A cliché, as old as sport itself, sums it up best.
If you need to blame your performance on a referee, then you’re pointing your finger in the wrong direction.
What was at first a minor suggestion and likely dismissed with polite chuckling has now taken on a life of its own.
Several members of the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ fanbase are legitimately asking if Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has suggested that conference referees essentially root against Nebraska with their hankies. A colleague suggested this possibility as well.
Fans of other teams immediately shake their heads and talk of poor sportsmanship. What if we look beyond opinion and slide this notion under the microscope?
Must Read: All-Decade Nebraska Defense
Looking at the numbers, Nebraska ranks 10th in the Big 12 (95th nationally) in penalties per game with 7.1. The Texas A&M Aggies sit at 120th with 9.3, so one would expect quite a bit of laundry on the field this Saturday.
This doesn’t really say much about how other teams are penalized when playing Nebraska, so let’s dig further.
Nebraska has run 640 total plays to this point and accrued 70 penalties. The opposition has run 670 plays and accrued 46 penalties. During contests in Nebraska’s final Big 12 season, the Cornhuskers see a yellow flag every 8.1 plays. Their opponents don’t add any laundry to the pile until about every 18th play.
There is quite a discrepancy in non-conference play, where Nebraska was penalized every 11.2 plays. The opposition was penalized every 10.9 plays.
Revisiting Nebraska’s total number of plays ran (640) versus their opponent’s (670), Nebraska is then charged a penalty every 18.7 plays while opponents are flagged every 28.5 plays. This is using the Cornhuskers’ entire schedule.
When singling out games only played within the Big 12 Conference, Nebraska is penalized every 17.4 plays as opposed to every 33.4 plays for the opposition.
Again, looking to non-conference games quite literally provided a far more level playing field. Out of all plays ran in non-conference games, penalties were called every 21.2 plays for Nebraska and every 23.1 plays for opponents.
Just what does this say for the final year that Nebraska has played under the Big 12’s banner? Perhaps the nation at large will take a moment to enjoy the upcoming Nebraska contests to be aired on ABC and see if the equation doesn’t change.
Regardless of how the statistics look, do they prove Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe to be venting frustration against a departing conference member? Certainly not.
The numbers don’t lie, as they say.
-Special thanks to Tom Sorenson for his contributions to this piece
Follow Brandon on Twitter (@bcbleacherep) for the latest article updates and other general college football goodness.