Nebraska Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor IMay 26, 2014

Nebraska Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    With just over three months to go, the predictions for the 2014 college football season have begun. It’s early, but that’s not stopping the fun.

    For Nebraska, the 2014 season has a lot riding on it. Head coach Bo Pelini has made his way back into the good graces of many, but others still remember his leaked audio tape, his hat-swing at a referee and his post-Iowa game dare to be fired.

    Needless to say, if there has ever been a year for Pelini to win, it’s 2014.

    To date, Pelini has not had a season at Nebraska with less than four losses. That will have to change if he wants to stay off the hot seat and keep the good momentum going. The Huskers’ schedule bodes nicely for the possibility of that, but there are still plenty of potential bumps in the road. 

    What will Nebraska’s 2014 season look like? Here’s an early game-by-game prediction for the entire season.

Nebraska vs. Florida Atlantic

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, August 30

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    This matchup was originally an opportunity for former Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini to return home and face off against his brother. Unfortunately that won't be the case now that the Owls have fired Carl.

    Regardless of who is in charge, this should be an easy win for the Huskers. The Owls were 6-6 in 2013, and Nebraska leads the series between the two programs 1-0 (the two faced off in 2009 when Nebraska beat Florida Atlantic 49-3).

    Expect a similar score come August 30 when the Owls roll into town. This matchup will get the Huskers off to a good start for 2014.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Florida Atlantic: 1-0

Nebraska vs. McNeese State

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, September 6

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    Nebraska and McNeese State have only faced once before. That was in 2002 and the Huskers won. Twelve years later, the two meet again, and it won’t be the easiest non-conference game for Nebraska.

    The Cowboys were 10-3 in 2013—something worth paying attention to. The strength of schedule is also something to note. McNeese State’s 2013 schedule wasn’t packed with big teams, but their scores were always high. They’ll definitely be an offensive challenge for the Blackshirts early in the season.

    The advantage for Nebraska is that the game is at home, and that should be enough to secure a second non-conference win for the Huskers. But don’t expect the Cowboys to go down without a fight.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After McNeese State: 2-0

Nebraska at Fresno State

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, September 13

    Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, Calif.


    The one advantage Nebraska has in facing Fresno State is that the Huskers get the Bulldogs early in the season.

    Fresno State will be breaking in a new quarterback, a pretty new group of wide receivers and some new faces on defense. All of which will present a fair amount of challenges for the Bulldogs and should make the trip a little easier on the Huskers.

    Nebraska will need the extra help, too. The kickoff time is not a friendly one. With a 7:30 p.m. PT start, the Huskers will be playing at 9:30 p.m. CT. Despite what any team says, that’s difficult to adjust to.

    It likely won’t mean much in the end, but it’s something to watch out for.

    Fresno State will be in the early stages of rebuilding, giving Nebraska a sold first road win of the season.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Fresno State: 3-0

Nebraska vs. Miami (FL)

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, September 20

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    It’ll be hard for Pelini and his team to focus for the first few weeks knowing that this game is coming. They’ll say it won’t be their focus until after Fresno State, but it’ll be hard not to think about Miami.

    It’s understandable, too. Miami and Nebraska have a long history with one another. The last time the two faced off was in the 2002 Rose Bowl where the Huskers fell 37-14 to the Hurricanes.

    Twelve years later, more than just Nebraska and Miami fans are excited for this reunion. The two are currently 5-5 against one another.

    Who will take the tie-breaker?

    It won’t be an easy victory for Nebraska, but the Huskers will get their big win in prime time. With Miami replacing two starters on the offensive line, having question marks at running back and still having some struggles on defense, the game should ultimately fall in the Huskers’ favor.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Miami: 4-0

Nebraska vs. Illinois

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, September 27 

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    The 2013 Illinois team was quite an improvement over 2012. That means the Fighting Illini have nowhere to go but up, and it seems their 2014 could be even better.

    However, Illinois will be starting from scratch at the wide receiver position, and that will be an issue for them with the Huskers’ secondary greatly improving. Without a reliable passing game, Illinois will be reliant on running the ball—something the Huskers should be prepared to stop.

    Illinois struggles on defense as well—which is crazy considering they had one of the best defenses in the country only three years ago. But in 2014, things don't look too promising for the Fighting Illini on that side of the ball, and that should make Nebraska’s first Big Ten matchup of the season a big win.

    That’s a big plus, too. It’s Nebraska’s homecoming game.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Illinois: 5-0

Nebraska at Michigan State

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, October 4

    Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.


    Michigan State is already being projected as the Big Ten Champions, per Chase Goodbread and Bryan Fischer of That’s not surprising, either. Both Michigan State and Ohio State are getting plenty of attention this offseason, as Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press reported.

    That will make this matchup with Nebraska interesting.

    The Huskers made a case against the Spartans in 2013, but ultimately fell short. In 2014, Nebraska won’t have the benefit of being at home. Plus, Michigan State is a challenging team to play.

