Four touchdowns. That's where you should start an average college football game in terms of scoring output for one team. That number, 28 points (give or take a point or two), has held pretty steady over the last decade as the national average for offensive points per game.
(Note: They don't have to be touchdowns, of course. Any combination to get close to 28 points is in play, though teams typically only get 13 or 14 drives a game and it's tough, in a game with evenly matched teams, to generate a scoring opportunity on even half a team's drives.)
College football, per the NCAA Record Book, first crossed the 28-point threshold in 2007 (28.8). The current record is 30.0, set in 2016, and last year's average, 28.8, represents the largest season-to-season drop (-1.2) since 2007-to-2008. But largest is a relative term. Point is, you can usually count on this number falling between 28 and 30 points.
And that presents an interesting baseline for Nebraska's offense in 2018.
I've written before that almost as impressive as UCF's two-season leap from 0-12 to 13-0 under Scott Frost is what happened to the Knights' offense in the king of statistical categories – points. The 2015 team ranked 126th out of 128 teams at 13.9 points per game. Year 1 under Frost, UCF climbed to 66th at 28.8, and in Year 2 it led the country at 48.2. That's a good way to go from winless to undefeated in two seasons.
So what do you expect from Nebraska this season? As you can see on the graph above, the Huskers' points per game steadily declined under Mike Riley. (A decline made more striking by the fact that in 2014, Bo Pelini's final year, the offense's 37.8 points per game was the highest at Nebraska since 41.5 in 2000.)
Unlike 2016 UCF, 2018 Nebraska has a higher starting point. While 25.8 points will generally be below average, it's nearly double what Frost "inherited" in Orlando. The Huskers have to find their quarterback, but they return two all-conference playmakers at wide receiver and we know that this offense, when it's running efficiently, is capable of putting up points.
Where do you set the bar for the Huskers this season? Even leaving room for some growing pains, it seems likely Nebraska will at least get back to about average. When creating our latest poll on the main page, I set the over/under at 29.5.
I knew I was going over on that number. It's essentially a question of do you think Nebraska will average at least 30 points a game or something less than that. But the more I look at it that 29.5 might be a little too conservative. The difference, I think, is this staff's comments that Nebraska's offensive line is in better shape than UCF's was when this group got to Orlando. That offense got to 28.8.
So if this offensive line is "better," you have some big-time receivers and the quarterback play is at least competent (I'm completely confident it will be) that leads me to 30-plus. You can put me firmly on the over.
But feel free to cast your own vote on the main page.
The Grab Bag
- Tom Osborne said in a recent radio interview that the 1982 and 1993 teams were the best Nebraska teams not to win a title.
- Really good breakdown of recruiting in Georgia, where the Huskers are hoping to make inroads.
- Nick Saban has weighed in on UCF's title claim. In a related story, when is football back?
- ICYMI: USA Volleyball won its VNL opener over Poland in Lincoln, we did a staff roundtable on the eligibility status of Maurice Washington and Greg Smith offered some big visit news for Nebraska.
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.