Nebraska football fans knew there would be a lot of surprises in the 2013 campaign. With almost an entirely new starting lineup on defense, huge turnover on special teams, and a soft schedule, forecasting Nebraska’s season was always going to be a challenge.
So now that we are into the second quarter of the 2013 season, we’ve had enough time to assemble a representative data set and learn something from the numbers.
In review then, here are five statistics which should raise an eyebrow or two.
Sadly for Nebraska fans, there were a number of shocking defensive statistics to pick from.
But Nebraska’s horrifying pass defense numbers really do stand out and deserve some mention. Coming into the Illinois game, Nebraska was No. 108 nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 284.3 yards per game.
Nebraska’s defense was more effective against Illinois, raising NU’s national pass defense rating to No. 98. While that is certainly progress from No. 108, anyone at the start of the season would have been shocked to see Nebraska languishing at No. 98 in national pass defense.
Maybe this is beating a dead horse, but the numbers are so eye-popping that it's worth taking a second look at them.
After four games, Nebraska was allowing 8.4 yards per pass attempt to its opponents. That’s yards per attempt, not yards per completion, mind you.
Again, Nebraska’s improved defensive performance against Illinois lowered NU’s average to 7.9 yards per pass attempt.
Progress, to be certain, but still an alarming number.
In 2011, Nebraska was struggling with depth at defensive back. Bo Pelini made a decision to pull wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste. He plugged him in right away at cornerback against Ohio State. Jean-Baptiste responded by getting an interception that sealed the biggest comeback win in Nebraska school history.
But this year, as a senior, Jean-Baptiste has established himself as Nebraska’s most dominant defensive back, getting an interception in NU’s first four games.
When Jean-Baptiste made the position switch, few would have expected him to lead the country in interceptions a quarter of the way through the regular season. And yet, there he was.
When Ameer Abdullah took over from Rex Burkhead as Nebraska’s primary starting I-back, there was little doubt he would perform well. Abdullah rushed for over 1,000 yards last year spelling an injured Burkhead, showing his ability to be a feature back.
But with a crowded backfield, no one was quite sure that Abdullah would be able to truly excel. After five games, though, Abdullah is averaging 138 yards per game, No. 9 in the nation.
So Abdullah succeeding isn’t a surprise. But Abdullah succeeding to this extent will raise a few eyebrows.
Nebraska has been home of clutch kickers throughout history, enough for one smart and particularly handsome analyst to refer to Nebraska as Kicker U.
So when Nebraska struggles with placekicking, that’s news.
And we officially have news five games into the season. Nebraska sits at 89.6 percent conversion—on extra points. Yes, that means that statistically Nebraska is missing more than one out of every 10 extra points. Both Pat Smith and Mauro Bondi have missed extra points, meaning neither kicker is blameless.
If there’s anything that football fans consider automatic, it’s an extra point. This year, though, the PAT might be a little more exciting than usual.
All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.