Typically we have our staff of expert Husker writers predict each game of Nebraska's season.
But this year we turned to something even more wise — a Magic 8-Ball.
Yes, the children's toy with all its infinite wisdom already knows what will happen each time the Huskers take the field in 2021.
So let's find out what it has to say — unless it wants us to "ask again later."
Aug. 28, noon • Illinois’ Memorial Stadium • TV: Fox
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: Players identified the opener as one of their most important games of the year. And it is. The veteran defense will be plenty motivated to pick up where it left off in 2020 and the offense has plenty to prove. Illinois brings back as many “super” seniors as anyone in the country but was also a 2-6 team that is adjusting to a new coach. Continuity and talent favor the Huskers. That should be enough in this one.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Remember last year? Nebraska’s worst game of 2020 — the loss to the Illini in Lincoln — was the most recent reminder that it isn’t above self destructing even when favored. Bret Bielema-coached teams are usually tough in the trenches, and a veteran roster will be eager to get a new era started on the right foot at home. The pressure is on the Huskers — if they feel it, Illinois could roll again.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: This is a must-win for Nebraska after slow starts the first three seasons under coach Scott Frost. The Huskers will put everything into it, too, with the seasoned Blackshirts and Adrian Martinez playing clean enough football to head into September with some much-needed momentum. NEBRASKA 31, ILLINOIS 21
Sept. 4, 11 a.m. • Memorial Stadium • TV: BTN
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: The Rams have been a below-average FCS team the past four years and now are short on development after playing three games in their delayed spring season. Nebraska will be amped for its first home contest with a crowd since 2019 and has the lines and skill players to do what it wants when it wants. The talent gap between the programs can’t be overstated.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Nebraska has occasionally struggled against pass-heavy offenses like Fordham’s, which can create big plays and take away the need for lengthy scoring drives. The Huskers aren't above a hangover depending on how the previous week goes. The perfect storm for an upset would start with lots of turnovers and self-inflicted mistakes — sound familiar?
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: Ask again later ... just kidding. No need to overanalyze this one. Nebraska is paying Fordham $500,000 for the game and should get its money’s worth in a matchup that won’t reveal much. Reserves should get extended looks as the Huskers enjoy a rare runaway. NEBRASKA 48, FORDHAM 17
Sept. 11, 2:30 p.m. • Memorial Stadium • TV: BTN
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: The Bulls are starting from scratch with a new coaching staff after Lance Leipold left for Kansas in April. A flurry of transfers followed, meaning this is a true Year Zero for the visitors. Nebraska’s experience and speed should be more than enough against a Group of Five squad that barely knows itself.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Nebraska has lost to a MAC school before, and Buffalo still has players who were part of a 6-1 season last fall. That includes a 1,000-yard rusher in Kevin Marks and parts of an offensive line that helped pave the way for one of the best running teams in the country. If the Bulls can recreate that ground game and their propensity to create turnovers, there could be drama.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: This one looked a lot more interesting in March. The Huskers have too many ways to beat an undermanned and green opponent — tempo, power, etc. — and aren’t likely to be fooled by a limited passing offense. NU takes care of business. NEBRASKA 38, BUFFALO 13
Sept. 18, 11 a.m. • Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium • TV: Fox
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: You might have to squint to see reasons for optimism. Maybe Nebraska’s defense can limit the chunk yardage the Sooners frequently roll up. Maybe OU comes out sleepy for a morning kickoff. Maybe the Huskers find inspiration from past legendary players who will be on hand in Norman. Oklahoma’s defense isn’t infallible, either. If everything comes together and NU avoids costly errors, it can hang with OU.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: The Sooners are national-title contenders who have churned out Heisman-winning quarterbacks and high NFL draft picks in recent years. Their pro-style offense — a blend of Air Raid and power rushing — will expose any weakness and leaves opponents little margin for error. In a shootout or low-scoring affair, OU holds a decided advantage.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: Oklahoma is a big favorite, and it should be. A competitive game would feel like a win for Nebraska — too often a blowout victim in moments that matter most — and a sign of progress. Otherwise, the tough questions will persist. OKLAHOMA 43, NEBRASKA 24
