After watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers walk into Ohio Stadium and leave with a five-point loss to now No. 8 Ohio State, it’s hard to deny they've made great strides in a short period of time. Following a 56-10 drubbing by the Michigan Wolverines in their third game, the future of the 2018 season seemed grim. However, if you still aren’t willing to concede that Nebraska has improved, perhaps some cold, hard numbers will help persuade you.
With an assist from Dave Bartoo of Matrix Analytical, we were able to break down offensive efficiency throughout chunks of the Huskers’ season. We started after Nebraska finally managed to get some actual playing time under their belt with Weeks 3-6 and, to no one’s surprise, the Big Red’s efficiency ranked a paltry 90th in the nation.
Then we decided to do some overlap. Looking at Weeks 5-8, Nebraska’s offensive efficiency jumped to 51st. The final stretch of weeks Weeks 7-10 showed the Huskers’ scoring proficiency having jumped into the top 20 overall at 18th. It’s vital to point out that this metric shows the ability to put points on the board regardless of pace. A team could be as slow and methodical as Wisconsin or as high-octane as UCF, for example.
During Nebraska’s first three games (Colorado, Troy, Michigan), the Huskers managed all of .258 points per play. In their three most recent games (Minnesota, Bethune-Cookman, Ohio State), that number jumped to .601 points per play. To give that some context, if Nebraska continued at the clip it did in its first three games, it would be averaging 18 points per contest. Should the Huskers continue their current trend, they’ll average 44 points over their final three games.
Some other numbers to point out:
* Nebraska’s game versus Ohio State marked its sixth straight piling up 450 yards of offense. This ties a school record for the longest such streak. That number was also achieved by the 1972, '82, '94 and '95 offenses, some of the Big Red’s most efficient in school history.
* Each of the last five times Nebraska has received the opening kickoff, they have scored a touchdown on that subsequent drive.
* Quarterback Adrian Martinez tallied 338 yards of total offense versus Ohio State, the fifth time he’s eclipsed the 300-yard mark in eight games this season. He is the fourth player in school history to accomplish this and should he do it again, he’ll be the only player to do it six times in a single year.
* Running back Devine Ozigbo has shattered all expectations with at least one rushing touchdown in five of the past six games. He needs only 90 yards to become Nebraska’s 30th 2,000-yard career rusher in school history.
* Wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. now has 51 catches on the year making him the fourth player in school history to have 50 catches in back-to-back seasons. Teammate JD Spielman is one of the other three.
Finally, while Nebraska has never had a 1,000-yard receiver, it may very well end up with a couple once the season concludes. Spielman currently has 747 yards while Morgan has 725. That means they would have to average 85 and 92 yards per game, respectively, over their team’s remaining contests. Fortunately, the Nos. 121, 98 and 36 pass defenses in the country stand in their way.
No matter how you slice it, the numbers don’t lie. Nebraska hasn’t won many games this year, but their offense is already starting to hum. Urban Meyer already called the Huskers a two-win team that nobody wants to play following his team’s narrow victory. With this offense, you can see why Nebraska fans should look for a dramatic increase in wins sooner rather than later.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces).