This Nebraska is No Longer Scared of Ohio State
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: It’s Good-on-Good This Week with the Big-Play Battle

September 25, 2019

What's the difference between Ohio State's offense, which enters Saturday's matchup averaging 53.5 points per game, and Nebraska's offense, which is "only" at 38.0? The Buckeyes have the efficiency edge, but the Huskers are a little more explosive, so why a two touchdown difference per game in points?

There's one big reason––turnovers. Nebraska's offense has 11 giveaways so far, nine fumbles and two interceptions. Ohio State has yet to throw an interception this year and has lost just four fumbles. That's seven drives over four games where the Buckeyes' offense got to decide how their drives ended––touchdown, field goal, punt, etc.––that the Huskers' offense didn't get. 

Turnovers are, of course, always key to winning and they will be again on Saturday, but that's not the number at the top of my most-important list. See if you can guess which number is based on the weekly efficiency/explosiveness breakdown below.


Success Rate 45.3% 43.3% 54.8%
>Std. Down SR 52.0% 49.4% 61.8%
>Pass Down SR 30.9% 31.7% 35.9%
Explosive Plays Pct. 18.8% 15.2% 17.9%
>Expl. Run Pct. 16.5% 14.8% 16.2%
>Expl. Pass Pct. 23.1% 16.0% 21.2%



Success Rate 36.3% 43.3% 30.7%
>Std. Down SR 41.0% 49.4% 38.5%
>Pass Down SR 29.1% 31.7% 20.2%
Explosive Plays Pct. 12.5% 15.2% 7.8%
>Expl. Run Pct. 12.3% 14.8% 5.8%
>Expl. Pass Pct. 13.0% 16.0% 9.8%

Nebraska's offense remains slightly more efficient than the average offense this year, but its sharpest weapon at this point is a big-play offense powered by Maurice Washington, JD Spielman and Wan'Dale Robinson. The Huskers' explosive-plays percentage ranks 22nd nationally. Nebraska's offense went nuts in this category last week . . . 

. . . and put up a good success rate on top of it. That's how you end up with nearly 700 total yards. Nebraska has the efficiency, offensive complexity and big-play ability to keep up with most teams in the country.

But Ohio State is, of course, the biggest test yet. The Buckeyes' defense keeps teams off schedule at a top-10 rate (30.7% success rate through four games), but it has limited explosive plays as well as any team so far. Ohio State is giving up a run of 10-plus yards or a pass of 15-plus yards on just 7.8% plays this season. The average team is at 15.2%. The only team better than the Buckeyes so far is Wisconsin, which has allowed a miserly 6.2% this year.

Something probably has to give there on Saturday. While it's possible that the two strengths meet somewhere in the middle––Nebraska has a few less big plays, but it's still a few more than Ohio State typically allows––but more often one strength wins out.

Which one is that on Saturday? I don't know yet, but I do think it's the key unstoppable force/immovable object battle between the Huskers and Buckeyes.

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