Where the Huskers Stand After Four
Big Ten play for the Huskers starts with Wisconsin coming to Lincoln on Saturday, but this game is not one with the type of national implications expected before the season began. For those who have followed the major sports media, the Big Ten is considered down for the count as league play finally arrives. Even though the conference may be off to an unimpressive start, there are still a handful of numbers to think about when coming up on the other Big Ten opponents.
As Steve pointed out, the Badger's rushing defense is stifling, allowing only 80 yards/game. But they are not even the highest ranked team in that category in the conference. Northwestern is only allowing 72 yards/game and Michigan State is stopping people to the tune of 69. The Spartans lead the league so far by also being the best in Pass Efficiency Defense, Total Defense, and Scoring Defense. So far this year, the Spartans are the team against which to measure any defensive performance.
On the flip side of that coin, the Huskers are the offensive yardstick for the Big Ten. Nebraska leads the league in Rushing Offense, Total Offense, Scoring Offense, Kickoff Returns, and Passing Efficiency. Other than Kick Returns, they are in the top 10 nationally in each of these categories. Based on the defensive performances and opponent strength of the teams on the schedule for Nebraska, the stiffest competition remains the top tier of the league. Namely, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State will put pressure on the offense to place game out of reach. Can the Huskers respond well to having unsuccessful drives, whether it be turnovers or stalls?
In the same way the Husker offense has surprised some with its success, the defense has surprised many with its lack of ability to get the non-FCS offenses off the field. Disappointment for the rest of the league are in the pedestrian offenses. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa were all expected to be led by upperclassmen leadership on the field, instead have had mediocre performances against lesser competition and significant mistakes against the toughest competition.
In the state of the Big Ten at the end of non-conference play, the Huskers clearly have had the best offensive performances of any school. But disappointment has not escaped the Huskers either. If they can keep their current pace of rushing attack and efficient passing, disappointment will only continue for the rest of the league in the form of poor defensive performances.