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Putting it in Perspective: Further Statistical Comparisons Between Nebraska and Iowa State

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I did the Under the Hood comparison for the Iowa State game earlier this week. Now it's time to look a little closer at some of the more esoteric stats. The stats are listed by national and conference ranking, not by raw numbers. This gives us a better perspective of where the Huskers are with regards to the rest of the teams in the nation. 

The stats don't pain a pretty picture for our Huskers.  

All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com

Nebraska     Iowa State  
  National Big 12   National Big 12
3rd Down Conversions 25 3   28 4
Red Zone Conversions (Score %) 59 8   59 8
           
Turnover Margin 37 4   60 8
Sacks 24 4   79 10
Tackles for Loss 37 4   67 9
Sacks Allowed 40 5   3 2
Punting (Avg) 81 7   19 4
Punt Returns 43 6   98 11
Kickoff Returns 66 6   74 8
Penalties (Yds/G) 104 6   42 2

The penalty comparison is in yards per game, and the Huskers are getting killed in this category. You could complain about Big 12 referees, but that would only be a rationalization for what is a huge problem. We're one of the worst teams in the nation (and there are SIX Big 12 teams worse than we are, including the worst team in the nation, Oklahoma) in this category. Nebraska is averaging 8.5 penalties per game, ranking 102nd nationally. 

Some penalties can be accepted for the sake of aggressive play, but the false start and holding penalties don't fall into that area. A lot of the offensive inconsistency can be traced to penalties and the sad thing is, it's a correctable problem. It requires better focus and discipline by the offensive line. 

It may be hard to believe, but Iowa State is one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to giving up sacks. They simply don't do it. It isn't because of a quick tempo offense, short passing game or magic, it's because of the number of starts their offensive line has had as a unit. Last spring, the Wall Street Journal broke down the number of offensive line starts for each team in the nation. Iowa State was fourth in the Big 12, while Nebraska, minus Jaivorio Burkes and Andy Christensen, who hasn't started a game this season, dropped to tenth. That's a huge difference, and it's shown this season. 

I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere this week, but Alex Henery is having a rough time performing his punting duties this season. He reeled off punts of 32, and 27 yards against Tech (another was only 29 yards but was fair caught inside the 20 at the Tech 18), giving up valuable field position. 

The red zone conversion rate above is scoring percentage. Neither team is doing well in that category. The Huskers have a touchdown percentage of only 60%, which ranks us 55th nationally. By comparison, Iowa State is at 64% and 44th nationally. In our losses, the red zone score percentage drops us to 92nd, and against winning teams, we're at 73rd. Obviously if you're not scoring, you're not winning games, another area in which we must improve to win the Big 12 North. 

There's one more set of statistics we'll look at, and I did not list that above. Nebraska's offense has 30 plays of 15+ yards and only 15 plays of 30+ yards in passing. In rushing, they have 25 plays of 10+, and only 11 plays of 20+ yardage. By comparison, Iowa State ha  32 plays of 15+ and 10 plays of 25+ yards passing. In rushing, the Cyclones have  47 plays of 10+ yards in rushing, with 10 of 20+ yards. 

The bottom line - Nebraska's offensive line isn't reaching their second-level blocks on running plays. On passing plays, the offense isn't creating big plays because they're not throwing the ball downfield, or the receivers aren't breaking tackles on short passes. Again, not a good sign and something that must be improved.