Nebraska’s 2015 season may be over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t head straight to kick off 2016 for a look into the future! In fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing today. For the sake of argument, no names will be used for the starting quarterback. Fill in Tommy Armstrong or Patrick O’Brien as you wish.
Understanding full well how much things will change between now and Sept. 3, here's an early game-by-game look at the Cornhuskers' 2016 slate and how things could possibly play out.
Sept. 3 — vs. Fresno State
A familiar early-season opponent for the Huskers, the Bulldogs don't pose the challenge that 2015’s BYU squad did. Mike Riley starts a new opening-game winning streak. – WIN
Sept. 10 — vs. Wyoming
The Cowboys visited in 2013 and gave the Big Red a scare, but quarterback Brett Smith isn’t around to panic the Blackshirts anymore. If the defensive front seven can contain second-team all-MWC running back Brian Hill, this one could get ugly for the visitors. – WIN
Sept. 17 — vs. Oregon
Consider this game to be the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl taken up a few notches. The Ducks finished last season giving up just a bit less on the ground than UCLA (179 rushing ypg), but the Quack Attack has far more speed than the Bruins did.
Running back Royce Freeman and the Ducks’ usual cadre of dangerous receivers will test the Blackshirts early and often. Nebraska is working on stockpiling the speed Oregon already has while the Ducks probably know Riley fairly well from his days at Oregon State. – LOSS
Sept. 24 — at Northwestern
The Big Red's offensive line practically played patty cake against Northwestern defensive lineman Dean Lowry last year. This year, Nebraska offers more beef up front and a unique running back in Devine Ozigbo. Look for one of the younger ball carriers like Mikale Wilbon to be this year’s edition of No. 22. Should the Big Red be able to keep its passes down to 25 or so, the Battle of NUs is won by those in scarlet and cream. – WIN
Oct. 1 — vs. Illinois
The benefactors of perhaps the most disappointing loss of Nebraska’s 2015 season, the Illini visit Lincoln and the Huskers are going to want payback for the poorly-called and/or -executed game a year prior. Wes Lunt gets to face the Big Red a final time, but he’ll do so without game-changing running back Josh Ferguson or All-Big Ten safety Clayton Fejedelem to stop the Huskers’ receivers. – WIN
Oct. 15 — at Indiana
If this were a 2015 matchup, Indiana would have every opportunity to win with Nate Sudfeld at quarterback and trusty running back Jordan Howard. Alas, the former’s eligibility ran out and the latter declared early for the NFL Draft. Even though it’s an away game for Nebraska, the Huskers take the first matchup with the Hoosiers as a member of the Big Ten. – WIN
Oct. 22 — vs. Purdue
Quarterback Ryker Fyfe won’t be starting this time. – WIN
Oct. 29 — at Wisconsin
This is the annual game that Riley probably shouldn’t win, but let 2016 be known as the year Nebraska finally gets over the hump and beats the Badgers. Last year’s absolutely heart-wrenching loss deserves to be avenged. This game again comes down to the ground. If Wisconsin is stopped, the Huskers will be the ones jumping around. – WIN
Nov. 5 — at Ohio State
Let’s be honest, Nebraska isn’t in the upper echelon where Ohio State and Urban Meyer currently reside. Now that this prediction is made, watch Riley pull a rabbit out of his hat and lose to Wisconsin only to turn around and beat the Buckeyes, because why not? – LOSS
Nov. 12 - vs. Minnesota
The Battle for the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy returns to Lincoln, and Goldy’s crew will need every ounce of positive play from redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Leidner for a chance to win. That still may not be enough as the Big Red dispatched the Golden Gophers up North to the tune of 48-25 last year in one of the most complete games of the season for the Big Red. – WIN
Nov. 19 — vs. Maryland
The first time Nebraska and Maryland meet as conference mates will see first- and second-year head coaches in D.J. Durkin and Riley. Unfortunately for Durkin, Riley’s got more talent, more speed and a home-field advantage that Maryland would kill for. – WIN
Nov. 25 — at Iowa
The Huskers played the Hawkeyes tight last year and likely will again as cornerback Desmond King returns to wreak havoc. The key question at this point in the season is how comfortable are the Huskers as a team? If they’ve gelled, no one player can stop them. – WIN
So if you're keeping score at home that's a 10-2 showing for Riley's second season, including 8-1 in the Big Ten. Will this all play out in a potential West Division title and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game? That remains to be seen, but it's a scenario Cornhusker fans would undoubtedly sign up for this fall.