    The Spartans play power football, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have other tricks up their sleeves. Running back Jeremy Langford will be a challenge for Nebraska’s defense, and the Spartans have five players on the offensive line with starting experience.

    Nebraska won’t go down without a fight, but this matchup looks to fall to Michigan State.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Michigan State: 5-1

Nebraska at Northwestern

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, October 18

    Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.


    Northwestern will be out for revenge in 2014. The Wildcats have a chip on their shoulder after losing to Nebraska on a Hail Mary pass in 2013. They’ll make things tough for the Huskers.

    However, from tough cross-division matchups with Penn State and Michigan this season to the Wildcats' volatile 2013 (losing seven straight following a 4-0 start), Northwestern isn't set up to have the most successful 2014.

    Northwestern could use the negatives from 2013 to fuel a strong 2014 campaign, but it’ll be a challenge. This is good news for Nebraska as the team heads to Evanston to meet in late October.

    The Huskers can’t expect another Hail Mary to win the game this time around, but Nebraska likely won't need the last minute comeback.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Northwestern: 6-1

Nebraska vs. Rutgers

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, October 25

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    Rutgers' welcome to the Big Ten isn’t going to be the nicest. And Nebraska isn’t going to make it any easier on October 25.

    Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, their struggles are on both offense and defense—something Nebraska will take advantage of. Rutgers, after getting beat up by Ohio State the week prior, will provide a nice little boost in morale for the Huskers.

    One bright spot for Rutgers is senior quarterback Gary Nova. He’ll do his best to fight through the growing pains of a new conference. It just won’t be enough to overcome the Huskers.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Rutgers: 7-1

Nebraska vs. Purdue

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, November 1

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    The 2013 season wasn’t a pretty one for Purdue, but they didn’t let Nebraska escape without putting up a good fight. In 2014, the Boilermakers head to Lincoln and could still make life a little challenging for the Huskers.

    However, Purdue didn’t score much in 2013. They had 14 or fewer points in six of their 12 games. That’s not pretty.

    But, like mentioned before, that doesn’t mean Purdue goes down without a fight. Plus, their offense was young last season, which makes things look better for 2014.

    Purdue will give it a good shot, but the Huskers should walk away with the victory.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Purdue: 8-1

Nebraska at Wisconsin

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, November 15

    Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.


    Wisconsin will likely be one of Nebraska’s top competitors to win the West Division and head to the Big Ten Championship. That’s what makes this game a big deal.

    Additionally, the two programs haven’t seen each other since the Huskers lost 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten Championship. Neither team has likely forgotten that either.

    As for the series, the two teams are tied 4-4, but Wisconsin has won twice in the last three matchups.

    Melvin Gordon will shine at running back for the Badgers, and the Nebraska defense will have to be ready for him. If they’re not, he’ll run all over the place. Plus, the Badgers will have had time to get the quarterback position figured out and settled by mid-November.

    Nebraska will definitely be the underdog with the game being in Madison. That’s not to say they can’t step up and win it, but as of now it looks like it’s the Badgers’ to lose.

    And for the record, the winner will hold the tiebreaker for the season, meaning this game will likely be the answer to Nebraska's trip to the Big Ten Championship in 2014.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Wisconsin: 8-2

Nebraska vs. Minnesota

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, November 22

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.


    The 2013 Golden Gophers were a successful Big Ten team that many did not expect. Minnesota proved they had what it took to stay competitive against Nebraska last year.

    In 2014, things should be different.

    After all, Taylor Martinez should have never started against Minnesota last season. After learning just how serious his foot injury was this spring, it’s baffling that he ever stepped foot on the field that day. That’s not to say the Gophers couldn’t have won, but it could have been a different ballgame with Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III leading the way. 

    This year, Armstrong will take the reigns. The advantage for the Huskers is that Minnesota has one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten. By November 22, the Gophers will have to be a little tired from their tough Big Ten slate of games.

    Nebraska can’t underestimate Minnesota, but a healthy quarterback should make this go in the Huskers’ favor.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Minnesota: 9-2

Nebraska at Iowa

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    When: Friday, November 28 

    Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa


    The rivalry has been born. Or at least it feels like more of one than ever before. After Iowa beat Nebraska in 2013, the Huskers are going to want to secure the victory in 2014—and it won’t be the easiest finish to the season, either.

    Both Chase Goodbread and Bryan Fischer told that they think Iowa will be the Big Ten West winner. That’s not too shabby for Kirk Ferentz and his team.

    Nebraska’s defense will have to be ready for Iowa’s offense, which looks to be improved from 2013. The Hawkeyes have a pretty tough looking defense as well. They’ll have to replace their three starting linebackers, but beyond that, things are shaping up nicely for Iowa.

    But that’s the beautiful thing about “rivalries”—they’re unpredictable. Plus, the Huskers have history on their side. Nebraska holds a 28-13-2 series lead over the Hawkeyes.

    It won’t be pretty, but there shouldn’t be any hat-swinging this time around. The Huskers should get the late-season victory over Iowa.

    Way-Too-Early Projected Record After Iowa: 10-2