The past few seasons have not gone quite according to plan for the Nebraska faithful. Scott Frost enters his fourth season as the head coach of his alma mater, and it looks like it could be a pretty crucial one.
If Nebraska is going to end its bowl drought in 2021, then they will have to stack up a bunch of wins in the first two months of the season. You may be hard-pressed to find a more challenging road to a postseason bowl game in November than the one facing Nebraska with games against three of the top teams in the conference in November.
And, of course, the non-conference schedule is highlighted by one of the best non-conference opponents any Big Ten team will face this season, the Oklahoma Sooners.
Here’s a look at Nebraska’s 2021 college football schedule from what should be the easiest games to the most challenging.
12. Sept. 4 vs. Fordham
The easiest game on Nebraska’s schedule will come against an FCS opponent in Fordham. The Rams have developed a knack for creative offenses, but Nebraska should be able to put this one away in the second half.
11. Aug. 28 at Illinois
The Bret Bielema era is underway in Week 0 with an opportunity to set the tone against Nebraska. Right now, Nebraska has a few more pieces together than the Illini, so Nebraska should get out of this one with a win.
10. Sept. 25 at Michigan State
Michigan State is in a massive rebuilding project in East Lansing, which makes this road trip not nearly as intimidating as it can be. Still, Nebraska has to be ready to battle the Spartans.
9. Sept. 11 vs. Buffalo
Nebraska is not in a position to take any game for granted. That is especially true early on with a home game against a Buffalo program that went 6-1 last season. Buffalo has gone 24-10 over the last three seasons under Lance Leipold, who is now the head coach at Kansas. Will the Bulls continue their winning ways?
8. Oct. 30 vs. Purdue
Purdue has the potential to be a wild card in the Big Ten West, but has not quite progressed in the same way that it looked like the program was heading early in the Jeff Brohm era. Still, with David Bell at receiver, the Boilermakers can make some big plays against the Nebraska defense.
7. Oct. 2 vs. Northwestern
Northwestern has been a thorn to Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten, so we’ll see what goes down this season. Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats are tough to beat mentally, so Nebraska must avoid turning the football over in this one.
6. Oct. 9 vs. Michigan
Jim Harbaugh brings the Wolverines to Lincoln in the second weekend of October, and it could be a pivotal game for both teams as Big Ten play begins to dig in. Both programs have underwhelmed in recent years, but the Wolverines at least have gone to bowl games. This could be a must-win game for the Huskers if they want to go to their own bowl game this season.
5. Oct. 16 at Minnesota
The Gophers could be a bit of a team flying, or rowing, under the radar this season, and they should be a tough team at home. If Nebraska can’t stop Mohamed Ibrahim on the ground though, the visitors may never gain control in this one.
4. Nov. 26 vs. Iowa
Iowa has dominated this series to close out the season, and that dominance could continue this season. Nebraska gets the home-field advantage, but that hasn’t really seemed to matter much recently.
3. Nov. 20 at Wisconsin
Any road trip to Madison is enough of a challenge as it is. Doing so against a team thought to be a preseason favorite in the division doesn’t make this game any easier for Nebraska.
2. Nov. 6 vs. Ohio State
Nobody in the Big Ten is likely to stack up well against Ohio State this season, including Nebraska. So when the Buckeyes make their way to Lincoln in early November with a possible shot at playing in the College Football Playoff, Nebraska could be in for a long game.
1. Sept. 18 at Oklahoma
The old classic rivalry will be renewed between Nebraska and Oklahoma in Week 3, and it presents the stiffest challenge for Nebraska this season. Controlling quarterback Spencer Rattler will be a tall order, and going on the road to face the Sooners is what helps make this the more challenging game for the Huskers than their home date with the Buckeyes. Oklahoma is being hyped as a national title contender, and will look to back up that hype against Nebraska.
Podcast: Best Non-Conference Games + Preseason Practice Updates