"If you have a 10-yard difference in starting field position over the course of a game," Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said Thursday, "that's going to be a 100-yard difference in hidden yardage and that leads to points."
Simple enough. Intuitive enough. Frost was talking about the impact of special teams then, but he also listed turnovers and field position as two of the stats he pays the most attention to during a season. Those were two categories the Huskers struggled in early in the season, though things have started to turn around of late.
But there was something about the way Frost worded that, "a 100-yard difference," that stuck with me. Now, a 10-yard difference in average starting field position in a game is pretty big. It happens in games, but it's more common to have a smaller difference between two teams so it's something of an extreme example. But it's still a good visual. For Team A, which started 10 drives at its own 25, and Team B, which started 10 drives at its own 35 (and probably won), the field is effectively 100 yards longer over the course of the game for Team A.
And that made me wonder what it actually looks like for Nebraska through the 10 games it has played this season. If you just stacked all of the yards the Huskers had to gain to score a touchdown on every drive this year and compared it to the same number for Nebraska's opponents, how much "longer" was the Huskers' field this season?
Here's your answer.
The total number of yards Nebraska would've had to travel this season is 812 yards more than its opponents had to. So for the season Nebraska's field was about 80 yards longer than the opponent's in a game on average.
I also included the total yards gained on that chart (removing some end-of-half/kneel-down drives) for reference. The Huskers have gained more yards, but the average yards gained per drive (NU: 35.6, OPP: 34.1) is pretty close and, given the shorter fields, Nebraska's opponents are picking up a better percentage of the available yards (50.1 to 48.4). That's not a huge difference either, but combined with better starting field position it's the difference between the average drive ending in reasonable field goal range (for NU's opponents) and fringe field goal range (for Nebraska).
Again, all pretty intuitive, but if you wondered what the total difference so far this season looked like –– and I acknowledge that I may have been alone in that regard –– there it is: 812 yards.
The Grab Bag
- Remember Brandon Reilly’s game-winning catch against Michigan State two years ago? Erin Sorensen uncovered something you probably didn’t know about that catch this week.
- Here’a another can’t-miss story from Erin: Chris Jones and Dicaprio Bootle are engaged in a (playful) Twitter war over Bootle’s interception-less season.
- Mike Babcock looks back at the 1995 Nebraska-Michigan State game and how I-Back Jay Sims called his shot on his first carry of the game.
- Greg Smith looks at the impact coaching changes elsewhere could have on the Huskers’ recruiting.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.