Sept. 25, TBD • Spartan Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: Nebraska is further along in its rebuild than Michigan State and has more talent at most positions. The Huskers’ philosophy of simply outscoring opponents can work against these Spartans, who succumbed to multiple blowouts against so-so offenses during a 2-5 season last year. Frost might have a little something extra for Mel Tucker, too, after his Colorado team beat NU in 2019.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Michigan State will be amped to play its first Big Ten home game with fans under Tucker, whose roster will more resemble his black-and-blue style than last year’s rough debut. An experienced offensive line could help shorten the game and magnify the importance of every drive — something that hasn’t favored the Huskers of late. Tucker has beaten Nebraska on the strength of his defense before.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: This is a sneaky big one for Nebraska coming off an emotional Oklahoma week. While a hangover is always possible, the Huskers should have enough firepower to outslug Sparty. The game may not be the prettiest, but the result will be plenty satisfying for the visitors. NEBRASKA 28, MICHIGAN STATE 20
Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m. • Memorial Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: Northwestern returns 10 total starters while Nebraska brings back 10 on defense alone. The Huskers are routinely the more talented team in this matchup and now they add an experience edge for a home night showdown that will be an early swing game in the West Division. Development and lack of mistakes have long defined success for the Wildcats, whose youth — and a new defensive coordinator — makes that traditional advantage no sure thing.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Chicago’s Team is notorious for winning close games in recent years while Nebraska’s reputation is on the other end of the spectrum. That’s held true in the matchups, too — the Wildcats won four of five one-possession contests between the schools in the past six years. Northwestern claimed two recent West titles on the strength of letting opponents beat themselves. The Huskers haven’t proven they can overcome that strategy.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: Nebraska doesn’t need to play a perfect game to beat this youthful version of Northwestern, which is undergoing more offseason changes than usual under Pat Fitzgerald. The home “NU” breaks a few big plays and forces long drives for a Wildcat group facing its first road league challenge. This one doesn’t come down to the final minute. NEBRASKA 24, NORTHWESTERN 13
Oct. 9, TBD • Memorial Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: Michigan is at every bit the crossroads Nebraska is, and on a campus that has changing the world as a greater priority to anything related to sports, UM’s season could go south quickly if a quarterback doesn’t emerge and the new defensive scheme is hard to learn. NU will have home-field advantage and a major chip on its shoulder from that 2018 beating it took in Ann Arbor.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: The Wolverines still have elite skill talent at defensive back and linebacker, and Nebraska’s offense under Frost has generally not fared well when it can’t run around or past a defense. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh — on a hot seat after restructuring his contract to favor his bosses — is named Captain Comeback for a reason. He may do well as an underdog.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: This could be the defining game of Nebraska’s season. Michigan is a name program with more talent than the Huskers, but you wouldn’t confuse the Wolverines with Oklahoma or Ohio State. Memorial Stadium should be fired up for the showdown. You know Frost will bring a little extra salt. The Blackshirts deliver an inspired win. NEBRASKA 24, MICHIGAN 20
Oct. 16, TBD • Huntington Bank Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: The truth is, this is Nebraska’s real Big Ten rival. Thank Gopher coach P.J. Fleck for that, but it’s real. Nebraska does not like Minnesota, which kicked the Huskers’ tail in 2019 and 2020. Frost and Co. have a respect for Iowa and Wisconsin’s staffs that does not extend to the Gophers, and at some point, that internal energy probably kicks over into winning.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Minnesota is a deeper, more athletic team than Nebraska with a more accomplished quarterback, a better running back, a bigger offensive line, better lead pass rusher and, to this point, a more successful Big Ten coach. What might have been up for debate after the 2019 game can’t be after the 2020 game, when undermanned Minnesota outplayed and outcoached the Huskers on Senior Day.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: This is one of the hardest games on NU’s schedule. Minnesota has a real chance to win the Big Ten West and the Gophers play a style of football that tends to let Nebraska self-destruct. The Huskers could be 6-1 headed into this game. The back end of the slate is a buckle-up kind of deal. MINNESOTA 27, NEBRASKA 16
