Hot Reads: Losses Aren't a Reason for Illogic
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hot Reads: Losses Aren’t a Reason for Illogic

September 12, 2018

Nebraska played far from a perfect game against Colorado. The Huskers played well in some key areas, less well in some other key areas and it was the latter (penalties and turnovers stood out the most) that ended up deciding the one-score game.

I'd still say Nebraska played mostly well, however. If a team has to take a loss, I'd put how the Huskers lost to Colorado –– play well against an equal opponent and have a clear idea why you didn't win –– as the second-best way to lose, behind only "play well against an equal opponent and lose via randomness late" (improbable and well-defended catch, miss a high-percentage field goal, etc.). Either is better than a blowout or a massive upset.

We're not talking about "moral victories" here, as linebacker and captain Luke Gifford noted this week, but if you care about how well a team actually played regardless of the outcome there was a lot to like for Husker fans in the opener. And if you happen to have created a predictive ranking system that measures actual output against expected output, the gains from Nebraska's loss were actually huge.

That's my view of the game anyway, but it's not tracking in all corners of the college football commentariat. Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde, in his long-running Forde-Yard Dash column this week, designated Scott Frost as his "Coach Who Should Take the Short Bus to Work" (that's the opposite each week of the "Coach Who Earned His Comp Car This Week"):

Scott Frost (39), Nebraska. The Cornhuskers paid him $5 million a year to come home and restore the glory. Thus far, here’s what they’ve got: a canceled game against Akron due to lightning; a home loss to former rival Colorado; 11 penalties for 95 yards in that game; a minus-3 turnover margin; and perhaps no quarterback.
Freshman starter Adrian Martinez went down with an injury against the Buffaloes, and former backup Tristan Gebbia left the program days earlier after not winning the job. That could leave the Huskers in the hands of walk-on Andrew Bunch, a sophomore who threw the first nine passes of his career Saturday. After Troy on Saturday, four of Nebraska’s next six are on the road: at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Ohio State — not really the gauntlet you want for a walk-on QB.
It will get better in Lincoln. But before then it might get worse.

Ummm, where to start with this? I enjoy trying to understand different perspectives than my own, but I don't do as well with illogic. Let's run through this quickly piece by piece. (1) Game cancelation: That's nobody's fault. (2) Loss to Colorado: That one goes on Nebraska's tab, but not at full price (in my mind) given the 93-percent postgame win probability. If a loss typically costs $100, Nebraska should've been charged $7. (3) Penalties: Can you clean some of that up? Yes, but there's not a strong link between penalties and losing. UCF averaged 8.4 penalties a game last year (127th nationally) and went undefeated to cite just one example. (4) Turnovers: Random over a long enough span but volatile within any one-game stretch. (5) Quarterback Injury: I mean, c'mon. Particularly this quarterback injury.

Do all of those things add up to a less-than-perfect open to Nebraska's season? Sure. Do they add up to a reason to ding the coaching after one game? No. (Also, short bus is a terrible way to contrast "comp car." Wouldn't "Coach Who Should Walk to Work" be a better, more palatable contrast here?)

Anyway, Forde wasn't alone. Tom Fornelli of had Nebraska in his Bottom 25 after one game. This will sound familiar:

So, let's see, the Scott Frost Era began with a game canceled because of weather, and then a home loss to old Big 8 rival Colorado. Now the Huskers have to deal with a tough Troy team to avoid a 0-2 start.


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As a special Easter egg for loyal Hot Reads readers, here's a sneak peek at the upcoming issue of Hail Varsity. It's our first-ever "Food Issue," something that's been on my wishlist for a long time. Stay tuned for more details on what's inside, but if you know you want it be sure to subscribe by Friday.

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The September issue of Hail Varsity.


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