There seems to be a prevalent attitude from Husker fans that this game is a loss, and might well end up in a blow-out. I don't see it that way. Both teams have struggled on offense against lesser foes. Now both offenses must face the best defenses in the nation. Neither team should score a lot of points.
I see a low-scoring four-quarter game won by the team that can make one or two big plays, whether they come on offense, defense, or special teams. This is one of those games where the cliche' "mistake-free football" is adequately applied.
|National||Big 12||National||Big 12|
|3rd Down Conversions||36||3||49||7|
|Red Zone Conversions (Score %)||93||11||9||2|
|Tackles for Loss||23||4||4||1|
- Field position is always key in low-scoring games. Oklahoma has an edge in both punting and in punt returns. Oklahoma's punter Tress Way is tied for 20th in the nation with a 43.11 yard per punt average. Way has had eight punts downed inside the 20 and has nine for 50+ yards. He is the best punter Oklahoma has had under Bob Stoops.
Alex Henery isn't too far behind Way with a 40.39 yard average, but he's ranked 64th nationally (which shows how close the rankings are). His average might be skewed by the fact that 17 of his 38 punts have been downed inside the 20.
- The Sooners are one of the best punt return teams in the nation. Dominique Franks comes to Lincoln ranked fourth nationally with a 17 yard average. Franks took over return duties after Ryan Broyles was injured against Miami. Broyles is back, returning punts in the last two games and is currently 23rd nationally with a 12 yard average.
Niles Paul is ranked 37th with a 9.18 yard average.
- Nebraska is respectable in third down conversions - better than you thought, right? Oklahoma, not so great. One key to picking up third downs is the ability to get tough running yardage when it's needed.This is where it's evident that the Sooner line has struggled.
When rushing, Nebraska is ranked 22nd in the nation on in third down situations with 1-3 yards to go, picking up an average of 4.73 yards. The Sooners are an abysmal 86th, with only a 2.77 yard average.
- Nebraska's struggles in red zone conversions have been well-documented. It won't get any easier this weekend as Oklahoma is third in the nation in opponent's red zone conversions, although if it makes you feel any better, Nebraska is fourth in the same category.
If there was a more telling tale in the statistics, Nebraska has scored on 100% of their red zone trips in their wins. In their losses, that percentage dropped to 50%. Going one-for-four against Iowa State certainly didn't help in that department, but think about that for a minute. Given the Huskers ability to keep opponents from scoring, all the Huskers need to do is get something on the board when they get into the red zone and they should be fine.
Oklahoma has scored touchdowns on their last eight trips in the red zone - against Kansas and Kansas State.
- With eight turnovers against Iowa State, turnover margin is a pretty useless statistics this season if for no more reason that it's an anomaly. I should probably replace it with interceptions and fumbles, but i keep it in place for consistency's sake.
Since you asked..... Oklahoma is ninth in interceptions with 13 on the season. Nebraska is 63rd with only seven. In fumbles recovered, Oklahoma is 55th with ten, while Nebraska is 73rd with seven.
- If you thought Nebraska was bad in the penalty department, well, take a look at Oklahoma. They're nearly last in the nation (tied with Texas Tech, while both are ahead of Arizona State).
It'd be great if the Husker home crowd could help them out in their quest to be dead last.