Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. First impressions
In Mike Riley, Nebraska elected to bring in a guy who a) is the opposite of Pelini in demeanor and b) only won more than nine games once in 14 years at Oregon State.
The minuses and pluses (he won 70 games in 10 years at Oregon State; just think of what he could do at a bigger program) of his hire were evident, and that makes it difficult to know what to expect. His friendly grandpa carriage means he will earn a level of goodwill that Pelini never did, and perhaps that means that on-the-field bar won't be as high.
Then again, Solich was a super-nice guy. He got dumped after averaging 9.7 wins.
It was easy to see what Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst saw in Riley. Pelini was a fiery coach who always won, but never won quite enough. His win percentage (.713) was very close to Frank Solich's (.753), and Solich got fired. It was probably going to happen at some point regardless. Winning nine games each year doesn't keep you gainfully employed in Lincoln forever.
But Pelini's demeanor betrayed him quite a few times, and when he left, there was a natural desire to replace him with his temperamental opposite. Riley is exactly that. And as a head coach at three different levels (NFL, CFL, college football), he's now won 153 career games. Not bad. He was guaranteed to win the 2015 offseason, going on a statewide glad-handing tour and showing everybody just how good a guy he seems to be.
But then the games started, and Nebraska finished below .500 for just the third time in 54 years. Despite solid experience on both sides of the ball, the Huskers fell from 28th to 36th in Off. S&P+ and from 46th to 57th in Def. S&P+.
They got creative in the ways they figured out how to lose close games.
- Against BYU, they lost via Hail Mary.
- Against Miami, they pulled off a fierce fourth-quarter comeback, then fell in overtime.
- Against Illinois, they blew a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter and gave up the game-winning TD with 10 seconds left.
- Against Wisconsin, they took a 21-20 lead with under four minutes left but allowed a 46-yard field goal with four seconds left.
- Against Northwestern, they failed on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game with four minutes left, then allowed a bad offense to run out the final minutes.
- Against Purdue, they allowed three touchdowns in five minutes to turn a 21-16 deficit into 42-16, then once again failed to make stops during a mad comeback in a 55-45 loss.
- Against Iowa, they outgained the undefeated Hawkeyes by 183 yards but threw a pick six (and three other interceptions) and allowed the Hawkeyes to score TDs in each of their three scoring opportunities in a 28-20 loss.
That's a spectacular, diverse set of failures. The Huskers were the anti-Iowa, figuring out ways to lose games they were well-positioned to win. On paper, the Huskers and Hawkeyes were very similar. But Nebraska ended up with half the wins.
That's the bad news. The good news is that, even though there were moments of good luck, too (the Michigan State win in particular), this level of misfortune will be almost impossible to replicate. When you win games by an average of 16 points and lose by an average of four, that means your record probably doesn't quite reflect your quality.
S&P+ likes the Huskers quite a bit, and if the bad bounces turn into good bounces, NU could be in store for a whale of a season. The Huskers might even win nine games!
|Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 36 | Final S&P+ Rk: 48|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|Points Per Game||32.8||43||27.8||76|
2. A different team every week
Nebraska's performance was all over the map. The Huskers took on the profile of a super-young team, playing poorly one week, well the next, back and forth, all year. In terms of single-game percentile performances, they hit the 86 percent or better mark (~top 20 caliber) four times and fell below 50 percent (top 65 or worse) five times.
If you're a super-young team, this makes sense. It can even be a hint at the ceiling to come. But was Nebraska really that young? The Huskers had a second-year starter at quarterback, juniors and seniors atop the depth chart in the skill positions and on the offensive and defensive lines, and mostly juniors and seniors in the secondary. They were dealing with a coaching change, but this is the level of experience you strive for.
