Every time you hear people talk about how good Nebraska's offense or Taylor Martinez is, someone inevitably follows up with the "Yabbut." You know how it goes: "Yabbut, who have they played?" Check out the defensive rankings of the teams they've played so far! Wait'll they face a real defense!
This always drives me a little batty, because my first response is always, "Well, why do think their rankings are so poor? 'Cause Nebraska ran all over 'em!" Obviously, this counterargument holds a lot more weight earlier in the season, when each game makes up more of a team's season output.
Well, I wanted to find out how good (or bad) the defenses Nebraska's played against are, without Nebraska's performance against them factored in. It's a pretty simple task: You just subtract the amount of yards Nebraska gained against them, re-average the new total, and place them back into the rankings to get their adjusted-for-Huskers defensive rank. The result is much closer to the team's true defensive quality, if you're using it to evaluate the Huskers.
So that's what I did for each of Nebraska's opponents so far, with rushing defense and total defense. (I didn't include passing defense, because Nebraska never tries to pass.) Two notes: 1) South Dakota St.'s rankings are obviously FCS; and 2) Kansas St.'s totals include last night's Kansas game. Stats and observations after the jump.
Western Kentucky - Overall: 98th, 422 ypg. Without Nebraska: 82nd, 393.5 ypg.
Idaho - Overall: 32nd, 321.2 ypg. Without Nebraska: 15th, 283.8 ypg.
Washington - Overall: 104th, 429.6 ypg. Without Nebraska: 85th, 403.8 ypg.
South Dakota St. - Overall: 99th, 408.2 ypg. Without Nebraska: 103rd, 424 ypg.
Kansas St. - Overall: 81st, 385. 8 ypg. Without Nebraska: 73rd, 371.4 ypg.
Western Kentucky - Overall: 111th, 211.2 ypg. Without Nebraska: 99th, 191.8 ypg.
Idaho - Overall: 63rd, 151 ypg. Without Nebraska: 16th, 98.8 ypg.
Washington - Overall: 106th, 207.6 ypg. Without Nebraska: 80th, 163.8 ypg.
South Dakota St. - Overall: 107th, 219 ypg. Without Nebraska: 109th, 222.5 ypg.
Kansas St. - Overall: 113th, 222.7 ypg. Without Nebraska: 89th, 177 ypg.
Here's what I see at first glance:
1) Every time I look at it, that South Dakota St. game appears more inexplicably terrible. SDSU actually allowed less than their season average against Nebraska in both overall defense and rushing defense.
2) Regardless of the competition, Idaho's defense is legit, and so is Nebraska's gashing of them. Nebraska ran for 360 against the Vandals; in their other four games combined, they've allowed 395.
3) Unfortunately, even with these adjustments, Idaho is still the only real defense the Huskers have faced. The defenses look better when you take Nebraska out, but other than Idaho, they still don't look good. So in answer to the question in the headline, no, we still don't know. But we'll have a much better idea tomorrow.
What jumps out at you?