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Numbers, Statistics and Lies: Illinois Edition

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NCAA Football: Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

I think most Husker fans expected a shootout, and we got one. We knew the rushing attack of the Illini behind Bush and Corbin would be a tall order and they were. Fortunately, Illini receivers forgot how to catch and most unexpectedly, it wasn’t the Husker special teams that stunk up the joint. Progress?

Color-Coded Pile of Numbers

Lots of green in the offensive section of the color-coded pile. The Huskers are approaching top 10 status as an offense. The next two weeks will be a tall order as both Michigan State and Iowa have very good defensive units.

Which number is lying to us this week? Is it the #101 rank in passing yards allowed (red)or the #45 rank in pass efficiency defense (green)?

Believe it or not, both are truth-y. The passing yards allowed isn’t hard to figure out. It is a basic stat based on how much yardage is given up per game through the air. The Huskers have certainly been prone to that this season. The pass efficiency defense is a formula that weights how many times a game an opponent throws the ball, yards per attempt, completion %, touchdowns etc. It also factors in (to the favor of the defense) interceptions. The Huskers rank 87th in pass yards/completion (better than total yards at least), but the magic number here is the interceptions. That stat drastically improves their pass efficiency defense. So, the Blackshirts give up yards, but are looking to create turnovers. Get used to this - it seems to be the Frost/Chinander defensive philosophy.

March Towards 1000

-Devine Ozigbo made some hay against Illinois and rushed for 162 yards bringing his season total to 958. He needs 42 yards in the last two games to reach 1000. This game took him over 2000 career rushing yards - making him the 30th Husker to do so.

-Stanley Morgan Jr. also made a move in corralling passes for 131 yards. His season total is at 856. He needs 144 yards in his final two games as a Husker to do something no other Husker receiver has ever done. In this game, Morgan moved from 5th to 2nd in career receiving yards - he passed the likes of Jordan Westerkamp, Nate Swift, and Johnny Rodgers. He needs 90 yards to tie Kenny Bell as the career receiving yards leader at Nebraska.

-JD Spielman caught seven passes for 71 yards, moving his season total to 818. He needs 182 more yards for a 1000 yard season. Spielman has caught 66 passes this season. He needs nine more to tie Marlon Lucky’s single season record of 75 (2007).

Opponent Color Coded Pile

Up next - the Michigan State Spartans. They are pretty much the polar opposite of the Illinois team the Huskers faced last weekend. The Spartans are struggling on offense, but still boast a terrific defense - outside of the passing yards allowed.

Look at that Spartan rush defense (pun intended). Ozigbo, Washington, and Martinez are going to have their hands full avoiding Spartan defenders that get through the offensive line. Let’s hope the big boys up front continue their current upward trajectory and can give 2AM some time to work.

When I look at the color-coded pile for MSU, my first thought is “turn Stanley loose!” Morgan is the Husker deep threat in the passing game and he might be what’s needed to take the top off the Spartan defense and loosen things up in the run game for Ozigbo, RPOs for Martinez and Washington, and the short passing game to Spielman.

The other thought that occurs to me is that the Husker tight ends might be a big key in this game. All three that regularly make appearances (Jack Stoll 6’4”, Austin Allen 6’8”, and Kurt Rafdal 6’7”) are big targets. They have also been emerging more in the pass game of late. Against an elite rush defense, it seems like a win-win to have tight ends that can stay in and block for the run game or sneak out for a pass - from the same formation. If Frost and Walters can get Sparty’s linebackers second-guessing themselves, there might be some room to operate.

Bonus Data

Here is where Nebraska ranks in the Big Ten during conference-only play. This includes the stinker at Michigan, but the Huskers have otherwise been stellar on that side of the ball. (from bigten.org)

Here is a look at how many points the Huskers score each time they snap the ball. That trendline is certainly going in the right direction....

What else do you see Corn Nation? Any questions, observations? Let me know in the comments!