This season, Nebraska could start as many as eight seniors on offense and four or five on defense. There are questions at quarterback (Tommy Armstrong Jr. has a bit of an interceptions problem) and in the trenches, but this team is too experienced to be so up and down. Either it gets rectified, or it reflects very poorly on Riley and his staff.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.6%||56||Succ. Rt. +||110.2||30|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||30.5||86||Def. FP+||29.9||71|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.5||58||Redzone S&P+||112.4||29|
|Q1 Rk||29||1st Down Rk||20|
|Q2 Rk||22||2nd Down Rk||35|
|Q3 Rk||20||3rd Down Rk||16|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Tommy Armstrong Jr.||6'1, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9003||222||402||3030||22||16||55.2%||11||2.7%||7.0|
|Ryker Fyfe||6'3, 215||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||34||55||440||5||5||61.8%||2||3.5%||7.4|
|AJ Bush||6'4, 225||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8044|
|Patrick O'Brien||6'4, 230||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9189|
3. Those pesky picks
Armstrong brings most of what you would love to see from a dual-threat quarterback. He averages more than six yards per carry (not including sacks), and he doesn't take many sacks. He's a little bit on the inefficient side (55 percent completion rate), but he looks downfield a lot and usually gets the ball where it needs to be. Nebraska's top three wideouts (Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, and Alonzo Moore) each averaged at least 9.3 yards per target.
He was at the helm of an explosive passing game, and he added some efficiency to the run game. That Nebraska ranked in the top 25 in both Standard Downs S&P+ and Passing Downs S&P+ was a nice sign that he could both carry out the game plan and make plays when the game plan failed.
He also threw 16 interceptions. An interception rate over 3 percent or so is pretty damaging, and Armstrong's was 4 percent. Backup Ryker Fyfe's: 11 percent.
Only five teams threw more interceptions than Nebraska in 2015, and while part of that was perhaps unlucky -- interceptions accounted for 31 percent of opponents' passes defensed (INTs + break-ups), and the national average trends closer to about 22 percent; that, and fumble recoveries led to NU suffering 4.5 poitns per game of bad turnover luck, third-worst in FBS -- Armstrong and Fyfe both threw into tight coverage a lot.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf didn't put together the most QB-friendly system in the world. NU was a little bit predictable, running more frequently than the national average on standard downs and passing more frequently on passing downs, and there wasn't much of a horizontal aspect: Either Armstrong was looking downfield or dumping to running back Terrell Newby.
This approach frequently worked. But it is begging for a high INT rate, unless you've got a supremely accurate quarterback. Armstrong is probably a better thrower than he gets credit for, but he's not supremely accurate.
Basically the entire receiving corps returns. Last year's top six targets are back, as is electric return man De'Mornay Pierson-El, who missed more than half the season with injury.
Perhaps Pierson-El's full-time presence will allow NU to work the ball more horizontally and/or throw more frequently on standard downs. At Oregon State, Langsdorf did an interesting job of tweaking his system for the strengths of the personnel, and if NU can add "accurate throwing and good blocking on screen passes" to the list of strengths, the Huskers will have an answer for just about anything a defense wants to do. At least, they will if Armstrong is completing passes mostly to his own team.
|Terrell Newby||RB||5'10, 200||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9404||147||765||6||5.2||4.9||38.8%||0||0|
|Tommy Armstrong Jr.||QB||6'1, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9003||87||529||7||6.1||6.4||42.5%||3||2|
|Devine Ozigbo||RB||5'11, 230||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8560||40||216||1||5.4||5.5||35.0%||1||0|
|Alonzo Moore||WR||6'2, 195||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8856||14||106||0||7.6||4.3||71.4%||0||0|
|Brandon Reilly||WR||6'2, 200||Sr.||NR||NR||11||96||0||8.7||5.4||63.6%||0||0|
|Mikale Wilbon||RB||5'9, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8822||9||35||0||3.9||3.9||44.4%||0||0|
|Ryker Fyfe||QB||6'3, 215||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||5||-17||0||-3.4||4.2||40.0%||1||1|
|Harrison Jordan||FB||5'10, 230||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Adam Taylor||RB||6'2, 210||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9058|
|Tre Bryant||RB||5'11, 200||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8638|
4. Hype vs. production
In Terrell Newby, Mikale Wilbon, and Adam Taylor, Nebraska boasts three former four-star recruits in the backfield. Taylor has struggled with injuries, and Wilbon was lost in a crowded depth chart. Newby was perfectly decent in 2015 but was not quite efficient enough to be an efficiency back or explosive enough to be a big-play guy.
