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Nebraska Football: Numbers, Statistics & Lies Week 9

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Do not look now but the Cornhuskers are becoming a defense-oriented team. That and more kneejerk analysis in our weekly dive into the Husker books.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a tough one. It was sooooooo close. One more play here or there and the Huskers walk out of Camp Randall with the “W”. No time to stop and lick our wounds either as there is another tough opponent on the schedule.

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Brandon Reilly ranks 8th in FBS and 1st in the B1G in yards per reception at 20.75. We all figured he would be one of the main deep threats in the passing game and he has delivered.
  • While Tommy Armstrong’s completion % and mechanics are often scorned, no one can accuse him of being a dink-and-dunk quarterback. He is 3rd in FBS and 1st in the B1G in passing yards per completion at 15.32. Heisman front-runner, Lamar Jackson of Louisville, is first at 15.96.
  • Four members of LockdownU are ranked in the top 24 in FBS and top four in the B1G (ties mean there are more than four in the “top four”) in total interceptions. Leading the way are Nate Gerry and Keiron Williams with four apiece. Chris Jones and Aaron Williams have snagged three each. Not surprisingly, the Huskers are in the top spot in the nation for interceptions (15) tied with Utah and Appalachian State.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies

Number: 291

Statistics: In 2015, the Blackshirts gave up an average of 291 passing yards per game which was one of the worst (bottom 10) performances in all of FBS. In 2016, they are giving up 205 yards per game. They rank 36th in FBS. Combined with their ballhawking tendencies, this is a solid unit.

Lie: There is a no-fly zone in Lincoln.

The pass defense is the most improved position group on the team without a doubt, but there is a ways to go before reaching elite status. In passing yards allowed, Nebraska is 36th in FBS, which is not bad, especially compared to 2015. They also rank a not-great 9th in the Big Ten.

A look at the quality of Big Ten quarterbacks will tell you all you need to know about why the B1G has 10 teams in the top 44 in passing yards allowed. Our opponent this weekend, Ohio State, only allows an average of 170 yards per game. FBS leader Michigan gives up an unreal 120 yards per game. While the Huskers have legitimate NFL talent in their defensive backfield, you can see why Coach Riley has made it a priority to go after recruiting stars. There is still a big gap between Nebraska and the “Big Two”.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies II

Numbers: and 49/32

Statistics: One of the biggest strengths of the Husker offense is on 3rd downs where they convert 49% of the time ranking 12th in FBS and 2nd in the B1G. The Buckeye defense is holding opponents to 32% conversions putting them at 14th in FBS and 3rd in the B1G.

Lie: When it comes to strength-on-strength, always bet on defense, which is bad news for Nebraska.

This could be a lie, or it could be truth. We won’t know until Saturday. I do know that this offense, despite its declining productivity, is still pretty good in any clutch situation.

Numbers - Statistics - Lies III

Numbers: 82/71

Statistics: The Huskers are scoring 82% of the time in the red zone ranking 78th in FBS and 7th in the B1G. The Buckeyes red zone defense is holding opponents to scores 71% of the time ranking 10th in FBS and 4th in the B1G. Ohio State is very strong defensively in the area that is possibly the weakest for the Husker offense.

Lie: The Blackshirts or, gulp, special teams are going to have to score some points for Nebraska to have a chance this weekend.

This could be true, but I wouldn’t give up on the Husker offense just yet. They have shown a propensity for big plays that net touchdowns outside of the red zone. We also have Drew Brown who is a far sight better than most #collegekickers. If a drive stalls on the 32, Nebraska has more options than “punt” or “go for it” (Ferentz’s Razor). Never count out Riverboat Riley either. #FourthDownIsOurDown (I don’t expect that one to catch on).

Obligatory Pile of Numbers

I added a few more lines to the table this week. You’ll see a couple more offensive statistics (yards per completion and team passing efficiency). On defense, I added team passing efficiency defense. At the bottom are some new “team” metrics including turnover margin and penalties.

As you will notice, the offense has a lot less green and more yellow than a few weeks ago. A lot of that is due to injuries, but at least some is because the Big Ten is a meat grinder defensive league. Even if Nebraska gets healthier, the schedule does not let up when it comes to tough defenses. It would be nice to face a Big XII team in a bowl game for no other reason than to give the offense a week off.

The defense, on the other hand is getting stronger as the season moves along. We are seeing better linebacker play and development along the defensive line. Then there’s the safeties. Instead of Kieron and Nathan, we should call them #Chaos and #Mayhem (also not expected to catch on and Allstate would probably sue me for infringement anyway). Our defensive line is not wreaking a lot of havoc (they are OK in sacks but not good in tackles for loss) but the defensive backfield is.

Husker Haiku

What is a buckeye?
Poisonous nut or sweet treat?
Hope for treat not trick.