Nebraska Needs the Screen Game to Slow Arkansas State's Pass Rush
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: 6 of One, Half-Dozen of the Other

July 20, 2017

Nebraska fans have probably had their fill of analytics-based, .500-ish projections for the Huskers in 2017. ESPN has one, SB Nation has one, Vegas is in the mix and now there’s another one.

McIllece Sports released its new College Football Notebook earlier this month — I was out of the country so I’m a week or two late on this, apologies — and, while we already knew the Huskers were only given a 7-percent chance to win the division and didn’t rank among the top-30 teams nationally, now we have a record: 6-6.

And we have a lot more, too. That 6-6 record is what’s listed on the Huskers’ page, but McIllece gives Nebraska nearly the same chances of finishing 5-7, 7-5 or 8-4. Overall Nebraska is given a 61-percent chance of finishing with a regular-season record between 5-7 and 8-4.

On a game-by-game basis the Huskers have less than a 35-percent chance to win in four games: at Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio State and at Penn State. McIllece also has the Huskers as slight underdogs to Northwestern and Iowa, and there are projected scores for all of the games on the schedule.

None of that should feel too foreign for Nebraska fans this offseason. Projections in this range seem to be, for lack of a better term, the analytics-based consensus, but there was one number that jumped out to me here.

McIllece offers weighted four-year recruiting percentiles for each team. Nebraska in 2017 checks in at the 74th percentile, its lowest rank of the last 11 seasons. The 2015 team (5-7 in the regular season) was listed at the 75th percentile. The 2012 and 2013 teams also ranked in the 70s, but all of the remaining years have ranked 80th or above. Bo Pelini’s first team in 2008 had the highest percentile rank of 89.

The lack of returning production and overall talent level of Nebraska currently is sort of baked in to any preseason projection, but sometimes there’s value in just seeing it listed. Whether you totally buy it or not, I will say this: In the hours after last season’s Music City Bowl, this is exactly where our post-game/post-season conversation went — the roster.

I’ve written before about how much I liked using this (free) notebook last year, and it is very much a user-based experience as you’ll have to do your own calculations to keep it updated. That makes it somewhat unique. If you want to do more than just look at numbers like this, it’s worth a long look.

Lee Lore

Locally it might seem like the Tanner Lee story cycle is slowing down, but with the quarterback heading to Chicago next week for Big Ten Media Days you can expect a few more national “drop-ins” over the weeks to come. Paul Myerberg of USA Today got the jump on those stories to come by just doing his this week.

It’s a good snout-to-tail look at what brought Lee to Nebraska, what could be in store and what it might mean for the Huskers. (This isn’t a surprise. Myerberg is very good at what he does.) With fall camp just a week-and-change away, it sort of serves the whole thing up on a platter. Like this passage near the end:

It may seem to be happening so fast — the quick step from transfer to redshirt to starter to, if the plan comes together, the best quarterback prospect in Nebraska’s proud history. That Lee brings just middling on-field results into his junior season only adds to the confusion.

But this marriage, born from a mixture of necessity and timing, will yield unexpected results. Nebraska has placed its chips behind Lee, fully engaged in the idea that this player — a statuesque, pocket-passing quarterback in the mold of Matt Moore, Sean Mannion and Riley’s past pupils at Oregon State — will lift this team to a Big Ten West Division title and into the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Highly recommended.

The Grab Bag

  • ICYMI: Jacob Padilla took a close look at just how replacing Chris Jones presents an interesting challenge for Nebraska.
  • Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh opens up about his battle with depression.
  • Can college football do anything about the length of games?
  • Alabama is undergoing something of a transition on offense, but the Tide has something it hasn’t had that often in recent years — quarterback consistency.

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