Between these three, big sophomore Devine Ozigbo, and incoming freshman Tre Bryant, Nebraska appears to have plenty of upside in the backfield. But even with these options, plus Imani Cross and fullback Andy Janovich, NU still ranked just 41st in Rushing Success Rate+ last year. And now Cross, Janovich, and four of six linemen with starting experience are gone. How quickly can upside turn into production?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Jordan Westerkamp||WR||6'0, 200||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9060||100||66||926||66.0%||23.1%||9.3||63.0%||56.0%||1.53|
|Brandon Reilly||WR||6'2, 200||Sr.||NR||NR||68||40||754||58.8%||15.7%||11.1||58.8%||52.9%||1.96|
|Cethan Carter||TE||6'4, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8572||47||24||329||51.1%||10.9%||7.0||40.4%||38.3%||1.65|
|Alonzo Moore||WR||6'2, 195||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8856||40||24||395||60.0%||9.2%||9.9||72.5%||52.5%||1.89|
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||WR||6'1, 200||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8765||40||25||304||62.5%||9.2%||7.6||57.5%||50.0%||1.48|
|Terrell Newby||RB||5'10, 200||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9404||37||24||159||64.9%||8.5%||4.3||43.2%||29.7%||1.34|
|De'Mornay Pierson-El||WR||5'9, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||21||12||111||57.1%||4.8%||5.3||42.9%||38.1%||1.22|
|Devine Ozigbo||RB||5'11, 230||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8560||9||5||62||55.6%||2.1%||6.9||55.6%||33.3%||1.95|
|Sam Cotton||TE||6'5, 250||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8181||6||3||35||50.0%||1.4%||5.8||33.3%||33.3%||1.28|
|Mikale Wilbon||RB||5'9, 195||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8822||3||2||28||66.7%||0.7%||9.3||33.3%||66.7%||1.32|
|Lavan Alston||WR||6'0, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8832|
|Matt Snyder||TE||6'5, 255||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8523|
|JD Spielman||WR||5'9, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8690|
|Jack Stoll||TE||6'4, 235||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8524|
|Derrion Grim||WR||6'0, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8521|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Dylan Utter||LG||6'1, 295||Sr.||NR||NR||13||14|
|Nick Gates||LT||6'5, 290||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8929||10||10|
|David Knevel||RT||6'9, 315||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8767||0||0|
|Jerald Foster||LG||6'3, 310||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8708||0||0|
|Corey Whitaker||RT||6'5, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8322||0||0|
|Sam Hahn||RT||6'7, 300||Sr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Zach Hannon||OL||6'5, 315||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8625||0||0|
|Tanner Farmer||OL||6'4, 295||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9021||0||0|
|Jalin Barnett||OL||6'4, 310||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9207|
|Christian Gaylord||LT||6'6, 300||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8882|
|Michael Decker||OL||6'4, 285||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8544|
|John Raridon||OL||6'4, 275||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9435|
|Matt Farniok||OL||6'6, 300||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9049|
|Bryan Brokop||OL||6'5, 275||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8847|
5. A successful line rebuilds again
Nebraska only returned two players with more than a game of starting experience last year but gelled into a solid unit. The Huskers struggled in short-yardage situations but did a fantastic job of keeping defenders out of the backfield. The rushing stuff rates were low, as were the sack rates.
This year Nebraska returns ... two players with starting experience. A double dip of attrition can lead to a really young two-deep, but NU will still boast senior guard Dylan Utter and a couple of other juniors or seniors on the two-deep.
Still, as with running back, it would help if some guys pretty quickly lived up to their four-star billing. Sophomore Nick Gates started most of the year at left tackle and appears to be a keeper, but if at least one four-star youngster from a pool of sophomore Tanner Farmer, redshirt freshman Jalin Barnett, and incoming freshmen John Raridon and Matt Farniok could play at a high level in 2016, this unit might survive. Proven depth is an obvious issue, though.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.0%||32||Succ. Rt. +||107.8||41|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.1||59||Off. FP+||30.5||52|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||69||Redzone S&P+||106.0||41|
|Q1 Rk||48||1st Down Rk||88|
|Q2 Rk||62||2nd Down Rk||106|
|Q3 Rk||91||3rd Down Rk||44|
6. Get the passer
Nebraska's run defense improved dramatically in 2015. The Huskers went from 88th in Rushing S&P+ to 35th, frequently invading the backfield and playing better than almost anyone in short-yardage situations. The line rotation wasn't incredibly deep -- they played mostly four ends and two tackles -- and the defense as a whole dramatically faded from the start of a game to the end. But all in all, there was little to complain about from the perspective of run D.