Oct. 30, TBD • Memorial Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: After two sloppy defensive games against the Boilermakers, Nebraska seemed to figure out a few things last season against Jeff Brohm’s scheme and his collection of talented receivers. NU stuffed Purdue’s running game and harassed quarterback Jack Plummer all over the field. Nebraska has averaged 30.3 points against the Boilermakers since Frost arrived. That’ll due here.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: If Nebraska’s pass rush can’t get home, Purdue can put up plenty of points of its own. Brohm, an elite offensive mind, has consistently found ways to put defenses — including the Blackshirts — in a bind. Despite two straight disappointing seasons, Purdue probably has its most talented team under Brohm. If the Boilermakers can figure out how to stop the run, look out.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: Nebraska will need this win when it comes in the schedule. It won’t be easy, but the Huskers pull it out with a big game from Martinez. NEBRASKA 35, PURDUE 27
Nov. 6, TBD • Memorial Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: Nebraska hasn't been able to handle the Buckeyes’ combo of speed, size and serious intent. But this might be the weakest Ohio State team in many years after wave after wave of players left for the NFL draft. “Weak” is relative, of course — OSU will win at least 10 games — but it may be a little much to ask that this squad blast its way through the Big Ten the way the 2019 and 2020 teams did.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Ohio State plays for the biggest stakes in a four-team playoff — which means it never takes a week off — and Ryan Day may be the sport’s best coach north of Tuscaloosa. Day is intense but wound less tight than Urban Meyer. He’s also proven he can take a young quarterback — C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller, Kyle McCord and Quinn Ewers are the candidates in 2021 — and get him up to speed quickly. The defense will be good up front.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: It’ll be closer than the 2019 and 2020 games — when NU lost by 41 and 35 points, respectively — but the gap between these programs is still wide enough that Nebraska has to play close to perfect to win. How often have the Huskers done that? OHIO STATE 38, NEBRASKA 21
Nov. 20, TBD • Camp Randall Stadium • TV: TBD
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: Nebraska gets a bye week before it plays the Badgers, and the Huskers under Frost have had relative success moving the ball against Wisconsin’s defense. NU has made costly mistakes in those games, too, but the Badgers don’t steamroll the Huskers the way they might, say, Purdue. Wisconsin seemed a little iffy on offense last season, too.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: The Badger defense — especially the front seven — is bound to be pretty nasty, and on offense Graham Mertz has all the tools to be a great college quarterback. Nebraska hasn’t come close to slowing Wisconsin since 2016. NU’s defensive line is bigger, though.
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: The closest Wisconsin game in years awaits. Look for a defensive struggle — Wisconsin could have a top 10 scoring defense and Nebraska could be top 30 — that comes down to field position, ball possession and a turnover or two. We’ll take Wisconsin, but don’t be stunned if Nebraska pulls off an upset. WISCONSIN 17, NEBRASKA 13
Nov. 26, 12:30 p.m. • Memorial Stadium • BTN
WHY SIGNS POINT TO YES: It’s time, isn’t it? Nebraska has been within one score — one or two plays, honestly — of beating Iowa the past three seasons as the Huskers have learned, over time, to match the energy and effort Iowa brings to the Black Friday game. NU has the better quarterback. It may, for once in this series, have the better defense, too.
WHY THE OUTLOOK IS NOT SO GOOD: Iowa has consistently made the difference-making plays in this series while Nebraska finds a way to commit the dumb turnover at the wrong time — see last year’s muffed punt in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes play a little smarter and cleaner than the Huskers. Why would that change until NU has the definitively better team?
OWH 8-BALL SAYS: The tide turns and Nebraska wins on Black Friday. Iowa doesn’t have a bye week in November. NU does. The Huskers have the better quarterback and finally end a long losing streak. The Missouri River rivalry goes to another level. NEBRASKA 27, IOWA 24