The Turnover Nightmare
It's not a newsflash that Nebraska committed a lot of turnovers last year. The total damage was 35 turnovers over the course of the season. That's 22 lost fumbles and 13 interceptions. Opposing teams lost just 10 fumbles while tossing 13 interceptions of their own. The 1995 Huskers, to choose an outstanding NU offense, lost nine fumbles while throwing 8 interceptions. Let's consider what a difference of 12 to 18 turnovers could make.
The gap between the number of turnovers Nebraska has committed and the number the competition (whether that's opposing teams or historically strong NU units)is hardly trivial. Last season, the Huskers averaged 15 possessions per game. Imagine a game where the Huskers turned the ball over on every possession. How bad would that team look?
We got a glimpse of that in 2009 when the Huskers turned the ball over on 8 of 13 possessions in a home loss to Iowa State. Nebraska outgained ISU that day by 123 yards, but the result was still a loss 9-7. In the turnover every possession scenario, the Huskers would obviously be held scoreless. We can get a sense of how often opposing teams would score by looking at how often NU turnovers were turned into points a year ago.
Nebraska surrendered 118 points on their 35 turnovers, or an average of 3.4 points per turnover. A game with 15 turnovers would see the opposition score 51 points. So the outcome of the average game like that would be 51-0.
Eliminate those turnovers and you not only might shave 51 points off of the opposing team's score, but given NU's average of 2.4 points per possession a year ago, you'd add another 36 as well. That's an 87-point swing or nearly a touchdown per game.
That would have pushed the Husker scoring defense up about 20 spots in the rankings and the scoring offense up about 10. It very well could have made the difference against UCLA and Georgia (especially if we count the blocked punt safety against the Bulldogs as a turnover). Even the one-sided pasting by Ohio State saw three Husker turnovers turned into 21 points by OSU. Erase those and add another 7 points by the NU offense on those drives and you'd get a 45-42 victory. Three more wins and the Huskers finish with the same 13-1 record as the national champs.
We've seen the Huskers under Bo Pelini appear capable of competing with anyone. We've also seen them look like they don't belong on the field. Turnovers might seem like a simplistic answer, but when you do the math it's hard to ignore how much they've hurt his teams. Fixing it could change things...dramatically.