Monday, September 10, 2007

Hey Doofus! The Huskers Beat Wake Forest!

Two opposing viewpoints seem to have emerged from Nebraska's 20-17 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday:
  • The Huskers beat the defending ACC Champions on the road. What's with all the complaining?
  • Nebraska did not play well at all, considering Wake Forest started their backup quarterback. Besides, Wake winning the ACC last year was proof of just how far down the ACC is.
Who's correct? Guess what...both are. A road win is always something to be happy with. But let's put it in perspective: last season's ACC champs finished the season 27th in the Sagarin ratings. Riley Skinner, the ACC rookie of the year, was on the sidelines with his arm in a sling. And Nebraska made a lot of mistakes that weren't forced by Wake.

The Journal-Star's Steve Sipple summarized it nicely this past weekend:
"Trouble is, “good” and “nice” typically don’t cut it against top-ranked USC. The No. 16 Huskers need to discover a quick way to transform into “great” and “nasty.” They were neither against Wake Forest. They looked like, well, a 9-3 team or maybe even an 8-4 outfit, hence the teeth gnashing by all those Husker fans outside Groves Stadium."
9-3? 8-4? Let's not go there. I'm fighting REAL hard to not tell you what that sounds like. We don't want to go there. Don't do it.

Jeffie Husker over at DoubleExtraPoint had a couple of good takes today on the Wake Forest game. First, he tried to defend the decision to go for the first down on fourth and two late in the game, saying that if Callahan thought that we had a 60% chance of gaining a first down, we should go for it. Ok, I'll buy that. So what were the odds of getting that that first down? Here's what we did on Saturday on 3rd and 2 all prior to that: Lucky, gain of 1; Fumble; Lucky, no gain; Keller, incomplete pass; Lucky, gain of 22 and a touchdown; Lucky, no gain. So extrapolating that to 4th down with the memory of the previous "no gain" fresh in everyone's mind, what's the success rate of going for it on 4th and 2? I show 1 for 7 for a 14% success rate on 3rd and short in similar circumstances against Wake. Verdict: Mathematically, it was a bad call.

Turning to Sam Keller, he compares Keller's first two games with Zac Taylor's first two games, and expects that Keller will grow more comfortable in this offense as he gets more experience running it. He's certainly doing better than Zac Taylor did in his first two games...but it does make you pause as to what the future holds when quarterbacks continually struggle getting into a rhythm in this offense, as we'll likely be breaking in yet another new quarterback (4th in 5 years) next season. Did Husker fans have unrealistic expectations for Sam Keller this season? Definitely yes.


Anonymous said...


I've noticed an interesting disconnect on this board between fans who came of age during the 1990s and those who have followed Husker football since the 1970s. Sadly, many of us believe that the true mark of a successful Husker program is the ability to consistently beat top ten teams. And so with #1 USC coming to town, we perk up, rub our hands together, and anticipate this big "test" for the Big Red.

I decided to compile a season by season analysis of NU football since 1973 when Osborne took over. I looked in particular at four criteria for each season: (1) the record against teams ranked in the FINAL AP poll, (2) the record against teams ranked in the top ten of the FINAL AP poll, (3) the number of wins the Huskers had against opponents with losing records, and (4) number of losses the Husker's sustained from teams with a losing record.

Osborne was 49-40 against ranked opponents (55%). He was 16-33 against top ten teams (33%). He only suffered one loss to a team with a losing record (Iowa State 1992).

Solich was 9-15 against ranked opponents (38%). He was 3-8 against top ten teams (27%). He suffered no losses to teams with losing records.

In his first three years Callahan was 1-6 against ranked opponents (14%). He was 0-3 against top ten teams (0%). He has suffered one loss to a team with a losing record (K-State 2005).

But here is where it gets very interesting. If one examines Osborne's record from 1973-1992, his numbers look far worse. During this period he was 31-37 against ranked opponents (46%), but more importantly, he was a pathetic 7-30 against top ten ranked teams (19%). From 1988-1992 we faced 9 top ten opponents and lost to all of them.

I don't bring this up to tarnish Osborne. On the contrary, he was one of the greatest coaches in college football history. My point, though, is that people who think we should be beating top ten teams regularly are living in a mid 1990s fantasyland. Osborne didn't beat a top ten team until his fifth year of coaching. His success was built upon beating lesser opponents and then taking a share of big games.

I also hate to say it, but if you go back and look at the Big 8 standings during those years, the conference had nowhere near the depth and balance that the Big 12 does today. You won't believe how many 1-10 seasons Kansas, Kansas St., and Iowa St. had back then. And yes, some of the best Husker teams have had squeakers against weak opponents.

So please, if we lose this week to USC, don't rush the boards and declare that the Husker program isn't going anywhere. Only a handful of Husker teams from the past would be favored against the Trojans. The heart of Husker football was never going out and beating top ten teams—it was consistently getting the job done against teams we should beat. I can only imagine what would have happened if there were internet message boards in the 1970s and 1980s.


AJ said...

I think you all have a very good chance on Saturday. And TRUST ME...I'm not just saying that because I like to.

I have no reason for this..just a gut feeling. The bad news though Mike is that I picked ISU to win teh North last year. (And CU this year).


bornred said...

AJ, is that you?

owwwww, I'm telling..

Seriously, because it's at home and USC has only 1 scrimmage under their belt and we've played an ugly, but scrappy road game, I think we have better than a 30% chance to win this game. At the very least, I think we'll be competitive and be in this until the end. It will take some help from SC, but I can see those young backs coughing it up once or twice. If they do, we have to make it count.

I can't make it back for the game, but I'm officially starting my pre-game now..

Go Big Red

AJ said...

Mike and I have been running these blogs since before blogging was cool.

Well...before it wasn't cool. I mean... know what I mean.