Nebraska Football: Why Ameer Abdullah Is Key to Huskers' Success in Big Ten
As Nebraska football heads into Big Ten conference play, fans will be looking for the breakout stars to lead NU back to the title game in Indianapolis. As a smart and particularly handsome analyst observed, I-back Ameer Abdullah looks ready to lead the line for Nebraska’s offense as it challenges for a second straight Legends Division title.
So as Nebraska gets ready for its first road trip of the season, let’s take a look at why Abdullah will be crucial for NU’s success in the B1G.
All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
Going into 2013, few would have thought Abdullah would be Nebraska’s most dangerous offensive weapon. But coming off his monster performance against Illinois, Abdullah is now averaging 7.34 yards per carry, by far the most effective of all Nebraska’s backs. Abdullah is No. 2 in rushing in the B1G, and No. 9 nationally, averaging 138 rushing yards per game.
Abdullah’s effectiveness becomes even more important when considering Nebraska’s struggles at quarterback. Senior Taylor Martinez has been struggling with turf toe, and it is unclear when (or if) he will be 100 percent and ready to return. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong has impressed in his two starts, but those were against (put charitably) suspect defensive units.
So with Nebraska struggling at quarterback—particularly when the offense has revolved around Martinez for the last two years—Abdullah’s consistency will be vital as Nebraska faces B1G opposition.
The biggest knock on Abdullah in the past has been his propensity to fumble, and for good reason. In 2012, Abdullah was No. 17 nationally with eight fumbles and No. 3 nationally with six fumbles lost.
This season, while Abdullah is still No. 12 nationally with two fumbles lost through five games, he is not even in the top 58 nationally in terms of overall fumbles. The two lost fumbles are, of course, a concern. But the fact that Abdullah’s rate of fumbles overall has decreased is certainly encouraging news.
Fumble stats courtesy of teamrankings.com.
Nebraska is blessed right now with a wealth of offensive talent in the backfield. But unfortunately for Nebraska, that talent hasn’t seen a lot of in-game experience. Sophomore I-back Imani Cross is steadily improving but has still been limited in his time on the field. True freshman Terrell Newby has provided a true spark but is still learning his way around big-time college football. And redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong has a lot on his plate filling in for the injured Taylor Martinez in leading the team.
So long as Martinez is sidelined, Abdullah is the grizzled veteran of Nebraska’s backfield. And his experience will be crucial as Nebraska takes its show on the road and faces the more challenging part of its schedule in November.
Quick, guess who is Nebraska’s third most productive receiver!
Jamal Turner? Nope. Jake Long? Nope. Jordan Westerkamp? Nuh-uh.
Ameer Abdullah is Nebraska’s current No. 3 receiver, with 12 catches for 130 yards. And if Abdullah can continue to be successful as a receiver coming out of the backfield, that will just give opposing defenses one more thing to worry about and make Nebraska that much harder to defend as conference play begins in earnest.
The Defense Needs Help
Yes, the Blackshirts showed signs of life against a legitimate offense like Illinois on Saturday. But there’s still plenty of work to do. Nebraska’s defense is still ranked No. 57 nationally in scoring defense, No. 86 nationally in rushing defense, No. 98 nationally (!) in passing defense and No. 99 nationally (!!) in total defense.
And that’s after a good performance against Illinois.
Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity put out a very interesting piece of statistical analysis that suggests bad defenses don’t become great defenses overnight. So even if Nebraska’s defense just shows steady improvement over the rest of the season, defense is not likely to be NU’s strength.
So the offense will still have to carry the team if Nebraska is to find success in the B1G. And Abdullah right now is the best weapon in Nebraska’s offensive arsenal. So if Nebraska is going to get back to Indianapolis, it looks as if it will be Abdullah that will lead the charge there.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.