Lot of talk about Nebraska’s point spread this week. Wisconsin opened as about a 13-point favorite, and it’s still up around 11.5 as of Tuesday. It’s eye-catching, not because of what we’ve seen on the field but because it’s pretty rare for the Huskers to be a double-digit dog.
I have a spread database, based on Gold Sheet’s historical logs, that goes back to 2004. Since the start of that season, Nebraska has only been a double-digit underdog 13 times in 174 total games, and that includes this year’s Oregon game. Just two of those 13 instances came with the Huskers as the home team: Missouri in 2008 (the last time Nebraska lost a home night game) and Ohio State in 2011 (the largest comeback in school history). Nebraska, as you’d expect, is 3-10 in those games.
And while Nebraska’s staff and players weren’t entertaining any ideas of what’s to come after Wisconsin – nor should they be – I don’t have the same limitation. Even though it’s kind of pointless to ponder what hasn’t happened yet, after looking up Nebraska’s games as a double-digit underdog I couldn’t help but fast forward a bit. I mean, if Wisconsin opened as a 13-point favorite, what will Ohio State be in a week?
You have to assume things play out mostly to form for all of those teams involved, but even if they get a little wonky there’s probably not a scenario where Nebraska plays well enough and the Buckeyes poorly enough this week for that line to open at, say, Ohio State -9. Odds are that the Huskers will be double-digit underdogs in back-to-back games. How often has that happened?
Three times, sort of. In 2005, Nebraska closed the regular season as a 16-point underdog at Colorado, then was a 10.5-point underdog to Michigan in the Alamo Bowl. Back-to-back games technically, though it doesn’t feel that way.
In 2007, Nebraska went to Texas as a 20.5-point dog and then hosted Kansas a week later as 19.5-point underdogs (still the largest home spread in favor of the opponent since 2004). In 2008, Missouri came to Lincoln on Oct. 4 favored by 10.5 points and then the Huskers went to Lubbock, Texas, as 20.5-point underdogs to Texas Tech.
If you’re following along closely, the one thing that hasn’t happened since 2004 is Nebraska being a double-digit underdog in consecutive home games. But it probably will happen this year.
Given what Nebraska football was before 2004, you can feel pretty confident that it didn’t happen in the 30 or so years before that either. Do with that what you will. If Nebraska is trying to close the gap against programs like Wisconsin and Ohio State it hasn’t happened yet. At least not on paper.
Of course, that’s why they play the games.
The Grab Bag
- Busy day yesterday on the site with a football practice report, two volleyball stories (1, 2) and Tim Miles' season-opening press conference.
- A sports law professor tackles some of the legal questions present in the current college basketball scandal.
- Tanner Lee just missed ESPN's best quarterback performances of the week.
- Ameer Abdullah is powering a powerful Detroit Lions run game.
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.