The problem was that opponents didn't have to run. The pass defense regressed just as significantly as the run defense improved. The cornerback position was a M*A*S*H unit, with both Jonathan Rose and Daniel Davie missing significant time, and NU ended up allowing 60 completions of 20-plus yards, fourth-worst in the country.
The breakdowns were significant -- NU opponents on third-and-4 or more: 67-for-118 for 879 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 135.5 passer rating. And with decent turnover in both the front and back of the defense, it's hard to say with certainty that things will improve.
If one single thing were to improve, though, the pass rush could do a whole lot of good. As invasive as NU was against the run, the Huskers ranked 96th in Adj. Sack Rate. Only two players had more than three sacks, and none had more than 4.5.
I'm not exactly sure who might step up to more effective pass rush; sophomore Freedom Akinmoladun led the team with 4.5 sacks and still has a lot more developing to do, but who else? The linebackers were used conservatively and combined for all of one sack. That put a lot of pressure on the line to generate pressure; in turn, that ended up putting pressure on the DBs to cover guys for an extended period of time.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Ross Dzuris||DE||6'3, 255||Sr.||NR||NR||13||19.0||3.0%||6.5||2.5||0||0||0||0|
|Freedom Akinmoladun||DE||6'4, 255||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8575||11||16.0||2.5%||6.0||4.5||0||0||0||0|
|Kevin Maurice||DT||6'3, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8286||10||15.5||2.5%||2.5||1.0||0||0||2||0|
|Mick Stoltenberg||DT||6'5, 290||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8296||9||2.0||0.3%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|A.J. Natter||DE||6'5, 260||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8903|
|Peyton Newell||DT||6'3, 290||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8882|
|Sedrick King||DE||6'4, 250||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8224|
|Carlos Davis||DT||6'2, 295||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8891|
|Khalil Davis||DT||6'2, 290||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8730|
|DaiShon Neal||DE||6'7, 270||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8588|
|Ben Stille||DE||6'5, 240||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8578|
|Collin Miller||DE||6'3, 235||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8496|
7. A successful line rebuilds, part 2
NU linemen combined for 35 tackles for loss last year, and those responsible for 19.5 are gone. Adkinmoladun, end Ross Dzuris, and tackle Kevin Maurice are all steady options, but the Huskers will need youngsters to step up quickly, be they sophomores like Mick Stoltenberg and Peyton Newell or redshirt freshmen like DaiShon Neal or the Davis twins, Carlos and Khalil.
Not a single lineman was a four-star recruit per the 247Sports Composite, but only one of the five departees was, and NU still had a solid front four.
The linebacking corps has some former four-stars and quite a few strong run defenders. They took complete advantage of the opportunities the line gave them to make plays, and they did so despite constant shuffling -- of seven LBs with at least four tackles, none played in all 13 games. Basically everybody is back, which should result in good competition on the two-deep. Now if one of them could blitz a little bit...
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Josh Banderas||LB||6'3, 240||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9053||9||48.0||7.6%||6.5||0.0||0||2||0||0|
|Dedrick Young||LB||6'1, 220||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8609||12||43.5||6.9%||3.5||0.0||0||3||0||0|
|Chris Weber||LB||6'3, 230||Jr.||NR||NR||10||34.0||5.4%||3.0||0.0||0||2||0||0|
|Marcus Newby||LB||6'1, 235||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8941||10||25.5||4.1%||4.0||1.0||0||4||0||0|
|Michael Rose-Ivey||LB||6'0, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9010||7||19.0||3.0%||2.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Luke Gifford||LB||6'3, 230||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||6||4.5||0.7%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyrin Ferguson||LB||6'2, 225||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8312||10||4.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Brad Simpson||LB||6'0, 230||Sr.||NR||NR||13||3.5||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Quayshon Alexander||LB||6'3, 235||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8716|
|Greg Simmons||LB||6'2, 240||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8525|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Nate Gerry||S||6'2, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8534||13||64.0||10.2%||2.5||1||4||7||1||0|
|Joshua Kalu||CB||6'1, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8429||13||63.0||10.0%||5||1||3||7||0||0|
|Chris Jones||CB||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8233||13||23.0||3.7%||2||1||2||5||0||0|
|Aaron Williams||S||5'11, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8610||13||20.5||3.3%||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|Antonio Reed||S||6'2, 220||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8026||13||9.5||1.5%||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|Kieron Williams||S||6'1, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||13||6.0||1.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Boaz Joseph||CB||6'1, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8422||12||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Charles Jackson||S||5'11, 180||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9605|
|Eric Lee Jr.||DB||6'0, 190||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9414|
|Avery Anderson||DB||6'0, 185||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8935|
|Lamar Jackson||S||6'3, 195||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9582|
|Marquel Dismuke||DB||6'2, 180||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9064|
