What if I told you that Nebraska’s win over Wyoming was its best of the season? That would have seemed crazy in September — the Huskers inability to pull away from the Cowboys until late was the source of some teeth gnashing — but as the season wore on and it became apparent Wyoming was pretty good, there weren’t a ton of options to replace it. Oregon wasn’t it. Road win over Northwestern?
Now what if I told you that the win over Wyoming was the Huskers’ best since 2012? Disbelief starting to creep in? I’m just relaying the information here, of course. Those designations are based on BCftoys.com’s game efficiency rankings, always one of my favorite stats to look at near the end of the season. What we’re really talking about here is a pretty specific definition of “best.” It’s not the biggest win or the most impressive or the most meaningful, but the best performance considering the opponent and that doesn’t mean it had to come in a win (though it almost always does).
Using the total number of possessions, scoring margin (garbage time excluded) and an opponent adjustment, GFEI gives an individual efficiency ranking for each team in each game, which can then be ranked against all the other games (between two FBS opponents only) played in a season. Based on those numbers, Nebraska’s win over Wyoming ranked 108th nationally so far this season and was a better performance than 92 percent of the games played this year, just ahead of the road win over Northwestern (115th, 91st percentile). Nebraska’s third-best game in 2016? The win over Minnesota (266th, 81st percentile), followed by the loss at Wisconsin (268th, 80th percentile).
Based on percentile performance, Nebraska’s 2016 win over the Cowboys (better than 92.3 percent of games this season to be exact) was about the equal of the 2015 win over Michigan State (92.2) and the 2013 bowl win over Georgia (92.2). You have to go all the way back to the 2012 win over a Gus Malzahn-led Arkansas State team (94.3) to find one that’s higher. Nebraska’s win over Michigan State in 2011 is the best of the Big Ten era at 99.2 percent.
What about the worst loss? Yes, it was Ohio State, which ranked 1349th out of 1404 games played so far (just 3.9 percent of games were worse this season). That also unseats the 2012 Big Ten championship game loss to Wisconsin as the Huskers’ worst loss of the Big Ten era.
Last week’s loss to Iowa was surprisingly not the second-worst game for Nebraska in 2016. The win over Purdue scored slightly lower in GFEI, which seems to be mostly a reflection of the fact that FEI only gave Nebraska a 25-percent chance of beating Iowa last week and one of the Hawkeyes’ touchdowns fell within the “garbage time” range so, for GFEI purposes, the score was 33-10 rather than the rounder, more dominant 40-10.
Doesn’t change, of course, how poor that loss looked or felt for Husker fans.
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: You can see the trailer for Showtime’s new documentary on Lawrence Phillips here. Also, Jacob Padilla offered some takeaways from Nebraska basketball’s games at the Wooden Legacy.
- CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm believes there are seven teams still alive for the playoff.
- Jim Harbaugh got hit with a $10,000 fine for his post-game rant against the officiating in the Ohio State-Michigan game.
- Volleyball is strong in the state of Nebraska, even outside of Lincoln. In addition to the Huskers and Creighton making the DI tournament, two more schools are in the DII tournament and the 32-team NAIA team features four teams from the state.
- Should Nick Saban be the coach of the year? He won’t be, but there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that he should be.
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.