Will a Healthier 2014 Spell More Victories for NU?

Among college football guru Phil Steele's number crunching activities is a count for each team of starts lost to injury.  He's found that teams that are hit especially hard by injury one year tend to fare better in that department the following year and also see their win-loss record improve.  The 2013 season is one that saw Nebraska hit harder by injury than most teams.  How might that pay off a year from now?


What's Your Number?
Steele's cutoff for lost starts was 32.  Counting lost starts isn't necessarily an easy thing to do.  Sure it's easy to see which games that Taylor Martinez and Spencer Long missed.  But there are some judgment calls to make as well.  Is Jamal Turner a starter?  Did he lose starts only for games where Nebraska came out with 3 wide receivers?   But would the team have come out with three wide if he was still healthy?  What about games where an injured player doesn't start but makes an appearance?  Is that a lost start?  How sure are we that the injury is the reason they didn't start?  Those subtleties make it hard to settle on a single number.  Even a fairly lowish estimate for Nebraska might be around 25 which would have put Nebraska in the top quartile for most lost starts.

Who You Got?
Then there are the year to year scheduling changes that can be more drastic for some teams than others.  All else equal, a healthier Nebraska might be a better team next year.  But with a tougher schedule, that may not be evident in the win-loss column.  Next season, NU goes on the road to face a Fresno State team that won 11 games this year and brings back some very talented receivers.  The Huskers then host a Miami team that won 9 games this year.  Nebraska has to go to East Lansing to face defending Big Ten champ Michigan State.  There's also trips slated to Madison to face Wisconsin, Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes, and Evanston to take on Northwestern.  Rutgers and Minnesota may not just lie down for NU in Lincoln either.  

A healtier 2014 would surely be an advantage over this past season.  But there are some headwinds in the future as well, particularly when it comes to the schedule.  Hopefully, NU is another one of those teams that manages to add wins after a tough injury year.

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Comments 20 comments so far

Fresno may be exciting, but they will be overmatched.
Miami could be interesting.  Here’s to home field advantage!
MSU will graduate most of their D, while NU’s D will be much more experienced.  Just have to see what the O does.  If healthy, NU wins.

The last 3 games, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, will be the toughest.  This is the stretch where injuries will most likely have had their toll.

With the QB uncertainty at NU next season, coupled with a tougher schedule than 2013 posed, and the Pelini situation, it will be hard to imagine NU not losing around 4 games next season again.  That number can go either way.  With the pressure on Pelini, that dynamic will be interesting to see as to how it impacts on the players and their response in their quality play.  One thing is for sure, the turn over margin must be improved upon in order for NU to have a better season next years vesus this year.  Yes, I read blog posts where there are fans that discount the coaches ability to turn that aspect of the game around, but there are lots of learned opinions by coaches and experts who suggest quality coaching can help players reduce the number of turnovers.  If Pelini can’t figure out how to improve on that number, then serious thoughts of challenging for the B10 Title in 2014 are a waste of time.

This next season will be a pivotal year for the team and the coach in many ways.  In the meantime, Pelini needs to knock the chip off his shoulder, re-evaluate his Chip Beck system, be smarter and in charge of some needed changes.

A lot of the “turn overs” are in fact take aways.  Iowa State has won several games by creating take aways against better team.  A lot of that is coaching. 

Pelini is very loyal to his assistant coaches & that can be harmful in some instances.

Doubt if he can repair the damage that he has already done with the referees.  Any thing even close to a penalty call is going to go against Pelini & therefore the team.

Thanks for the article Steve—I was wondering about next years schedule. Great timing!

For those NU fans who are not truth deniers, what five things must Pelini do as HC this next year, to improve NU’s chances of winning the BIG10 Title in 2014?

With the return of all-conference running back Ameer Abdullah and his supporting cast of Imani Cross and Terrell Newby, and Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner at the wide receiver positions, it’s hard not to be excited and think that this team just may go undefeated.

