Matt Rhule could fix Nebraska.
He has the bona fides. He has the intelligence. He has the capabilities. He’s done it twice before and in an even trickier situation at Baylor.
But Nebraska fans need patience. And they need to let Rhule do things his way until the Huskers become relevant again … and I’m not saying College Football Playoff contenders.
There are some legitimately valid arguments as to why teams in certain areas of the country, with very little recruiting footprint, could win a national title again.
But Rhule has the skill – and that’s what it is – to turn Nebraska into a conference contender. It won’t be in year one. It might not be in years two or three. It might never happen because many of the same fans, many of the same media members were absolutely certain Scott Frost was the right answer in Lincoln.
He was not.
Rhule could be. Could be.
Nebraska has not had a losing streak like this since the mid-1950s to early 1960s. Mike Riley went 4-8 in his last season and that was followed by the Frost debacle, where he had four-straight losing seasons and then enough was enough when the Huskers got beaten at home to Georgia Southern earlier this season.
Interim coach Mickey Joseph tried his best but, again, this is about a mindset, not just doing things the same way and expecting different results. Turnarounds – in college football, in industry – require cultural changes, a different way of thinking and gobs of talent.
Nebraska does not have that on its roster. Northwestern’s only win this season is against the Huskers – and the Wildcats played Southern Illinois and Miami (Ohio). The Huskers have been close but no cigar in a lot of games this season, and turning those close losses into wins is a skill, something that can be learned. Rhule can teach it.
Back-to-back 10-win seasons had literally never happened at Temple dating back to when the Owls first kicked it off in 1930, but it happened under Rhule in 2015 and 2016.. Under Rhule, Temple beat Penn State and only lost to No. 9 Notre Dame by four.
Taking over at Baylor was not out of desperation but guts, and that situation looked like it was headed to the graveyard. Instead, Rhule had the Bears at 7-6 in his second year and had an 11-win season in his third year before bouncing to the NFL. In his three seasons at Baylor, even in the one-win season, the Bears threw for more yards than their opponents. That could be replicated in Lincoln to give the Huskers a better chance of early wins.
We all know about Nebraska, and we don’t need to rehash everything. It’s a proud program, filled with history and tradition and decades of elite success. Whether that was in a college football world of years gone by, never to return, who knows? Michigan is winning at a high level in the Big Ten. Ohio State is regularly a national title contender. Penn State is a high-end program. Illinois has seven wins because it hired the right staff and has maximized talent there. Minnesota does as well, for many of the same reasons.
But this could be a match made in heaven. Rhule is looking to resurrect his career after an embarrassing stint with the NFL’s Panthers, where he came in as this program rebuilder magician and didn’t get it done. Nebraska needs a complete overhaul, from the studs up.
Rhule has done it twice before. Third time could be a charm for the Huskers. But he needs patience, patience and more patience.