Should NU Fans Increase Defensive Expectations?
With only a few weeks before the first kickoff, the only thing to do is wonder about this team and ask questions. Tom Shatel managed to accurately describe the mindset of many fans and backers by calling out the lack of hope that has surrounded the program for the last ten years. Without hope, all that is left are questions. Yesterday, Steve pointed out that one major question is whether the offense will be able to perform to the levels that many are placing on them. But a question not many are asking is whether the defense is able to improve in any capacity.
Last year's defensive performance put the Huskers at 193 Rush YPG allowed, 168 Pass YPG allowed, and 27.6 PPG allowed. To put those numbers in perspective, those ranked 90, 4, and 58 nationally while putting Nebraska at 10, 1, and 9 in the Big Ten. Significant improvement against the pass would be unrealistic. But big stops against the run and limiting the scoring explosions against the Blackshirts is not out of the question.
The Huskers could see a trend upward in the total passing yards allowed, but still end up a top ten team nationally in pass defense. With the returning experience in the secondary, a reasonable expectation is the same form as was seen in 2012. Where most fans should push their expectations in the positive direction is in those rushing numbers and points per game allowed.
Injuries and depth decimated the Blackshirts ability to stop big time backs and mobile quarterbacks running all over the front seven. Talented youth and depth should make this an improved year to the tune of even 150 YPG allowed and as low as 20 PPG allowed. That would easily put the Huskers in the top half of the nation and league on rush defense and in the top quarter of the nation and league in scoring defense.
It may not be ideal to be thinking about how to get into the top half of the nation or conference, but to move ahead of 40 or 50 teams from 2012's numbers would be a huge jump. Fans should be thinking that jumps like that are very possible with the young squad that will develop as the season wears on.