By Paul Conrad of Cyclonechronicles.com
When you look at the upcoming Nebraska @ Iowa State game from a pure statistical standpoint, the Cyclones are going to get crushed. In virtually every statistical category, Nebraska leads Iowa State.
Looking purely at the numbers, it's hard not to get a little shiver of terror as a Cyclone fan, but that would be a mistake. Texas proved that Nebraska is not invincible. I will not make any inferences that since we beat Texas and Texas beat Nebraska that we are therefore better than Nebraska. While it's a sound logical argument, there's simply no evidence that it applies in college football. I love the phrase "Any given Saturday" because it represents all the things that make college football so exciting. You simply never know what's going to happen, who's going to win and who's going to lose. The uncertainty and the strong ties people have to certain schools give college football a vibrant heartbeat.
Taking it as a given that Nebraska is not invincible, looking closer at the statistics provides several interesting comparisons. The first thing that is clear is that Nebraska's passing defense is frighteningly good. They have the number one Passing efficiency defense in the nation and have correspondingly good total defense and scoring defensive numbers. Then you look at their rushing defense. Nebraska is giving up 162 yards per game on the ground, for a mediocre national rank of 75th.
What does that mean for Iowa State? Anyone who watched the Nebraska/Texas game knows that Garret Gilbert beat the Huskers with his feet, not his arm. Time and again he converted third downs by dashing for the sticks. Iowa State has three running backs and a dual threat quarterback who are not afraid of any defense they've seen yet. Utah, Iowa and Oklahoma were all able to stop the Cyclone running game, but the statistics and previous games suggest that the Huskers might not be up to the same task. The Cyclones could literally control the game by running the ball on the majority of downs. Will it happen that way? Who knows, but you can bet that Tom Herman knows all this already.
We all know that Iowa State would not have won last year in Lincoln without an astonishing 8 turnovers from the Huskers. There's been more discussion on that topic by Cyclone and Husker fans over the last year than perhaps any other, save the one second debacle in the Big 12 Championship. The fact of the matter is that Nebraska has put the football on the turf an astonishing number of times this season. It's difficult to see in the statistics, because the Huskers have managed to fall on the ball and recover their own fumbles more often than not. On the whole, it's a dangerous chink in the armor of the Nebraska offense. Wally Burnham's defense has proven time and again that they have a nose for the ball, and have even scored points with them.
Should the Cyclones expect a +8 turnover margin on Saturday? Absolutely not, but the Iowa State defense will be looking for every opportunity to come up with the football they can. A few turnovers could go a long way in Jack Trice Stadium for a team that needs one more win to become bowl eligible. It's literally the only major statistical category that Iowa State leads Nebraska, and it's the one that sparked the upset in Lincoln last year.