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Numbers, Statistics and Lies: Purdue Edition

What kind of team are the Boilermakers bringing to Lincoln?

Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

NSL is a weekly dive into statistics. This is not advanced stats; only basic stuff that is cherry-picked based on my whims this week. The numbers the chicken entrails point to carefully selected for further analysis are compared to the eye test. About that ‘eye test’, you should know that I usually forget to DVR the games and even when I do, I have so much stuff going on that I don’t have time to rewatch them. I also think I might need glasses. You’ve been warned.

Wasn’t that a glorious, chaotic bye week?!? Nine overtimes (an NCAA record), uncertainty over what teams are actually good and which are...not...

That last part brings me to Nebraska. The Huskers are currently ranked #22 in ESPN’s FPI and are #24 in Football Outsiders F+. They are #19 in CFB Graphs...and you get the idea.

The Huskers right now are like a teenager that grew seven inches in one year (ala Ranchhand 3 between March 2020 and March 2021). Suddenly you can do stuff you couldn’t do before, but you can’t always do it well. Sometimes you surprise yourself. Sometimes you fall on your face.

Sometimes you cause your friendly, neighborhood Dear Leader to record videos full of words that would get bleeped out on NPR.

Color-Coded Pile of Numbers

I think it is significant to point out that Nebraska has entered green territory in terms of penalty yards/game. There has been progress in improving discipline.

There isn’t much else to comment on that wasn’t pointed out previously. Sacks are still an issue on both sides of the ball as are fumbles and the red zone.

The offense continues to churn out yards, but field goal kicking woes make the red zone numbers worse than expected. The rush defense has some chinks in the armor but the Blackshits overall are making opponents work for their yards and points.

Purdue Preview

From what I can tell in the color-coded pile, Purdue likes to pass the ball, but mostly uses the short game - because it appears they can’t run the dang ball. There are 130 teams in FBS and Purdue is #129 in yards per game in rushing. (You know that this means they are going to have a previously unknown back go off for a career day, don’t you?) QB Aidan O’Connell has been named the starter agaisnt Nebraska, but we’ll probably see Plummer at some point too. Neither QB is a dual threat like Adrian, but both are capable scramblers and can keep the chains moving. My guess is that Nebraska’s linebackers will have their hands full all game in diagnosing run vs pass, covering short passes, and containing the QB. Nebraska’s secondary will need to contain David Bell and will be down a man with Deontai Williams’ injury.

The Boilermakers don’t score a ton of points, but they don’t need to. Look at those defensive numbers.

The Boilermaker defense looks a little like the Blackshirts (only better, statistically speaking) in that they give up some yardage against the rush and don’t get a lot of sacks or turnovers. To think they don’t get pressure on the quarterback would be wrong as they have projected first round draft pick DE George Karlaftis who will try to take advantage of Nebraska’s young line, especially the right side, to keep Adrian Martinez uncomfortable.

The Boilers are pretty good against the pass, but Nebraska will need to take a few shots and connect if they hope to find the room on the ground to run. Otherwise, this could be a replay of the Minnesota game all over again.

Purdue will be looking for a rebound. After soundly thrashing #2 Iowa at Kinnick, the Boilers fell victim to the Badgers, allowing 30 points to a Wisconsin offense that previously struggled to score.

Next to the Northwestern series, Purdue v Nebraska has been one of the more exciting games the Huskers have played as a member of the Big Ten. I don’t expect that will change on Saturday. Let’s just hope Nebraska breaks one Scott Frost streak - losing every game after the bye.