Nebraska’s Defense: Nothing to be Afraid Of
The Nebraska defensive unit is often referred to as the “Blackshirts.” You can read a long boring account of where that came from, but in short some coach out in the Midwest apparently was really into fashion and decided to do an Extreme Makeover: Practice Jersey Edition at some point in the 1960’s. So he put some cutesie wittle bwack jewseys on his defensive football pwayers.
These “Blackshirts” better be fashionable, because they really aren’t that good. I’m a big fan of the whole “normalized scoring” thing, in which I assign every team a coefficient that will normalize their scoring averages to the national average. (Again, for my old readers I apologize, but to new readers: an Offensive Coefficient of .5 means that the team in question typically scores twice as much as the nation’s average team. Therefore, surrendering 60 points to the best offense (one with a coefficient of 0.5) in the country is the equivalent of surrendering 30 to an average offense.)
These statistics make for an interesting story – namely one in which the “Blackshirts” aren’t good at stopping offenses. When opposing offenses are normalized to the national scoring average, Nebraska has surrendered the following point totals to FBS squads:
- Southern Miss: 28.90
- UCLA: 29.17
- Arkansas State: 8.45
- Wisconsin: 24.62
- Ohio State: 48.17
- Northwestern: 25.75
- Michigan: 8.53
- Michigan State: 33.48
- Penn State: 22.48
- Minnesota: 20.65
- Iowa: 10.68
- Wisconsin: 63.83
Those numbers don’t stand out, because frankly they are unbelievably average, believe it or not. Against BCS Conference Opponents (everybody on the list above except for the winless Southern Mississippi Eagles and Arkansas State), the Cornhuskers gave up an average normalized total of 28.75 points per game. The national scoring average – of all teams – is 28.5. So, the “Blackshirts” are actually “BelowAverageShirts.”
For what it’s worth Georgia surrendered a normalized scoring average of 18.90 points per game against BCS Conference opposition.
The graph below shows how both Georgia and the “Blackshirts” performed defensively in each week on a normalized scoring basis.
Now, for those Nebraskans out there who might want to hide the Wisconsin game and label that game as a mistake let me make three points:
- It is hard – if not impossible – to hide behind a game in which a team scores 70 points. Especially if that team averaged less than 25 points per game against other BCS Conference foes.
- You can’t “hide” your last game, because it is – by definition – the most recent representation of your team. It might not be the most accurate, but it is the most recent.
- Even if that game was removed (which it never will be), the Cornhuskers are still allowing a normalized point total of 24.86 points per game. That isn’t exactly crushing the national average.
The chart above also demonstrates each team’s season-long average against BCS Conference opposition. Georgia only surrendered more normalized points than Nebraska’s average on four occasions (Buffalo, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky). Conversely, Nebraska only faired better than Georgia’s average on three occasions (Arkansas State, Michigan and Iowa). Who cares? Probably nobody outside of me. But, it should be noted that Georgia outperformed Nebraska’s defensive average in eight of twelve FBS games while Nebraska only outperformed Georgia’s average in three.
Can’t get enough of these useless facts? Georgia has the two best defensive performances (0 Normalized Points Scored by Auburn and 3.19 scored by Vanderbilt) to go with three other sub-10 normalized point performances. Nebraska has two sub-10 normalized defensive efforts. On the other end of the spectrum, Nebraska has the two worst defensive performances (Wisconsin’s normalized 63.83 points and Ohio State’s 48.17).
It’s pretty tough to be terrified of the “Blackshirts.”
That’s all I got/