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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers: A Statistical Look

It's a rivalry game so stats, lines, odds and history have less of an impact on the perception of how the game may play out. Looking at the normal stat sheet that we do below, though, their is something we haven't seen since the Texas game and it shocked me a little. I tried to normalize the stat by taking out the Huskers' excuse for a non-conference schedule but that only made a small difference.

see the rest of the analysis after the jump...

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Conf National Actual Category Actual National Conf
Rank Rank Rank Rank
10 76 132.00 Rushing Offense 173.09 38 5
11 86 189.00 Passing Offense 289.82 13 6
12 91 321.00 Total Offense 462.91 9 6
12 105 19.18 Scoring Offense 35.82 18 6
9 84 165.18 Rushing Defense 133.45 49 7
5 71 127.65 Pass Efficiency Defense 138.63 97 10
6 78 379.27 Total Defense 367.91 68 3
6 82 28.27 Scoring Defense 29.00 91 9
7 74 34.16 Net Punting 33.23 91 8
9 57 9.16 Punt Returns 14.17 12 2
10 43 21.98 Kickoff Returns 21.55 53 11
9 88 -.45 Turnover Margin -1.09 110 12
1 73 214.09 Pass Defense 234.45 90 2
12 92 112.19 Passing Efficiency 156.55 14 6
7 61 1.82 Sacks 2.27 42 5
7 63 5.55 Tackles For Loss 5.73 54 6
9 88 2.27 Sacks Allowed 1.55 44 6

What shocked me most about the chart is this will be statistically, the highest ranked Big 12 defense the Buffs have played since Texas. Not that it matters against our offense whose margin of scoring is between 10 and 17 points but still, that was surprising. A Nebraska fan will tell you no one really dominates on that side of the ball although they do like their defensive line especially Ndamukong Suh, who leads the Huskers in sacks. The Huskers have given up their fair share of yards, of course, who hasn't in the Big 12 but overall, Nebraska has been surprisingly consistent. This game Friday will feature the #1 ranked pass defense in Colorado vs the #2 ranked pass defense in Nebraska. Nebraska has given up over 190 yards of rushing in four games, though, so I expect the Buffs to try and slow this game down and keep the Ganz-led offense out of rhythm.

The 3rd ranked defense in the Big 12 isn't the most impressive part of this Huskers team. The offense has really turned it on, especially after the Missouri game, as the Corn have become much more diverse in their spread offense and has kept defenses on edge through the air. The Huskers rank 6th in the Big 12 but 9th in the nation. This crazy logic applies to QB Ganz as well. You won't hear much about him on a national level but when you get past the fact that he is the 5th or 6th best quarterback in the Big 12, he is still in the top 15 in all of college football. Ganz has a couple of WR's that are dependable as well in Todd Peterson and Nate Swift who seem like they are the J.J. Reddick of college football and never seem to graduate. Ganz, Swift and a bunch of offensive lineman are gone next year so things will be a little more difficult for Pelini next year.

Another surprise this year has been the disappearing act preseason All Big 12 RB Marlon Lucky has conducted. No worries says Nebraska fans. RB Roy Helu, who hasn't started a game this year, has taken over the leading runningback role in successful fashion. Helu has averaged an eye popping 6.7 ypc this year and has got into the endzone seven times. Over the last three games against Kansas State, Kansas and Oklahoma, Helu has averaged 5.5, 7.6 and 9.5 ypc respectively. Helu also averages 10 yards a catch which makes him dangerous second option for Ganz.

Sounds like a pretty daunting task for the Buffs Friday. It should. So what happened to that talk in the opening paragraph about stats in rivalries aren't necessarily the deciding factor? Where is the glimmer of hope? The glimmer of hope lies in that -1.09 turnover margin which is good for dead last in the Big 12 and 110th in the nation (only 119 teams in FBS). The Huskers have turned over the opposition 11 times but the offense has given the ball back 23 times, 13 fumbles and 10 interceptions. Ganz, for all his success this year, has the tendancy to throw the "bad" interception that leads to six points for the opposition. Nebraska defies the rule that says "win the turnover margin, win the game." The Huskers have played eight games since they ended their weak non conference schedule. In all eight of those games, the Huskers have lost the turnover margin battle. In that span, the Huskers are 4 - 4. Only when the Huskers lose the turnover margin by 2 or more, do they seem to suffer. In those four games against Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Tech, the Huskers lost all except to Kansas. The Buffs need to win the turnover margin by three just to be safe!

Another glimmer of hope comes from that 4 - 4 record over the last eight games. Everyone looks at 7 - 4 and really if you count the teams Nebraska has played with a pulse, 4 - 4 is the record. Three of those wins were against Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor. The fourth was Kansas which is the Huskers signature win. Without that win against Kansas, this team would probably be considered an underacheiver with a home loss against Virginia Tech. The flip side of that hope is Nebraska should have won the game against Texas Tech if it wasn't for one of those 10 interceptions from Ganz.

Check back tomorrow or Friday morning to see The Ralphie Report's Keys to the Game as we will further discuss what five things the Buffs need to do to pull the upset and change the outlook of the season.