UNLWiebe has more important things to do (midterms), so he asked if I would take on Corn Nation’s Five to Lose article for this week. I jumped right at the opportunity. I have written Corn Nation’s Five to Win weekly column for the past two seasons and since I took that gig, Nebraska is 4-13.
So this is going to be a nice chance of pace. That is until Five to Win is published tomorrow.
Anyways, there are the five reasons Nebraska is going to lose this weekend.
First: It is Groundhog Day
We’ve seen this movie before. It keeps on happening. Just like Bill Murray in one of his most iconic movies, he knows what is going to happen and at this point so should we.
The issues surrounding the culture on the team, the defense, lack of takeaways and penalties leads a team to go winless in its first five games. Until we see something different, there really is no reason to think we should expect any changes.
We may hope or try to find reasons to think we will play well enough to win a game, but until it happens we really shouldn’t expect it.
Plus Northwestern lost to Michigan by 3. We lost by 46.
Second: Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Penalty, Pen.
I had to type it about ten and a half times because that is the average amount of penalties Nebraska has committed over the past five games. The real number is 10.4 which places Nebraska at 130th in the entire country in penalties per game. If you were wondering who is at 131st, the answer is nobody. Nebraska is last among 130 teams in penalties per game.
And for some reason, the penalties that Nebraska have been committing are drive killers. For example, in the second quarter Scott Frost decided to go for it on 4th and 11.
I’m sure you can replay what happened in your mind right now.
J.D. Spielman catch and run, in which he reversed field, and made it all the way down to the Wisconsin 12 yard line. Huge play. But we know what happened. Jerald Foster was flagged for a block-in-the-back and all of that hard work was negated. For what it is worth, that block looked more like a flop than anything. That defender learned something from the NBA.
Regardless a penalty killed that drive.
Second play was the Maurice Washington catch going down the sideline. The Wisconsin defender (rightfully) was flagged for targeting. If you add the 15 yard penalty with the catch then Nebraska is at the Wisconsin 10 yard line. However, since Nebraska got flagged again, then they had to start back at the Nebraska 33 yard line. That holding penalty is a 57 yard swing.
If you want to know more about what these penalties are costing Nebraska, I suggest reading Brandon Vogel’s article on how many points then penalties have likely cost Nebraska.
Northwestern has only 171 penalty yards this season.
Nebraska, by contrast, has 487. Woof.
Three: Nebraska’s Run Defense
While watching the game against Wisconsin, I couldn’t help but say that Wisconsin should just run the ball at Nebraska, time and time again. Why even try to run the ball when you are gashing our defense for 7.7 yards per rushing attempt.
If I was Northwestern, I would try and run the ball on us all day. However, Northwestern has been unable to run the ball lately as every week their rushing yards have declined. That may have more to do with a team like Michigan State’s defense than Northwestern’s ability to run. We may see.
So I expect to see Northwestern give Nebraska a heavy dose of rushing attempts. And until I see Nebraska stop the run, I’m not going to expect it to happen.
Fourth: Northwestern Rush Defense
Promise me you won’t google it after I ask the question. Promise? Okay.
How many passes did Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke attempt last week against Northwestern?
Because everybody who knows anything about Michigan State is that they want to run the ball and throw off the play-action pass in order to protect their possessions.
Try 51 pass attempts. You know why? Because they couldn’t run the ball against Northwestern. It wasn’t for their lack of effort, but they had seven different players register a rushing attempt with their QUARTERBACK getting the highest number of attempts at seven.
I will be interested to know the game plan Scott Frost and Co. are going to implement. Because they appeared to abandon the running game against Wisconsin before the game even started.
Fifth: Clayton Thorson Will Give Nebraska Fits
Like I said above, Northwestern has had issues running the ball lately but against Michigan State (a team known for defense) Clayton Thorson was lighting them up threw the air even without a rushing attack.
Thorson completed 31 of 47 passing attempts for 373 yards and three touchdowns. He had two interceptions against Michigan State, but lets be honest. Can we expect the Nebraska secondary to come up with any turnovers at this point?
Nebraska is 117th in the country in takeaways per game at 0.8 per game.
This is going to be a big hurdle for Nebraska to jump if they plan on getting their first win of the season on October 13th.