If you've followed this particular power-ranking horse race all season long, and will tolerate some horse-racing terminology, we've entered the homestretch and the Huskers have swung four wide to the outside.
Unless you have a horse that's just the class of the field, this usually isn't the perfect path. It's a longer trip, more crowded, less efficient. Go wide at the turn and you know you probably didn't get the race you wanted, which is a fitting description of this season. But, Nebraska is maybe showing a little bit of finishing kick here at the end of the regular season.
(That's the end of the horse content.)
The Huskers' destruction of Maryland, even if it was aided by some turnover good fortune (i.e. Maryland lost all four fumbles it committed), was good for a nice jump in the preferred power rankings of Hot Reads. I've tracked three all season, but really I prefer one––SP+. That's purely personal. I like what it measures and it seems to be a little less reactive, but it's always good to at least seek some additional information.
So, here is the updated chart with Nebraska's ranking progression in SP+, FPI and Sagarin:
And here's a little more information on each of them, along with what those rankings are saying about Iowa.
SP+: Nebraska is rated as 4.2 points better than the average team, good for 52nd. The Huskers' SP+ rating has been pretty interesting this year. Nebraska didn't drop a ton after the loss to Minnesota (7.9 to 5.9), unlike in the other two systems, and playing well against Indiana, despite the loss, kept the Huskers at 5.8 going to Purdue. Then there was a fall. Moving the ball against Wisconsin was good for a slight bump and then the Maryland win got Nebraska back within striking distance of its end-of-year ranking in 2018 (5.4). Play well against the Hawkeyes and the Huskers could get there.
SP+ isn't quite as high on Iowa as the other two in terms of ranking (21st), but it still projects a nine-point win for the Hawkeyes. Circa Sports opened the actual line at Iowa -3 yesterday and it climbed as high as -5.5 by Sunday night. For now that line has settled at around Iowa -4.5.
FPI: Look at this ESPN synergy! FPI also rates the Huskers as 4.2 points better than the average team, same as SP+. That's good for 50th, up from nine spots from a week ago. FPI has Iowa all the way up at 16th with a rating of 14.1. Using a 2.5-point home field adjustment, FPI projects this one at Hawkeyes -7.5. (Also of note, FPI ranks Iowa one spot ahead of Minnesota.)
SAGARIN: Iowa is 16th here as well. Nebraska rose 13 spots here, to 50th, following the win over Maryland. Sagarin, which prescribes a 3-point home field adjustment, has this projected at Iowa -9.
I'm guessing most of the other power rankings (and there are many) are going to fall in a similar range, which is almost double what the early betting market has said about this game. We'll get into some of the reasons that may be as the week goes on. Going to be a fun one.
The Grab Bag
- Wisconsin appears to have Nebraska’s number as the Badgers again hit over .300 in a sweep of the Huskers.
- Women’s basketball also suffered its first defeat of the season.
- Greg Smith gets you read for the recruiting week ahead.
- Derek Peterson looks at the Huskers’ recent success in the 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.