With the season about to start, it’s time to go on the record and make our call for how Nebraska’s 2021 season will go. As always, we will use a four-tier system to organize the games and help remove at least a little of the guesswork.
|BETTER WIN||Expected to win every time|
|SHOULD WIN||Expected to win more than half of the time|
|MIGHT WIN||Expected to win less than half of the time|
|WON’T WIN||Expected to lose every time|
We will put each game into one of these four categories, and then count up how many expected wins Nebraska should have at the end. Of course, we will also include a Fearless Forecast guess at the final score, because who doesn’t want two bites at the apple when predicting the future?
(Kidding, the Fearless Forecast isn’t the official prediction)
AT ILLINOIS (August 28)
Possibly the most important opening game in Nebraska’s history as a football program. Given how precarious Scott Frost’s position has become, a loss to Illinois (who, by the way, manhandled Nebraska last year in Lincoln) could easily send the 2021 season into a death spiral. But with Illinois bringing in a new coach (even one like Bret Bielema with tons of B1G experience) and changing schemes, Nebraska should have an advantage. We’ll see if the must-win quality of this game works to sharpen Nebraska’s focus, or makes the team crack under pressure.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 31, Illinois 17
FORDHAM (September 04)
Not only are the Rams an FCS team, they aren’t even a particularly good one in that subdivision. If this game is even close coming into the fourth quarter, alarm bells should be ringing.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 51, Fordham 13
BUFFALO (September 11)
This game looked a lot scarier before Lance Leipold took over at Kansas, causing a number of players to enter the transfer portal and putting the program in a rebuilding mode. Even though much of the 6-1 team from last year will be returning, the coaching change and disparity in talent make this a game that Nebraska should be able to win comfortably.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 45, Buffalo 28
AT OKLAHOMA (September 18)
Sure, it was a bad look trying to back out of this game. But in all honesty, I get it. If I’m Frost, given the fragile nature of the program, I want nothing to do with a trip to likely the best team in the country. Blowout losses have ruined seasons before. This is a game that is likely to be all about moral victories.
Fearless Forecast: Oklahoma 45, Nebraska 21
AT MICHIGAN STATE (September 25)
At Colorado, Mel Tucker broke Nebraska’s heart twice with gut-wrenching (and head-scratching) wins. Now in charge at Michigan State, Tucker will have his chance to inflict more pain on Frost. Much about this contest will depend on Nebraska’s mindset coming out of Norman. Sparty’s cupboard is pretty bare, but this is a scenario ripe for a team like Oklahoma beating Nebraska twice by inflicting a hangover.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 17, Michigan State 13
NORTHWESTERN (October 02)
Sam McEwon of the Omaha World-Herald had what I thought was the best insight on Northwestern. The Purples really are kind of a bellweather of the rest of the B1G West. If the rest of the conference is down a little, the Purples can win it. That’s been the case the last couple of years, and Northwestern has beaten Nebraska recently simply by playing smarter, sharper football. But if Nebraska has been able to take care of business up to this point, it should have enough momentum to win this game at home
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 21, Northwestern 17
MICHIGAN (October 09)
Much like Nebraska, Jim Harbaugh has significantly underachieved at Michigan. But underachieving for Michigan (other than last year) has been winning eight-to-ten games a year, not what Nebraska has produced. The Wolverines certainly aren’t the powerhouse of That Team Down South, but they are still a more talented team on both sides of the ball.
Fearless Forecast: Michigan 28, Nebraska 20
AT MINNESOTA (October 16)
Goldie has likely the best running back in the league in Mo Ibrahim, and a quarterback in Tanner Morgan that’s been in the program for, what 24 years. It’s also attempting to revive an atrocious defense from last year. Minnesota’s win over Nebraska last year with a COVID-ravaged squad might be Frost’s most unforgivable loss in his Nebraska tenure, and going to Minneapolis to get revenge will be a challenge.
Fearless Forecast: Minnesota 27, Nebraska 24
PURDUE (October 30)
At one point, Jeff Brohm versus Scott Frost looked like it was going to be one of the most fun battles of two sharp-witted offensive coaches. The tide has turned for both Brohm and Frost, and although Purdue has one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in wide receiver David Bell, its overall talent level makes it harder for the Boilermakers to dig out of a hole.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 35, Purdue 24
OHIO STATE (November 06)
Listen, the Buckeyes will be breaking in a new quarterback, and the game is in Lincoln. So if there’s ever a chance Nebraska would be able to …
Yeah, I’m not buying it either. Nebraska has been competitive with Ohio State in the past, taking the Buckeyes to the wire in Columbus when Adrian Martinez was a freshman and hanging around for a half last year. Like with Oklahoma, hope for the best as a Nebraska fan, but be satisfied with moral victories.
Fearless Forecast: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 17
AT WISCONSIN (November 20)
Since Nebraska’s entry into the B1G, Sconnie has loomed as a specter over the program. The Badgers are what Nebraska thought it would be coming into the conference, and now is what Nebraska is aspiring to become. The last few games against Wisconsin have been closer than the score would indicate, but turning the tide in Madison this year seems a bridge too far.
Fearless Forecast: Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17
IOWA (November 26)
Hey, remember this guy?
Yep, the last game played in Memorial Stadium with fans present was Keith Duncan blowing kisses as Iowa walked Nebraska off for its fifth (now sixth) straight Heroes Game win. Husker Fan, if you don’t have that image burned into your soul – if you still think this isn’t a rivalry between Nebraska and Iowa – there’s something wrong with you.
The last three Heroes Games have been razor-thin, with Nebraska at least even with if not outplaying Iowa, but making enough mistakes for a gritty and smart football team to get the best of them.
I am fully aware that this is falling victim to the Gambler’s Fallacy, but Nebraska’s due for one of these to break its way.
Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 27, Iowa 24
OK, so let’s tally up how many games we put into each of the four categories:
That means Nebraska is expected to win all the Better Win games (2), more than half of the Should Win games (3), less than half of the Might Win games (1), and none of the Won’t Win games. That puts Nebraska at 6-6, which is probably the bare minimum Frost needs to keep the hounds at bay and work with a much more manageable 2022 schedule.
The Fearless Forecast is a little more optimistic, putting Nebraska at 7-5. Given the amount of change in Nebraska’s roster, particularly at the skill positions on offense, forecasting this year’s season is even more challenging than usual.
Now all we need is a football season to prove how right – or wrong – this forecast really is.