Statistics don't mean a whole lot after only two games, especially when one is against a FCS opponent, but I'm intending this a season-beginning place holder - something we can look back on as the season progresses.
During the offseason I had hoped to progress well enough with statistics to begin doing something more along the lines of what's going on with Bill Connelly and Football Study Hall, but I do have a real job and family that need my attention, so that got put off, most likely for another season.
It's typical that when football fans look at statistics we tend to go for the base, i.e., total offense, scoring defense, even though they don't tell us a whole lot because of the variety in strength of schedule between schools. They sound darned good when your team is doing well.
Nebraska finished third nationally in 2010 in pass efficiency defense! WOohooO!!
and when your team is doing poorly....
/ignore unfavorable stats and move on
FIVE NATIONAL TITLES, YEAH!
A couple of years ago we used to compare schedule and base statistics on a fairly rudimentary level with a series we called "Under The Hood". Ah, those were the days. In honor of the series, and because this is a place to put a stake in the ground, here's your current base stats for Nebraska after the first two games of the season (all stats provided by cfbstats.com):
Total Offense 401 yards per game - 55th nationally
Scoring Offense 41 points per game - 31st
Rushing Offense 224 yards per game - 24th
Passing Offense 177 yards per game - 91st
Total Defense 337 ypg - 45th
Scoring Defense 18 ppg - 41st
Rushing Defense 125 ypg - 55th
Passing Defense 212 ypg - 59th
What we'll look for is improvement over the course of the next few weeks. Obviously nothing looks better than a "W", but stats can still tell us a lot about whether or not the team is improving relative to other FBS teams.
First Downs - Total/Game
2011 - 17 - 97th
2010 - 18.1 - 86th
2010 - August/September - 19.3 - 63rd, December - 13.5 - 78th
Third Down Conversions
2011 - 43.33% - 52nd
2010 - 41.15% - 51st
2010 - August/September - 45.45 - 36th, December - 25.81 - 75th
Total Offense - Yards Per Play
2011 - 6.5 ypp - 35th
2010 - 6.1 ypp - 24th
2011 - minus 1/game - 93rd
2010 - minus .07/game - 61st
2011 - 29 yards/game - 13th
2010 - 70.9 yards/game - 115th
2011 - 124 - 91st
2010 - 916 - 27th
Rushing Offense - Plays of 20+ Yards
2011 - 7 - tied for 7th
2010 - 36 - 6th
Rushing Offense - Plays of 10+ Yards
2011 - 10 - tied for 46th
2010 - 93 - tied for 12th
There are a few things that you jump out at you. On the positive side, penalties are way down from last season. Considering that you've got a new offensive coordinator and new, inexperienced offensive line that's an excellent improvement. On the down side, the new up-tempo offense was supposed to allow us to run more plays, but as you can see, we're not doing so well in that category. A better stat might be plays/game, but that's not available at the present time (at least without a fair amount of work).
The number of first downs per game is disconcerting, although not so way off from all of last season (although the team dropped badly towards the end of the season which drug down the full season average).
Nebraska suffered not from a single turnover against Fresno State, but if they keep occurring they will cost the Huskers a game or two.
If you looked at Nebraska's rushing situational stats, you'd see that the offense is just bloody awful on second down, averaging just 1.29 yards per carry. First down isn't so bad at 5.39, and third and long is just a bundle of suck. Comments welcome.
Opponent Third Down Conversions
2011 - 39.47% - 68th
2010 - 29.95% - 4th
Yards Per Attempt - Passing
2011 - 5.5 ypa - 25th
2010 - 5.5 ypa - 3rd
Yards Per Attempt - Rushing
2011 - 3.52 ypa - 52nd
2010 - 3.90 ypa - 44th
Sacks Per Game
2011 - 1.5/g - 59th
2010 - 2.21/g - 43rd
Tackles for Loss Per Game
2011 - 5 - 76th
2010 - 4.29 - 112th
Opponent Long Passing Plays - 10+ Yards
2011 - 17 - 49th
2010 - 92 - 96th
Opponent Long Rushing Plays - 10+ Yards
2011 - 7 - 60th
2010 - 61 - 60th
Sacks and Tackles for Loss. As football fans we tend to make too much of these particular statistics - no doubt you heard the groaning after there were 10 TFL against the Mocs and zero against Fresno State. Check 2010 - Nebraska wasn't stellar in either category, yet you couldn't make the argument that the Blackshirts were a bad defense. Fact is, Nebraska's defensive line plays a gap defense, plug the running lanes, not an aggressive push upfield, but in order to keep everything in front of them. Ndamukong Suh (and Jared Crick to an extent) was a rare player, historical, and Husker fans should not expect massive sacks and TFL's on a yearly basis from someone who is a defensive tackle.
The Blackshirts struggled against Fresno State in one specific area - Nebraska couldn't seem to get the Bulldogs off the field on third down. Notice the difference in that third down conversion stat between this year and last (only two games, again, but..). If the defense continues along those lines it'll be damned difficult to win our Big Ten division (whatever the hell that's called again).
After looking at all the stats on the defense, i.e., long pass plays, long running plays, penalties, etc - you kind of have to conclude that there's one stat that matters most - scoring defense. You can give up all the long plays you want - as long as they ain't getting in the end zone it really doesn't matter all that much (a real stats guy would say, ah, but if you consistently let them drive to the two, you're hurting your own offense and that stats guy would be correct).
Turnovers should be included in that as well, and it's too early in the season to really get a read on how Nebraska is doing in forcing fumbles and picking off the ball. We'll look at that more closely in the coming weeks.
Total Offense 358 ypg - 82nd
Scoring Offense - 35 ppg - 44th
Rushing Offense 149.5 ypg - 64th
Passing Offense 208.5 ypg - 76th
Total Defense 446 ypg - 103rd
Scoring Defense 29.5 - 84th
Rushing Defense 43 ypg - 7th
Passing Defense 403 ypg - 120th
In looking at Washington's defense you might determine that they've got a horrible pass defense. They're dead last in yards per game and in yards given up, but they've also faced two teams that love to throw the ball. The Husky defense has faced 114 attempts already in two games, more than anyone in the nation, and in fact, 18 times more than Tulsa at 119.
That's why looking at yards per attempt is more meaningful and in that category Washington is fairing a little better, at 7.1 ypa, 68th nationally.
On the other side of the coin, Washington opponents have attempted only 39 runs against them (9th nationally), with a 2.21-yard average. Again, the two teams they faced, Eastern Washington and Hawaii, aren't exactly known for rushing prowess.
A really nasty stat for Washington is their opponent's third down conversion rate, which is currently last in the country - 70%, nearly a full nine percentage points worse than the next to last team. Perhaps this is the week in which we see ACHIEVEMENT - SUSTAINED DRIVE - UNLOCKED.
That'd make a lot of Husker fans happy.