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Nebraska football schedule analysis: Colorado is the most intriguing, what now?

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska learned four more kickoff times ahead of the 2024 season Thursday as announcements rained down across college football.

The Huskers open August 31 at 2:30 PM CT against UTEP on Fox and close the regular season on November 29 at 6:30 PM at Iowa on NBC. Additionally, Northern Iowa’s visit to Memorial Stadium kicks off in the evening in Week 3, and the Huskers open at Purdue at 11 a.m. in Week 5.

The evening kickoff in Lincoln against Illinois on Friday evening and Colorado had been previously announced.

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The playing times for the first five and a half weeks of the season have been announced. With that, here’s a breakdown of the newly configured schedule for coach Matt Rhule’s second team at Nebraska – with games ranked from least intriguing to most.

12. Northern Iowa

Date: September 14 at Memorial Stadium, 6:30 PM CT, BTN
Record from 2023: 6-5, 5-3 (third, Missouri Valley)
Nebraska’s all-time record versus Northern Iowa: first meeting
Trainer (record): Mark Farley (179-101, 23 years at Northern Iowa)

The Huskers’ scheduled FCS opponent comes to Lincoln with a unique storyline. New Nebraska athletic director Troy Dannen is a UNI graduate and was an AD at the school from 2008 to 2015. He worked with Farley and helped keep the coach anchored. The Panthers under Farley have defeated Iowa State three times, most recently in 2016, and drew within one score of the Cyclones in 2019 and 2021. They also nearly upset Iowa in 2009.

Date: September 28 at Ross-Ade Stadium, 11am CT
Record from 2023: 4-8, 3-6 (fourth, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Purdue: 6-6
Last encounter: October 28, 2023; Nebraska 31-14
Trainer (record): Ryan Walters (4-8, one year at Purdue)

The Huskers are 3-3 in West Lafayette since joining the Big Ten. Walters sparked an Illinois defensive resurgence to seize the opportunity. His first year as head coach featured inconsistent play, including a visit to Lincoln in which the Huskers largely got their way with the Boilermakers by winning a third straight game in October. Expect better defensive play from Purdue. For Nebraska, this first road trip of the season comes conveniently after a home game on Friday night.

Date: Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium, time TBD
Record from 2023: 7-6, 3-6 (fifth, Big Ten East)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Rutgers: 6-0
Last encounter: October 7, 2022; Nebraska 14-13
Trainer (record): Greg Schiano (87-95.15 years at Rutgers)

The Scarlet Knights broke through in the fourth year of Schiano’s return to New Jersey with a seven-win season, including a Pinstripe Bowl victory against Miami. Rutgers has never beaten Nebraska, but Schiano is used to leading this program over man-made barriers. QB Athan Kaliakmanis, the transfer from Minnesota who defeated Nebraska in the season opener last year and led the Gophers from a deficit to a victory in Lincoln two years ago, will take over at Rutgers in 2024.

Date: Oct. 19 at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium, time TBD
Record from 2023: 3-9, 1-8 (seventh, Big Ten East)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Indiana: 9-10-3
Last encounter: October 1, 2022; Nebraska 35-21
Trainer (record): Curt Cignetti (first year at Indiana; 119-35, 13 years overall)

Nebraska has made just one trip to Bloomington in 12 years as a member of the Big Ten, a five-point win that moved the Huskers to 6-0 in 2016 under second-year coach Mike Riley. This year, the Hoosiers are the seventh enemy for Nebraska and appear on the schedule after a bye week for both teams. Cignetti won big at James Madison. He has a talent hole in the Big Ten that he needs to dig from. Ohio transfer Kurtis Rourke has the edge over Tayven Jackson to man the QB spot.


Nebraska will host its fourth straight home game against Illinois in 2024 on September 20. (Ron Johnson / USA Today)

8. Illinois

Date: September 20 at Memorial Stadium, 7pm CT, Fox
Record from 2023: 5-7, 3-6 (fourth, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Illinois: 14-6-1
Last encounter: October 6, 2023; Nebraska 20-7
Trainer (record): Bret Bielema (18-19, three years at Illinois; 115-77, 15 years overall)

Friday night football in Lincoln debuts with the Big Ten opener. The Illini are trying to turn the tables on Nebraska, which won in Champaign last year on Friday. This fourth game of the season will also mark the 400th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, an event that is sure to create a festive atmosphere. The pain of rescheduling high school kickoffs across the state of Nebraska and working around the logistics of a Friday game on campus is worth the potential benefit of a primetime national TV show.

