Matt Rhule non conference comments divide Nebraska football nation

The Nebraska football head coach made it clear that he'd rather not play P5 non-conference games, and that sparked a range of reactions.
Nov 18, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule stands with
Nov 18, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule stands with / Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On the same day that Nebraska football fans found out what the College Football Playoff format will look like for the foreseeable future, some interesting comments from the Huskers’ head coach that are at least tangentially tied to that development began circulating on social media.

The comments weren’t spoken in the wake of the new format. In fact, they came five days earlier. But they made in a way that it’s clear Rhule understood what it would take to make the playoffs, even if the format wasn’t yet set.

The comments surfaced thanks to a Tom Shatel column five days before the new format was official. As has been the case since Rhule arrived in Lincoln, he was straight forward and to the point. He doesn’t think it makes much sense for the Nebraska football team to schedule Power 5 programs in non-conference games.

“In a year where you hope to play 15 or 16 games, why would you elect to play a really tough game early?” Rhule said. “A couple years ago, if I had told you we were going to play Oregon and Washington (as nonconference games), you’d say Holy Smokes. Well, now that’s the conference.”

The comment makes sense. They also echo comments Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts said last year. Alberts said the Nebraska football team’s non-conference schedule is going to be lighter because the conference schedule will be tougher. And there’s more at stake in the regular season, with 12 teams getting into the playoffs.

“I think personally with 18 teams (in the Big Ten) you should give yourself the best chance with your scheduling,” Rhule added.

Matt Rhule non-conference comments divide Nebraska football nation

Two camps quickly formed. The first was that this was a sort of cowardly approach. It was also just boring, because it means that non-conference games are going to be against weaker opponents and lead to less interesting contests.

The other side of the debate took roughly the same point of view as Rhul and Alberts.

This coming season, the Huskers will take on Colorado, now a Power Conference Big 12 member. In 2025 it will be another Big 12 squad in Cincinnati. Shatel wrote that its possible schedules that feature Power Conference teams all the way up to 2030 could be shuffled.

As of now, 2027 features a trip to Neyland Stadium and the Volunteers. 2028 includes the Arizona Wildcats, and then in 2029 and 2030, the Cornhuskers will face off in a home and home against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Not all of those teams are guaranteed to be very good, even if they're in Power Conferences, but they're viewed as being harder to beat than Group of 5 squads, even if those G5 schools might be posting better records.

One thing is clear, this particular issue is one to keep an eye on. And no matter how things shake out, there's bound to be one camp or another among Nebraska football fans who aren't happy about it.