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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nebraska: The Best Team in the Big XII North?

When Missouri destroyed Nebraska 52-17 on October 4th, I began to wonder really how far away our program was from being competitive again in the Big XII North division, never mind the Big XII. Our team was sloppy. We committed too many turnovers. We committed too many penalties. We looked disorganized. Our players didn’t seem as good. Our coaches looked confused. And although most of these things held true during the debacle in Norman, I think it is fair to say that this is not the same team being coached by the same rookie coach back on October 4th.

I don’t think you are going to get much of an argument from anyone that Missouri and Nebraska are clearly the two best teams in the North division. However, you might be getting an argument as to which one is better right now. Let’s do a little comparison here. When comparing the team statistics for the season through November 15th for Nebraska and Missouri (click on teams for full NCAA team statistic rankings), you can see both teams are quite similar. In total offense, Nebraska ranks 10th nationally at 463 yards/game and Missouri ranks 6th nationally at 510 yards/game. In total defense, Nebraska ranks 68th nationally at 368 yards/game and Missouri ranks 89th nationally at 393 yards/game.

In order to get a better understanding at how these two teams have fared since their matchup in Lincoln, let’s look at what they have done against common opponents since then. Since the two teams did not play the same teams from the South division, I have lumped together Texas/Oklahoma and Oklahoma State/Texas Tech.

Here is Nebraska and Missouri from October 11th to the present:

  • Nebraska defeated ISU 35-7 in Ames.
  • Missouri defeated ISU 52-20 in Ames.
  • Nebraska outgained ISU 548 to 218 in total yards while committing 3 turnovers.
  • Missouri outgained ISU 479 to 444 in total yards while committing 2 turnovers.
  • Nebraska defeated KSU 56-28 in Manhattan.
  • Missouri defeated KSU 41-24 in Columbia.
  • Nebraska outgained KSU 610 to 247 in total yards while committing 2 turnovers.
  • Missouri outgained KSU 511 to 363 in total yards while committing 2 turnovers.
  • Nebraska defeated Baylor 32-20 in Lincoln.
  • Missouri defeated Baylor 31-28 in Waco.
  • Nebraska outgained Baylor 497 to 250 in total yards while committing 1 turnover.
  • Missouri outgained Baylor 490 to 438 in total yards while committing 3 turnovers.
  • #3 Texas defeated #5 Oklahoma 45-35 in Dallas while the total yards were 438 for Texas to 435 for Oklahoma.
  • Nebraska lost at Oklahoma 62-28 after falling down 35-0.
  • Missouri lost at Texas 56-31 after falling down 35-0.
  • Nebraska had 418 total yards to Oklahoma’s 508 total yards and committed 4 turnovers.
  • Missouri had 348 total yards to Texas’s 591 total yards and committed 1 turnover.
  • #2 Texas Tech defeated #13 Oklahoma State 56-20 in Lubbock and outgained them 629 to 368 in total yards.
  • Nebraska lost to Texas Tech 37-31 in OT in Lubbock.
  • Missouri lost to Oklahoma State 28-23 in Columbia.
  • Nebraska had 471 total yards to Tech’s 421 total yards.
  • Missouri had 454 total yards to OSU’s 402 total yards.
It's not totally unfair to claim that Nebraska is better than Missouri right now. It's actually factual.

I’m not advocating that Nebraska deserves to be the Big XII North champions by any means. What I am arguing, however, is that I really wish that October 4th game was played on November 28th or 29th of this season instead. These are not the same two teams that played in early October and the score would reflect that. To make it simple, Nebraska would score more and Missouri would punt more.

As far as where we go from here, the good news for Nebraska is that things are only going to continue to get better. (Even Mark May claims Bo Pelini should be strongly considered for Big XII Coach of the Year)

The bad news for Missouri is after another successful season (defined by a record-making trip to the Alamo or Holiday Bowl) for their storied program, the focus will be on whether their coach bolts for Washington, whether their star player leaves for the NFL, and who will be man enough to wear their hat backwards and chest bump every player that runs off the field next season.