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Numbers Statistics & Lies: Ohio State + Northwestern Edition

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It’s Week Whatever and NSL is back to whisper sweet nothings in your ear

Northwestern v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Numbers Statistics and Lies is Back!! I didn’t get the spreadsheet put together right after the Ohio State game, but by then we knew we were likely facing an unscheduled bye week, which gave me a few days to catch up.

This season, the color coded piles will mean less than usual because there are teams that have played a bunch of games. Then there’s teams like Nebraska, who have a grand total of one game.

Offense

Against Ohio State, Nebraska’s rush offense did its part, but the pass offense was pretty anemic. I think we knew going in that could be a problem, partly because of the youth at wide receiver and partly because of the Buckeyes talent level in the secondary.

Averaging 5.8 yards/carry against Ohio State is a pretty decent day at the office, but it was the quarterbacks who made the most hay there (I’m still calling McCaffrey a quarterback despite the fact that he lined up all over the place).

Leading rushers:

  • Adrian Martinez - 85 yards (6.5 yards per carry)
  • Luke McCaffrey - 80 yards (8.9 ypc)
  • Dedrick Mills - 25 yards (2.8 ypc)
  • Ronald Thompkins - 22 yards (5.5 ypc)

The Buckeyes were clearly ready for Dedrick Mills and the run plays that were called for him. Obviously, the big negative was the fumble issue with each quarterback putting the ball on the ground once and a high snap that McCaffrey recovered (for a big loss).

Nebraska’s passing game in the past years under Frost has not yielded huge numbers of yards, but has typically been explosive in yards/completion. That didn’t happen in this game as Nebraska averaged 10 yards/completion. For comparison sake - the Huskers averaged 14.7 yards/completion in 2019. As a counterpoint they only managed 5.9 ypc against the Buckeyes last year, so, progress? Martinez and McCaffrey were accurate throwing the ball (16 of 20 and no INTs).

Defense

The Blackshirts gave up 491 yards of total offense to the Buckeyes, but they held their own more than most of us expected. Penalties make it hard to judge the overall performance, mostly because some of those penalties were marginal.

Nebraska is going to be missing two defensive backs in the first half vs Northwestern due to targeting suspensions. The Wildcat passing offense has been somewhat anemic. They have been a run-heavy team. If you are going to be down two DBs, this might be the situation where you can hold your ground and regroup when you get them back in the second half.

But, when has any Nebraska-Northwestern game followed the script?!?

The pressure will be on the Husker offense to solve the riddle of that stout and salty Northwestern defense in this game. If Nebraska can establish a multi-pronged run attack behind Mills/Martinez/McCaffrey/Thompkins - that will make the Wildcats think rather than attack In that mode, the Husker tight ends and receivers could sneak behind that defense and provide some explosive plays.

Color-Coded Pile O Numbers

You’ll want to look more closely at stats that are “per game” rather than “total” because of the differential in # of games played. (Especially when it comes to total penalties vs penalty yards per game.)

What do you mean, the color-coded pile is suspect? Just look at the red zone offensive ranking!!

Opponent Color-Coded Piles

You get a double feature as I put together both Ohio State (past opponent) and Northwestern (upcoming opponent) into the pile.

So, there you have it. The inaugural version of an even more meaningless set of comparisons than normal. Early-season statistics always lead us astray, but this season may be worse or better than normal as most teams are playing conference-only opponents.

Right now, we are banking on the attitude within the Husker program as a motivator. Nebraska wants to play. The coach, players, administration and parents have made that clear. It has also led to Nebraska running afoul of conference and national perception.

The cure for that?

Win games.