Sooners’ trip to Nebraska means much more than a typical non-conference game | Sports

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh installment in a series looking at Oklahoma’s schedule for the 2022-2023 season. The Transcript will rank all games by evaluating their significance, difficulty and entertainment value. This article previews Nebraska, which is ranked No. 5 in the series.

Oklahoma’s early-season game against Nebraska is more than a non-conference matchup.

It’s another installment in one of college football’s biggest rivalries after a 10-year dormant period ensued following Nebraska’s departure to the Big Ten in 2010. This year also marks the second straight season that the two teams will meet on the field.

The OU-Nebraska rivalry traces all the way back to 1912, and 2022 will mark the 88th entry in the series.

While the rivalry’s roots are deep, and the game is significant from a historical standpoint, the Sept. 17 matchup is a huge game for both teams. On Oklahoma’s side, it’s the first road game of the season under new coach Brent Venables, and they’re likely to face some hostility from the Lincoln, Nebraska crowd.

For the Cornhuskers, it’s a chance to score a much-needed statement victory against a top-ranked team and a familiar rival.

It’s been a tough few years for one of football’s most historically successful programs. Their last winning season came in 2016, and they haven’t won more than five games in a single campaign since then.

That includes last season’s disappointing campaign, as the Cornhuskers posted a 3-9 record. But fifth-year coach Scott Frost is quick to point out that his team was competitive. All nine losses came by single digits — seven of the losses were by seven or fewer points — and that includes their near upset of the Sooners in Norman, narrowly losing 23-16.

“We were competitive in every game last year,” Frost told reporters at Big 10 Media Days last month. “We have our chances to win. We made a ton of progress as a program from a talent perspective and from a culture perspective. We haven’t gotten it there yet. There’s a little piece we have to put together to make sure we get over the hump, but we’re excited to have the chance to do that.”

Expectations are much different for the Sooners compared to the Cornhuskers. But the matchup is a significant game for both teams, and there’s a significant track record of close games in this series. Plus, the teams aren’t scheduled to play again until 2029.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what to expect from the Cornhuskers this season and their game against the Sooners.

Quick facts

• When and where: 11 am Saturday, Sept. 17 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Last season

Offense: 27.9 points scored per game (70th nationally)

Defense: 22.7 points allowed per game (36th nationally)

Season series

OU holds a 46-38-3 all-time record advantage against Nebraska.

Overview

Statistically, the Cornhuskers were better than a three-win team last season, particularly on defense. The problem was their offense — the team scored more than 23 points just three times over the final nine games.

However, there’s reason to be more optimistic this season, and it starts with Casey Thompson. The former Texas quarterback and Oklahoma native transferred to Nebraska during the offseason and was recently named the starting quarterback. Thompson had success against the Sooners last season as the Texas quarterback, throwing for 388 yards and five touchdowns.

He replaces Adrian Martinez, now at Kansas State, who struggled with consistency during his time in Lincoln.

The Cornhuskers only have three offensive starters returning from last season, but they landed some talent in the transfer portal. That includes former LSU receiver Trey Palmer, who caught 30 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Even if the offense struggles again, the defense could pick up the slack. The unit returns six starters, and the team is deep with talent on the front seven. There’s preseason buzz for senior linebacker Luke Reimer, who led the team with 108 tackles to go with six tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.

Summary

The Sooners got the best of Nebraska last season, but just barely. Now, the team is tasked with scoring a pivotal road game in a tough environment against an opponent looking for momentum. OU should still be the favorite to win, but don’t be surprised if the game is a difficult one for the Sooners.

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