Date: Nov. 2 at Memorial Stadium, time TBD
Record from 2023: 8-5, 4-5 (seventh, Pac-12)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. UCLA: 7-6
Last encounter: December 26, 2015; Nebraska 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl
Trainer (record): DeShaun Foster (freshman year at UCLA and overall)

Here comes Nebraska’s first taste of the Big Ten’s westward expansion. The Bruins are a national brand and will provide an iconic setting when the Huskers visit the Rose Bowl in 2025. But first, there’s a November trip for UCLA. Maybe it’s already getting a taste of winter. UCLA last visited in 2013, its second win in six trips. Under former coach Tom Osborne, Nebraska stomped the Bruins four times in Lincoln.

6. UTEP

Date: August 31 at Memorial Stadium, 2:30pm CT, Fox
Record from 2023: 3-9, 2-6 (sixth, US conference)
Nebraska’s all-time record versus UTEP: first meeting
Trainer (record): Scotty Walden (first year at UTEP; 34-20, five years total)

Expectations are already high for the reveal of Rhule’s second team. If, as expected, Dylan Raiola is assigned to take over at quarterback, tension levels will soar. Expectations for the actual game are a step lower. Walden, 34, replaces Dana Dimel, the former Kansas State assistant who was fired in December after six seasons at UTEP. Walden is from Austin Peay. His debut gets national treatment on Fox.

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Date: Nov. 23 at Memorial Stadium, time TBD
Record from 2023: 7-6, 5-4 (second, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record versus Wisconsin: 4-13
Last encounter: November 18, 2023; Wisconsin 24-17 in OT
Trainer (record): Luke Fickell (8-6, one year at Wisconsin; 71-31, eight years overall)

Is this finally the year Nebraska overcomes the Badgers, who have won 10 straight games in the series? Five of the ten, including the past three, were decided by one score. While Nebraska fends off the hype machine after a mediocre season under a new coach, Wisconsin faces perceived uncertainty. Tyler Van Dyke, a transfer from Miami, appears to be in position to take over at quarterback.

Date: Oct. 26 at Ohio Stadium, time TBD
Record from 2023: 11-2, 8-1 (second Big Ten East)
Nebraska’s all-time record versus Ohio State: 1-9
Last encounter: November 6, 2021; Ohio State 26-17
Trainer (record): Ryan Day (56-8, five years at Ohio State)

Aside from its remarkable accumulation of skills at quarterback, Ohio State is in a small class of nationally ranked programs that can overwhelm virtually any foe with its talent. Including Nebraska. The Intrigues would rank even higher for the Huskers’ first trip to the Horseshoe to play in front of a packed house since 2018 if they appeared to be in better shape to push Ohio State. For the Huskers in particular, Raiola was once committed to playing at Ohio State. In its third road game in five weeks, Nebraska can’t afford to lose more than just a game on the last Saturday of October.

3. Iowa

Date: Nov. 29 at Kinnick Stadium, 6:30 PM CT, NBC
Record from 2023: 10-4, 7-2 (first, Big Ten West)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. Iowa: 30-21-3
Last encounter: November 24, 2023; Iowa 13-10
Trainer (record): Kirk Ferentz (196-119, 25 years at Iowa; 208-140, 28 years overall)

There’s no Big Ten West title on the line — and probably no berth in the conference championship game. But the pressure remains high as these border rivals collide. The Huskers earned Nebraska’s only win in the series since 2014 in their most recent visit to Iowa City. Iowa returned the favor in Lincoln last year on Black Friday with a dramatic win. How about a kickoff under the Kinnick lights after Thanksgiving? It increases the intrigue.

Date: Nov. 16 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, time TBD
Record from 2023: 8-5, 5-4 (fourth, Pac-12)
Nebraska’s all-time record vs. USC: 0-4-1
Last encounter: December 27, 2014; USC 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl
Trainer (record): Lincoln Riley (19-8, two years at USC; 74-18, seven years total)

Riley had never lost more than three games in a season until 2023. He also lost out on Heisman Trophy-winning QB Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears as the top pick in the NFL Draft. An inaugural Nebraska trip out West for a Big Ten clash adds some spice to the matchup. But it is already historic. Nebraska last played at the Coliseum in 2006. The Trojans, moving to a new league with a rotating roster, could be as vulnerable as the Huskers will see them soon. A win for Rhule in LA could confirm his progress.

1. Colorado

Date: September 7 at Memorial Stadium, 6:30pm CT, NBC
Record from 2023: 4-8, 1-8 (12th, Pac-12)
Nebraska’s all-time record versus Colorado: 49-21-2
Last encounter: September 9, 2023; Colorado 36-14
Trainer (record): Deion Sanders (4-8, one year in Colorado; 31-14, four years total)

Tickets go for thousands of dollars. The game is being billed as a barometer for Nebraska, which has defeated the Buffs in three tries since 2018. The coaching matchup presents a contrast in style between Rhule’s methodical and detail-oriented approach and Sanders’ flash and swag. NBC primetime heads to Lincoln for Week 2. What else needs to be said?

(Top photo: Reese Strickland / USA Today)

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