Looking at the NCAA stats for Penn State and Nebraska . . .
|NCAA Stats Comparison|
|Passes Had Intercepted||8||70|
|Pass Efficiency Defense||22||8|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game||42||80|
|Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game||60||102|
|Punt Return Yardage Defense||115||103|
|Kickoff Return Yardage Defense||72||62|
|Offense Third-down Efficiency||49||43|
|Offense Fourth-down Efficiency||58||20|
|Defense Third-down Efficiency||53||37|
|Defense Fourth-down Efficiency||26||26|
|Tackles for Loss||72||31|
|Offense Tackles for Loss||1||51|
|Pass Sacks Allowed||35||69|
|Time of Possession||27||60|
|First Downs Allowed||26||28|
|Red Zone Efficiency||89||28|
|Red Zone Efficiency – Defense||7||43|
|Average NCAA Rank:||46.59||52.32|
|Weighted Avg. Rank:||46.58||43.67|
The weighted stats give extra “weight” to categories like total offense and total defense, while putting less emphasis on categories like Fewest Penalties per game. Straight up, PSU has about a 6 rank point edge over Big Red. That disappears to a deficit when weighted. Does that mean anything? Probably no more than any other statistic you can throw out there.
I think the key match-up for us will be our rushing defense against their rushing defense. Nebraska’s ability to move the ball will be dependent on whether our offense can control the time of possession, whether we can force Martinez to pass (put them in third and long if possible) and whether Rex Burkhead is back and is back 100% or not. In other words, keep the Big Red O off the field, and when they are out there, force them into passing situations.
Both teams are statistically similar in total defense and third down efficiency on offense. I believe Penn State will have to be better on third downs than Nebraska to win this game, barring some big plays. Better third down efficiency keeps drives alive, keeps their defense on the field, and wins time of possession. You are also more likely to score if you control the ball longer.
This game may come down to some intangibles. Obviously, the Huskers have the home field advantage and have not lost at home this season. Yet. They also have more to play for . . . a berth in the Big Ten Title game. But, that may be to our advantage, as they also have more to lose than we do. That could allow us to play looser and gamble more. They may be more conservative and play tight. Of course, I could be full of crap, and unfortunately, this latter scenario is more likely.
Let’s go with Penn State 35 (all TDs, no FGs) and Nebrask 31. Sounds like a plan? And don’t we love it when a plan comes together?