In his second year coaching the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Bo Pelini produced a Big 12 North Division Championship, a near Big 12 Division Championship, and a Holiday Bowl blowout of the Arizona Wildcats.
Pelini took over from a 2007 team led by Coach Bill Callahan that went 5-7. Pelini has led the Huskers to season records of 9-4 in 2008 and 10-4 in 2009.
Three of Nebraska's four losses in 2009 were by only four points. Mike Leach's Texas Tech team proved to be the only definitive defeat topping Nebraska in Lincoln by a score of 31 to 10.
Let's take a look at what the statistics tell us about the 2009 Cornhusker team. I'll compare the 2009 team to Callahan's 2007 squad.
This statistical analysis will be broken down by defense, offense, and special teams/turnovers.
Pelini is known as a defensive specialist who can put together a nationally dominant defensive team. He has definitely stamped his signature on the Husker defense.
Scoring Defense: Nebraska finished top in the nation in 2009 allowing only 10.4 points per game. This compares to 37.9 points in 2007, a performance ranking of 114.
Total Defense: The 2009 team ranked seventh nationally allowing opponents only 272 yards. The 2007 team ranked 112 nationally giving up 477 yards a game.
Pass Efficiency Defense: Pass efficiency defense is a statistical composite of defense against the pass. This also ranked No. 1 in the nation compared to a rank of 75 in this category for the 2007 team.
Rushing Defense: Rushing defense held opponents to only 93 yards (ninth best in nation) compared to 232 yards allowed in 2007.
Sacks: Nebraska had 44 sacks in 2009 ranking second only to the total posted by Pittsburgh. Sack improvement under Pelini is dramatic as the 2007 team was only 112th in the nation with 13 sacks.
Bill Callahan came to Nebraska hailed as an offensive specialist and his offensive statistics confirm this designation.
Pelini's 2009 team put up offensive statistics that show some significant deterioration from Callahan's numbers.
Total Offense: Total offensive performance fell from 468 yards to only 322 in 2009. This placed the 2009 Huskers the 99th best offense in the country, a significant decline from the 9th placed national ranking for the 2007 team.
Scoring Offense: Average points scored dropped from 33.4 to 25.1 in 2009. This placed Nebraska 75th in the nation, down from a ranking of 28 for the 2007 team.
Offense Pass Efficiency: Quarterbacks put up a pass efficiency rating of 122 (79th nationally) in 2009 compared to 143 (18th nationally) for the 2007 Huskers.
Rushing Offense: Rushing offense statistics were comparable for the 2007 and the 2009 teams (144 yards versus 147 yards, respectively).
The special teams numbers showed mixed results in 2009. Punt return averages increased three yards (from 8.2 yards to 11.6 yards) while kickoff returns increased from 22 yards to 24 yards.
However, net punting yards dropped in 2009 from 36.3 yards per punt to 34.7 yards.
Net turnover numbers improved significantly in 2009. Callahan's 2007 team had 17 more turnovers than their opponents. The 2009 team topped opponents by plus four turnovers for the year.
Summary and Challenges for 2010
Pelini's 2009 team will be remembered for their outstanding defense led by AP Player of the Year, Ndamukong Suh. The Huskers ranked first in the nation in points allowed and in pass efficiency defense.
The 2009 defense was good enough to produce a national championship had it been paired with a stronger offensive squad.
But the 2009 offense lagged the results of Bill Callahan in passing yards, passing efficiency, and points scored.
For the Huskers to continue their return to a top 10 ranking, they have challenges to meet.
They will need to maintain defensive excellence. The 2010 Huskers will need significant improvement in offensive yardage production from both the passing and rushing game.
Nebraska will need improvement in quarterback play and improved pass efficiency. Additionally, they will need to win the close games that slipped through their hands in 2009.
Husker fans can be optimistic for 2010. The challenges they face are not insurmountable.
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