Tommy Armstrong has shown that he has the potential to be a great option QB, and with work in the off-season to improve his passing, he may prove to be a very good QB.  Johnny Stanton will be in the mix as well, and it will be interesting to see how he does.  It will also be interesting to see if Zack Darlington will be able to play football and will attend UNL.  Yes, there is plenty of excitement at QB, with great things possible.

The young defense which performed so well at the end of the year will return mostly intact, with some changes in the secondary due to the loss of Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Ciante Evans.  However, recruiting is looking very good this year.  And it is exciting to think that another Juco defensive end has chosen to come here.  Joe Keel and Randy Gregory on the field will give an offense nightmares.

Should be a great year.

New Yorker, thank you for your positive spin on things.  We need to stay positive!  A great defense will really help our offense next year.  Good field position did not exist this year, and with our defense, it should help get some balls in enemy territory for a shorter field.  GBR

TL ~ what you point out is true.  However, NU’s ability to maintain ball control and keep the D off the field for extended periods of time helps make the D a great D.  That is one reason reducing the turnovers will help accomplish the goal of having a superb D.

I think Zack Darlington should RS whether or not he thinks he’s ready to play.  If it comes down to a 3rd string QB again…how good is Ryker Fyfe anyway?  Anyone know?

Hopefully Zack Darlington will be healthy enough to play.  Two concussions this past year is pretty serious.  If he is healthy and can play, it would be interesting to see how the true freshman performs.

I seen Ryker play against are HS team and thought he was great.  Went to one of his coaches after the game as they were loading the bus and was commenting on Ryker to him.  I asked where he was going to school and the coach told me he wasn’t that good.  Wow couldn’t believe he said that.  Hard to say how good he is I have watched football for alot of years and see kids all the time that you think are outstanding but never go anywhere to play.  That makes me think how hard it would be to look and evaluate the 1,134,377 kids that play football in the US and than narrow that down to who gets 5 stars, 4 stars, etc.  And who makes ESPN 300, 200, there is just no way to see all those kids.  So sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.  Lots of Diamonds in the rough, for instance Northern Illinois had 2 3 star players and 22 NR players in there 2013 recruiting class.  So you just never know until they step on the field.

Healthy enough does not mean it’s in his or NU’s interest.  Concussions take time to really heal, and you don’t want a repeat before you really need his services.  With TA, JS and RF, it only makes sense to redshirt.  Unless, JS and RF don’t pan out for some reason.

He (BO) must accept responsibility and not blame the players.
He must work hard to get the turnovers and silly penalties under control.
He maintain his composure so his players do the same in tough situations.
He should think about another DC imo.
He and the team must win some big games especially at home.
He must get with Beck to develop an offensive ID, again imo
Is that 5?

I’d just be happy if we had a punt return game… or at least pretended to have one.

I’m guessing the state of special teams is a reflection of putting too many responsibilities on one assistant.  Els does LB, ST and recruiting.  May also be why it took so long to find the right LB combo?

“...a healthier Nebraska might be a better team next year. “

Ya think?

Return of the Blackshirts to top 15 form, top 10 is realistic.  We’ll be alright.

Crap, that is a pretty tough schedule now that I look at it.  I dunno, going to have to up our game and definitely stop leading the nation in turnovers.

Derek Carr’s gone, I think we’ll be good in that one.  The U will be more the dog fight.

We have as decent a shot as anybody to win the division, but it’s kind of one game at a time with this team.

We will need a QB who can pass since Beck often forgets we have a crushing line and Ameer in the backfield.
Defense will win a lot of games for us next year IF we can play smart and not fumble OR throw interceprions.
Early tests may give us a loss or two.  We lose two more to BIG schools unless we have a standout QB by years end and have cut down the turnovers.

First, I like that the Beaderz are in the same division. That was a good fix, finally and at least Nebraska can make things right with Sparty, for the next couple of seasons.
Next year, it comes down to Armstrong. He’ll make that 2nd year jump and Nebraska’s identity as a physical run dominated team, genuinely takes hold. Unless, of course, he gets beaten out by Stanton. Intriguing possibility.
A senior dominated offensive skill set, a more experienced D. Not trying to “pooh pooh” the issues, like the butter fingers and a proven run D. In this context, I’m just not worried about it.

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