Statistically Speaking: Corn Field Edition

Looking at the NCAA stats for Penn State and Nebraska . . .

NCAA Stats Comparison
Category: Penn St. Nebraska
Rushing 85 6
Passing Offense 37 79
Total Offense 55 17
Scoring Offense 62 20
Rushing Defense 26 87
Turnovers Gained 42 72
Passes Had Intercepted 8 70
Pass Defense 43 5
Net Punting 118 78
Punt Returns 92 24
Kickoff Returns 113 63
Turnover Margin 14 106
Fumbles Recovered 20 53
Passes Intercepted 68 80
Fumbles Lost 20 116
Turnovers Lost 7 110
Passing Efficiency 57 33
Pass Efficiency Defense 22 8
Total Defense 26 31
Scoring Defense 14 54
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 27 20
Pass Sacks Allowed 35 69
Time of Possession 27 60
First Downs 36 21
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?


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