|Tony Butler||DB||6'2, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8650|
|JoJo Domann||DB||6'1, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8619|
8. Depth in the back?
While the lineup changed quite a bit at cornerback, all four of last year's constants -- corners Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones, safeties Nate Gerry and Aaron Williams -- are back. But these constants were only so reliable, and it will be interesting to see how quickly an exciting batch of four-star youngsters (both true and redshirt freshmen) can break into the two-deep. Their development could impact both how much the secondary improves and whether the Huskers have any depth at all. Three of last year's top seven are gone, and again, this unit struggled.
Riley and his staff figured out how to get by at times without a ton of star recruits at Oregon State, but the Beavers were playing at or below their recruiting rankings late in Riley's tenure. If improved recruiting is a requirement for a Riley rebound, it could flash its first glimpses in the secondary. NU has recruited very, very well there over Riley's first two classes.
|Sam Foltz||6'2, 205||Sr.||56||44.2||5||9||14||41.1%|
|Drew Brown||5'11, 195||Jr.||79||60.4||32||0||40.5%|
|Drew Brown||5'11, 195||Jr.||44-46||8-10||80.0%||13-17||76.5%|
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||KR||6'1, 200||So.||14||23.1||0|
|Jordan Westerkamp||PR||6'0, 200||Sr.||6||10.2||0|
|De'Mornay Pierson-El||PR||5'9, 185||Jr.||4||12.0||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||58|
|Field Goal Efficiency||24|
|Punt Return Success Rate||48|
|Kick Return Success Rate||96|
|Punt Success Rate||102|
|Kickoff Success Rate||76|
9. Outkicking coverage
Nebraska once again had the legs. Drew Brown missed a couple of PATs but was forgiven because of the massive number of long field goals he was asked to attempt, and usually made. Only 41 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks, which is a little bit low, but he still proved solid overall. Meanwhile, punter Sam Foltz boomed away with a 44.2-yard average, 21st in the country.
The main special teams problem, however: Foltz's kicks were long but frequently returnable. Only nine of 56 were fair caught, and the Huskers allowed 11.5 yards per return, 105th in the country.
Pierson-El's return will assure NU of a strong punt returner (especially since Jordan Westerkamp is pretty good in his own right), but opponent returns could remain an issue if Foltz can't generate a little bit more hang time.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|5-Nov||at Ohio State||14||-8.3||32%|
|Projected wins: 7.9|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||20.2% (29)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||29 / 24|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-12 / -0.3|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-4.5|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||78% (94%, 63%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||6.8 (-0.8)|
10. You like tossups, right?
That Nebraska went 3-7 in one-possession games was a huge piece of the Huskers' 2015. But that was mainly because of the seven losses. Lost in this: 10 of 13 Nebraska games were decided by one possession! And an 11th by just 10 points!
In theory, there could be a few more sure results this year. NU opens with bad Fresno State and Wyoming teams and gets Illinois, Purdue, and Maryland at home. (Granted, the Huskers went 0-2 in games against that trio last year.)
But while that will likely assure that NU tops last year's win total, the Huskers' season will still be defined by the tossups -- in five games, Nebraska has between a 50 and 60 percent chance of winning, per S&P+ projection. In three of those, they have exactly a 50 percent chance of winning.
Flip a coin a few times, and NU could end up 11-1. Flip it a few more, and NU could be 7-5. (I would recommend Riley aim for the former.) Regardless, if NU can shore up last year's weaknesses just a bit -- turnovers, big pass plays allowed, drastic ups and downs -- and, as importantly, get a few more bounces, the Huskers could be a significant rebound threat and Big Ten West contender.