There is little doubt that Sims was brought in to be the starting quarterback for Nebraska, especially with Casey Thompson’s departure. However, Sims struggles and Haarberg’s emergence last Saturday have certainly made things interesting. Haarberg looked in control of the offense. It didn’t always look the smoothest at times, but he made it work.

Rhule addressed the possibility of playing two quarterbacks when he met with the media on Thursday, as reported by KLNTV’s Lauren Michelson.

A positive development for Nebraska Football

This undoubtedly has to be music to the ears of the fans. It certainly is for me. Playing multiple guys was not something the previous coaching staff did, and it undoubtedly hurt everybody involved, including quarterback Adrian Martinez.

One of the biggest mistakes Scott Frost made on the field was hitching his proverbial wagon to Martinez. It doesn’t sound like Rhule is going to do that with Sims.

Of course, we will have to wait until Saturday to see if the headman is true to his word. It’s one thing to say it in a press conference. We saw Scott Frost do that for multiple seasons. It’s another thing to actually follow through and do it in a game, or looking at the bigger picture, throughout the course of the season.

It will be interesting to see what happens under center on Saturday. Will Nebraska football go with Sims? Alternatively, will they go with Haarberg, who led them to victory last Saturday? Time will tell, but at least Matt Rhule is keeping his options open.

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Nebraska Football: Matt Rhule has health update on Jeff Sims



Nebraska football

Nebraska football head coach Matt Rhule gave a positive prognosis on quarterback Jeff Sims Thursday afternoon. Rhule indicated that Sims had a good week of practice and that he was moving and throwing the football well.

Sims has had a difficult start to the 2023 season. He has tallied one touchdown and four interceptions, and has 220 passing yards in total. Fumbling has been an issue for him through the first two games as well. He has had difficulty handling snaps.

Quarterback Heinrich Haarberg played on Saturday, as Sims was dealing with an ankle injury. Haarberg threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-24 passes. He also rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown. He brought a dual-threat element to the table, similar to that of Sims.

A positive development for Nebraska football

It’s certainly good to hear that Sims is healthy and has practiced well throughout the week. Whatever your opinion is of his play throughout the season, Nebraska football needs him to be healthy. Depth is a problem at the quarterback spot. Experience is lacking there as well.

Although Sims is struggling as a quarterback, there is no doubt he is a solid athlete. His ability to run the football has been his biggest strength so far this season. He has 158 rushing yards so far on the year, and has averaged 5.4 yards per carry. A 57-yard rush has been his longest of the season to this point. Nebraska has certainly made him a focal point of their running attack, as he has 29 carries on the year so far.

Nebraska football is in a welcome predicament with two quarterbacks who have the ability to start. The health of Sims is a positive, as Nebraska begins to enter the meat of their schedule. It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out.


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3 keys to a victory for Nebraska football vs. Louisiana Tech



Nebraska football
Sep 16, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule during the third quarter against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska football will be looking for a second straight win on Saturday and here are three keys against Louisiana Tech.

For the second week in a row, Nebraska football will be at home. It’s the second of three straight home games and the Huskers will be looking to take advantage of their incredible home-field advantage once again.

Before big bad Michigan comes to Lincoln on Sept. 30, Nebraska football will have a final non-conference game against Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs are 2-2 but have been really up and down in the second season under head coach Sonny Cumbie.

Louisiana Tech runs an air-raid offense but does have a couple of talented running backs. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier is a Boise State transfer but is questionable for the game on Saturday due to a shoulder injury.

The defense ranks 100th in scoring defense. Louisiana Tech is 63rd in scoring offense and while Nebraska football has its own question marks, such as who will start at quarterback? The Huskers are a 19-point favorite and here are three keys to a win on Saturday.

Keep stuffing the run

When you think of Louisiana Tech, you don’t necessarily think of a running team, but the Bulldogs average 5.1 yards per attempt and 181 yards per game on the ground. True freshman Keith Willis has 240 rushing yards and averages 7.3 yards per attempt. Tyre Shelton averages 10.2 yards per attempt and is also over 200 yards for the season.

But if there is one thing Nebraska football has excelled at it is run defense. The Huskers have held each of their opponents to fewer than 60 yards rushing. They also rank among college football’s top five in rushing yards per game (46.3) and rushing yards allowed per attempt (1.7).

If that continues on Saturday, I feel really good about Nebraska’s chances of winning without incident. Yet, if the Bulldogs can find success on the ground, things could get interesting.

Hit the quarterback, whoever it is

Whether it’s Bachmeier or Jack Turner who has thrown for 146 yards and a touchdown this season, as well as an interception, Nebraska football needs to hit the quarterback and it should have an easy time getting home.

Louisiana Tech ranks 110th in the FBS in terms of sacks allowed per game. The Bulldogs have allowed 11 total and that’s an average of 2.75 sacks per game. Nebraska football is in the top five in college football with 14 sacks total and 4.6 per game.

The Huskers have done a great job of getting pressure from different levels. Tony White has done a great job of creating blitzes and the defensive line is also winning one-on-ones.

This feels like a game where the Huskers shouldn’t have a problem getting four or five sacks, especially if Nebraska football is able to build a double-digit lead and pin its ears back.

Run the damn ball

It’s not ideal that Nebraska football lost two of its top three running backs to season-ending injuries, but the Huskers should be licking their chops this week.

Louisiana Tech is allowing 4.9 yards per rushing attempt which doesn’t bode well against a Nebraska ground game that is second in the Big Ten, ranked in the top 25 nationally, and averages 5.1 per rush.

Nebraska is getting 209 yards per game and the quarterbacks have been a big part of it. Whether Jeff Sims gets the start of Heinrich Haarberg, I expect plenty of quarterback runs again.

With Anthony Grant taking over as the bell cow, Nebraska is going to need to lean on its quarterbacks and even if Haarberg isn’t the starter, I want to see both utilized in the running game, because it has been one of the most effective parts of the offense through three games.

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