SB Nation’s Bill Connelly dropped his preview of the 2018 Nebraska Cornhuskers Friday morning, and from his analytics background, he sees a 5-7 record. But his conclusion might be the biggest takeaway:
Be happy with a bowl bid, in other words. S&P+ — which isn’t designed to take coaching changes into account — projects Nebraska 60th, with 5-7 as the most likely record. The Huskers have a good chance of starting 3-0 with home games against Akron, Colorado, and Troy, but four of their last eight games are against teams projected 12th or better, and they’ve got trips to Northwestern and Iowa.
It’s a reminder that Nebraska was really bad on defense, couldn’t run the ball and needs to turn to a freshman quarterback. (Who’s only competed against that same really bad defense thus far while at Nebraska.) Connelly clearly is on the Frost bandwagon, but his systems have to look at past production as a key to forecasting the future. There’s no way to quantify the changes strength and conditioning make, not to mention
competent (oops) improved coaching as well.
Probably the biggest area of disagreement to me is his assessment of the line:
By the numbers, the Huskers had a pretty good line. They ranked 23rd in Adj. Line Yards and eighth in Adj. Sack Rate; they converted short yardage situations just fine (23rd in power success rate) and didn’t allow that many negative rushes (56th in stuff rate). This was a minor miracle, considering only two linemen started more than nine games and eight, including two freshmen, started at least three games. That shuffling usually portends doom, but NU’s hosses held up.
That doesn’t exactly mesh with what I observed last season, but I suspect that some of these stats were padded a bit in the second half of uncompetitive blowouts where opposing defenses took their feet off the pedal. Or maybe my memory is tainted by plays like this:
Connelly talked more with Omaha’s KOZN (1620 AM) radio with Gary Sharp and Damon Benning Friday morning.
Bottom line to me is that Connelly isn’t so much negative on Frost and this year’s Nebraska team as much as still chewing on what Mike Riley left behind. Husker fans expecting much more than a bowl game are putting a huge amount of faith in the turnaround Frost and company did in 2016 at Central Florida.