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Numbers, Statistics and Lies: Iowa Edition

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A solid Hawkeye defense and improving offense await the Huskers on Black Friday

Northwestern v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/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.

We’ve reached the end of the Huskers’ 2021 football season. It has been a maddening, heartening and everything-in-between run over 13 weeks. Nebraska is effectively playing for nothing but a terrible trophy force fed by the Big Ten while Iowa still has a puncher’s chance to head to Indianapolis.

Nebraska will be without their best players on offense (Martinez) and (arguably) defense (Domann). Some of the seniors have their minds turning toward NFL draft preparation while others are likely figuring out where they will play football next year. There are alsways some transfers, we just don’t know who yet.

Against Wisconsin, the Huskers gained 23 first downs vs 15 for the Badgers - and they did so vs the #1 first downs defense in the country. Nebraska gained 452 yards of offense compared to 397 for the Badgers. The Wiscy defense had been the #1 total defensive unit in the country - allowing just 216 yards/game. More encouraging - Nebraska put up 28 points against the #2 scoring defense, which allowed just 14.6 points/game.

I’ve written this story before and you’ve read it too. Nebraska is good enough to win, but didn’t. Let’s see if the page starts to turn here or if we have to wait until next fall.

Color-Coded Pile of Numbers

On the offensive side, you can safely ignore the pile. With Adrian Martinez out and Logan Smothers starting, the numbers mean only slightly more than didly.

I hope Smothers is incredibly successful and makes Husker Nation excited for the 2022 season, but we don’t know much about him. He is a good runner. He’s fast. But, he’s inexperienced and is facing a pretty salty defense that feasts on turnovers.

I expect the Huskers can still put up some yards (and hopefully points) if Smothers makes good decisions. If.

Iowa - By the Numbers

The story of Iowa’s season has been in having an opportunistic defense that sets up the offense in good field position. The offense has been, lackluster, to put it kindly, but they have found more mojo as of late. Part of that has been the switch from Spencer Petras to Alex Padilla at quarterback. The Hawkeye offensive line is also starting to resemble the type of unit we’ve come to expect from Kirk Ferentz after players are getting healthier and more experienced. They are more effective and efficient at moving the ball now than the color coded pile below suggests.

The Hawkeye defense is solid all around. They are #12 in total defense (yards) and #9 in scoring defense. They are also the #1 team in the country at grabbing interceptions - something you don’t want to see if you are a young quarterback making your first start.

What else do you see in the numbers? Let me know in the comments!