Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Statistically Speaking: Corn Pone Edition

From the NCAA site, here are the stats for PSU versus Nebraska:

NCAA Stats Comparison
Category:Penn St.NebraskaDelta
Passing Offense8810113
Total Offense8853-35
Scoring Offense10027-73
Rushing Defense246440
Turnovers Gained127361
Passes Had Intercepted43430
Pass Defense72013
Net Punting9734-63
Punt Returns8246-36
Kickoff Returns204-16
Turnover Margin235330
Fumbles Recovered367337
Passes Intercepted75649
Fumbles Lost8236-46
Turnovers Lost6333-30
Passing Efficiency10665-41
Pass Efficiency Defense33330
Total Defense84133
Scoring Defense34037
Fewest Penalties Per Game265933
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game285729
Punt Return Yardage Defense6711447
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense659934
Offense Third-down Efficiency8737-50
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency62216
Defense Third-down Efficiency319362
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency78780
Tackles for Loss12114102
Offense Tackles for Loss113625
Pass Sacks288153
Pass Sacks Allowed24240
Time of Possession4310360
First Downs7849-29
First Downs Allowed113423
Red Zone Efficiency7915-64
Red Zone Efficiency - Defense11237-75
Average NCAA Rank:46.8452.976.14
Weighted Avg. Rank:50.1745.33-4.83

Nebraska has a worse pass offense than PSU, if you can believe that is possible.  While there is a perception that Nebraska has a tough defense, the numbers do not truly bear that out.  They're not bad--don't get me wrong--but we have faced statistically tougher defenses against Bama, Illinois and probably Temple even. 

I suspect Iowa is comparable in the Big Ten to what we will face on Saturday.  From the Big Ten site, Iowa is ranked 7th and UNL 8th in scoring defense in the league.  Nebraska is 7th and Iowa 8th in total defense.

Nebraska is poor in terms of time of possession.  If we can get our running game going with Redd et al, we could conceivably control this game ala vintage Paterno.  Another ugly win, but a win nonetheless.

The intangibles, though, favor Nebraska.  Coming off an upset, they are going to be out to prove something.  This is a kind of must-win game for them to stay in the hunt for their division title.  They are already one loss down to the Spartans who have Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern left on their schedule.  They can't afford to be two games behind.

And then there is the Jerry Sandusky crap that could be a distraction.  Ya think!?  With the storm clouds over State College, we can only hope this team circles the wagons, shuts out the cruel world around them, and focuses on playing football, at least for three to four hours on Saturday.

I hate noon starts.  Especially big games like these.

Here is how the Huskers' season has played out so far:

W  Chattanooga  40-7
W  Fresno State 42-29
W  Washington 51-38
W  @Wyoming 38-14
L   @Wisconsin 48-17
W  Ohio State 34-27
W  @Minnesota 41-14
W  Michigan State 24-3
L   Northwestern 28-25  (only common opponent so far and we beat the Wildcats 34-24.)

In my pre-season countdown, I had the Cornhuskers pegged as the third most difficult game behind Bama and Wisconsin, and one spot ahead of the Cheateyes.

My final analysis:
Prediction: If Nebraska is as good as the experts claim them to be, then I don't think PSU can win this game. But I do think it is winnable. I'm not sold on QB Martinez, and he had an ankle injury last season which may play a factor in his play this year. I think Nebraska is going to find play in the Big Ten to be a little different than the high scoring shoot 'em up Big XII conference, where the only Big D they have heard of is Dallas. Officially, I call this a loss. Off the record, I think we can win this game.

I still think we can win this game.  The Husker D is not as good as people thought they would be, and they have been inconsistent offensively.  Our defense is playing better than some people expected, and our offense has been improving--slowly but surely.  I think our defense plays lights out on senior day and our offense manages not to make a fatal mistake.  I look for a close win in the Iowa game range, maybe 16-13.

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