Betting every matchup of the Big Ten Week 11 slate
Vaughn Dalzell and Eric Froton give bettors their best picks for the entire Week 11 slate of the Big Ten season.
After playing in the postseason for eight straight years, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been absent from Bowl Season since 2016. A school that holds five national championship trophies, is rooted in tradition and success, and has been coached by legends, has found itself home for the holidays the past six years.
This weekend, the Huskers take on the Maryland Terrapins in what is the second shot for the Big Red to become bowl eligible. The Terrapins, like Nebraska, are 5-4 and it’s a massive moment for both teams, as the winner moves to that 6-4 record and secures an entree into bowl season. For the Cornhuskers, there's also a shot at the Big Ten West championship game, if they can win out and the Minnesota Golden Gophers drop one in their remaining slate.
Starting fresh again in 2023, Nebraska came into the season with new head coach Matt Rhule, formerly at Temple, Baylor and at professional level with the Carolina Panthers. Known for fostering team chemistry and building programs up, Rhule’s hiring as the Huskers’ sixth head coach over the last 20 years came with immediate high expectations. But, the now 5-4 record is already proving to Big Red fans that things are looking up.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Tyler Davis has noticed a “day-and-night difference” from last season to this season.
“I feel like Matt Rhule has a lot to do with the way the team is performing,” said Davis. “I feel more confident about the Huskers. My expectation this season is to try to make a bowl game. I think we’re close to that.”
Another key change has been quarterback and Nebraska native Heinrich Haarberg, who took over for Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Simms in Week 3. Haarberg has led the team to five wins, tallying seven passing touchdowns and 967 passing yards. Fans like to call the sophomore “The Kearney Kid”, as he grew up in Kearney, a city about 130 miles from campus.
“He's from Nebraska and I think that's special,” Nebraska freshman Halle Settles said. “Having somebody that's grown up here, who's grown up watching Husker football get to start is something that's super exciting for Husker fans. He was doing pretty good. I think he definitely has the grit and he's not afraid to work hard for what he wants, and I think that's shown in his games.”
Making it to the postseason means a lot for Husker fans, particularly current students who have yet to experience the playoff atmosphere.
“There’s something just so special about seeing a team that you've watched, having to rebuild and having to fight through games finally being able to get rewarded through this,” Settles said. “Especially with the fan base, we're always there for Husker football and all of us being able to get to a bowl game would just be something so special. Me and my dad were talking about going to the bowl game if we were to make it. If we do win on Saturday, the energy and the excitement is just going to be in overload and all the Husker fans are going to be very grateful.”
Husker fans are looking to what will come next for the team and how the program will continue being shaped.
“I think what it tells the rest of the fans is that there's hope for the future, that we can actually win some of these big games and that we can beat teams like Maryland, Wisconsin and Iowa,” Davis said. “It tells the fan base that maybe more good things are to come. This is the beginning of something good. I think a lot of teams and a lot of fans will be expecting more if we happen to get that sixth win.”
The squad has also gotten some key pieces back from injury. Defensive back Marques Buford Jr. made his season debut last weekend against Michigan State after a knee injury suffered last season. Against the Spartans, Buford Jr. recorded two tackles. He expressed his gratitude to be able to be back on the field and play these last three regular season games.
“I feel like my teammates were probably the biggest help for me getting through this coming back because I don't think I would have wanted to come back to play with another group of guys other than the guys that I’m with in that locker room,” Buford Jr. told the media this week. “The team and the coaches helped me out a lot with just having confidence and keeping the love and passion I have for the game.”
Led by Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland presents tough test
Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, is in his third year as a starter. He leads the Big Ten Conference with 21 passing touchdowns and 2,486 passing yards. NU linebacker Luke Reimer told the media that, on film, Tagovailoa grabbed the Blackshirts’ attention, “quickly.”
“He’s a really good player,” Reimer told the media. “They’ve got a lot of skilled guys and talent on their offense and they throw the ball really well. After what we did against Michigan State, like giving up a lot of pass yards, we have to tighten that up a lot so we got a big task but we’re looking forward to it.”
The team brushed off external pressure around bowl eligibility in this week’s media availability.
“We just don’t look at it as getting another win, it’s just what you do every single day,” Reimer said at the press conference. “It’s just that process and what you’ve been doing since week one of fall camp… It should all be the same, you shouldn’t change how you prepare or how you do anything because we’re one win closer to a bowl game or not.”
In Matt Rhule’s press conference on Monday, he highlighted his excitement for a team like Maryland coming down. While recapping last week’s game loss to the Spartans, Rhule noted two things his team needs to do to score: explosive plays and converting third downs.
“I know that seems pretty obvious, but those aren’t always happening for us,” Rhule said. “On both touchdowns we had an explosive play that allowed Heinrich on a scramble, Heinrich on another scramble, but in terms of coming out and hitting a big pass or hitting a big play, didn’t have enough of those in the flow of the game until the game got behind us.”
Nebraska has a major challenge Saturday morning in Lincoln, but also a major opportunity. The Huskers have a chance to play a solid conference rival, and do something that hasn’t happened for Husker fans in a while…make long-awaited plans to go bowling.
About the Author
Faith Worden is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, double-majoring in advertising and public relations & sports media and communication. Faith grew up with an immediate interest in sports journalism in high school after being part of her school’s digital journalism and newspaper team, being able to cover games, write stories and produce video pieces.
Worden works in social media for Nebraska Public Media, a network that connects Nebraskans to local stories and to programming from NPR and PBS, along with being part of a student-run on-campus advertising agency. She is passionate about her sports media classes and gaining experience in writing and reporting.
With a strong excitement for the world of journalism and media, Worden is excited to take her next steps in her career and continue gaining experience.
When: Saturday, November 11
Where: Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST