Welcome to November, the month when “champions are determined” or something. It’s certainly true for Nebraska, which controls its own destiny and will have its (regular-season) destiny decided in the (regular) season’s final act. Whether or not this particular story has a tragic ending or not largely depends on the Huskers’ offense finding some consistency.
If you’re looking for a way to quickly ballpark Nebraska’s recent struggles, this is probably the quickest way to do it: The Huskers averaged 38.5 points per game (38th nationally) in September, but just 25.5 in October (80th). The main culprit there is probably injuries on the offensive line. You could also attribute some of that to schedule, but I wouldn’t explain much of it away that way. Which of these three-game slates is more difficult based on what we know now — Wyoming-Oregon-Northwestern or Illinois-Indiana-Purdue? It’s the fourth opponents in those groups — Wisconsin versus Fresno State — that swings things definitively in the favor of the October stretch, but only that.
Speaking of the Badgers, Nebraska finally played a game big enough to have its grades featured on Pro Football Focus and the offensive report card is not one that will be going up on the fridge in the football offices any time soon.
For context, the top five offensive grades for Wisconsin, led by tight end Troy Fumagalli, spanned from 87.6 to 66.5. Nebraska was led by center Dylan Utter (79.1) and was joined by four wide receivers — Jordan Westerkamp (78.6), Stanley Morgan Jr. (76.8), Brandon Reilly (69.1) and De’Mornay Pierson-El (66.0) — a group that got 13 offensive touches.
Nebraska’s wideouts put in a solid showing last night, despite their quarterback’s inability to consistently find them with accurate passes. Jordan Westerkamp and Stanley Morgan Jr. each had a reception of 25 yards or more, breaking a combined six tackles on their eight receptions in the game. They consistently showed a threat to the Wisconsin secondary with the ball in their hands, and had they been given more opportunities perhaps Nebraska would have remained undefeated for another week.
Thing were much better for the Huskers defense — grade range: 84.6 to 80.5, including at least one player at each level of the defense — but that’s not much of a surprise. At some point after the Illinois game, Nebraska’s profile flipped from the preseason consensus that this would be an offense-led team to what it actually is at this point — as good as its defense.
That’s not a bad place to be in this conference, but if the Huskers are to stay in the Big Ten West race, it’s going to need a little more offensive help than it has been getting.
The Local Train to Pasadena
The best reminder yet that nothing in the Big Ten West is decided at this point:
While that would be somewhat amusing just for the shear insanity of it all, it wouldn’t do wonders for the Big Ten West’s lightly regarded brand.
The Grab Bag
- Good Ohio State press conference roundup from Eleven Warriors, which will give you a good idea of Buckeye fan concerns headed into Saturday.
- Ohio State uses variable ticket pricing and has released its suggested ticket prices for 2017, which reveals that Maryland is half as appealing as Oklahoma or Michigan State.
- Couple of coaching carousel round ups from Dan Wolken of USA Today and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.
- Former Minnesota Coach Jerry Kill, now an associate AD at Kansas State, says if he felt as good last year as he feels now, he’d still be coaching.
- Here’s your rundown of Nebraska’s plays and formations against Wisconsin from Through These Gates.
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.