Coach Frost runs out onto the field with the team through the tunnel
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

What Might Nebraska’s New Football Schedule Look Like?

September 21, 2020

Nebraska’s football team got a huge piece of clarity on Wednesday: they know what they’re preparing for.

After months of being in the dark, having a schedule and then having the rug pulled out from under them and then being even more out of the loop than before, players in the Big Ten know they will have a season, they know what thresholds they have to meet to play it, and they know when they will be starting.

Now, they just need to know who they’re preparing for.

The schedule comes next. All indications from Big Ten leadership and various school officials throughout the league suggested a schedule is coming within the next week or so. The Big Ten won’t have the flexibility of the “Jenga 41” schedule it created before—eight games in eight weeks will be tough on a number of fronts—but that means putting things together shouldn’t require the same amount of time and effort as the Aug. 5 schedule did.

Purdue Athletic Director  Mike Bobinski told media members Wednesday afternoon the league would draw from the original nine-game Big Ten schedule that existed before COVID-19 forced changes.

So don’t expect to see Michigan State coming through Lincoln. The Spartans were added as Nebraska’s 10th game for the revised schedule released in early August.

Husker AD Bill Moos said the Huskers will get four games at home and four on the road. They’ll play everyone in their division and then face two of their three originally scheduled crossover opponents.

Here’s what the schedule looked like initially:

  • vs. Purdue (Sept. 5)
  • at Northwestern (Oct. 3)
  • vs. Illinois (Oct. 10)
  • at Rutgers (Oct. 24)
  • at Ohio State (Oct. 31)
  • vs. Penn State (Nov. 7)
  • at Iowa (Nov. 14)
  • at Wisconsin (Nov. 21)
  •  vs. Minnesota (Nov. 27)

When the Huskers’ revised schedule came out, the Big Ten flipped the sites for the Wisconsin and Purdue games. Nebraska was going to travel to Purdue for the second straight season but get Wisconsin at home for back-to-back games. In doing so, the league said that future schedules would be adjusted to reflect the change going forward. Nebraska wouldn’t play Wisconsin at home three straight years before returning to Madison; the series would go to Madison in 2021 instead of remaining in Lincoln.

It remains to be seen how that piece of the schedule will be dealt with when the league announces the newly revised one.

But we can at least try and piece something together based on what we know.

One of Rutgers, Ohio State, and Penn State is coming off the board.

On that schedule up there, Nebraska has four home games and five road games. (Even if the Wisconsin and Purdue games remain flipped that’ll still be the case. The additional game NU got was a home game to get to a 5/5 split.) So, we can say with a pretty high level of confidence one of the home games isn’t getting the axe, which would signal that Penn State is safe.

It very likely might come down to Ohio State or Rutgers.

The Buckeyes-Huskers tilt last year brought ESPN’s College GameDay to Lincoln. The year before that, Nebraska took Ohio State to the wire in Columbus. After everything that’s gone on this summer—the out-of-nowhere bond forming between the two fanbases and what not—would the Big Ten and its TV partners want to cut a game that still has a lot to offer?

Moos said the TV partners would have input in the schedule. Traditional rivalries would be maintained, but they might come early in the year. From a TV standpoint, Nebraska is still a very marketable program. Ohio State is the best in the league.

I have a hard time believing it would get the axe when the alternative is Rutgers.

The only through-line for those two programs is Noah Vedral, the former Husker quarterback who transferred in the summer to be new head coach Greg Schiano’s guy.

But the Scarlet Knights would be a reprieve. Nebraska already has heavy-hitters on its schedule; Ohio State staying on would mean the Huskers play the projected top two teams from the East as well as traditional West powers.

“We’ve got to be very sensitive to (who’s coming off the schedule), especially in regards to the schedule and how fair it is to the participants,” Moos said. “That’ll be a big part of our discussion. … I think we’re going to be fair and equitable.”

If he had his way, it seems like Rutgers would be the team that stayed. It might come down to who blinks first: Moos, or the league.

The other issue at play for Nebraska is that Moos wants Iowa back in the Black Friday slot.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez said Wednesday the league could look at Monday games potentially, as well as Friday games. Moos added Fridays are definitely on the table.

“Especially due to the inventory we want and need to provide to our television partners,” he said. “I pressed all along in all these different models to situate the schedule so that Nebraska had our Black Friday game … and hopefully with Iowa.”

But getting the Hawkeyes back into that slot would mean moving the Minnesota game out of it.

On Nebraska’s end, it’s actually really easy to do. Take the Rutgers game out, then slide everything into the new dates, in the same manner, it was previously set up, and you have Iowa falling naturally on Thanksgiving weekend.

Is that what will happen? Will Moos get what he wants? Even if you take out Ohio State instead of Rutgers, that game still falls on Nov. 14 based on the old layout, then Penn State, then Iowa.

Will Minnesota try to keep the Black Friday date with Nebraska for its own purposes?

Who knows, but this entire process so far for Nebraska has been about making concessions where you can to keep what you ultimately want on the table.

Maybe things end up looking something like this:

  • vs. Purdue (Oct. 24)
  • at Northwestern (Oct. 31)
  • vs. Illinois (Nov. 7)
  • at Ohio State (Nov. 14)
  • vs. Penn State (Nov. 21)
  • at Iowa (Nov. 27)
  • at Wisconsin (Dec. 5)
  • vs. Minnesota (Dec. 12)

That’s a bear of a schedule to play, but it’s not any different than what NU thought it was going to get before.

We’ll find out soon enough what the schedule actually looks like.

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Tags: Big Ten