"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Sunday, May 06, 2018

2018 College Football Preseason Game Calls for the Nebraska Cornhuskers

Just for Fun: Preseason Game Calls 2018 Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Based on YPP, Spring Games, etc. 

[updated May 6, 2018, correcting stats (below) for Iowa]

As the season goes along, actual 2018 ypp game stats for NU and its opponents, including changes in schedule difficulty handicap, will change our predictions! Please let us know if we have errors in the stats, thanks:

For comparison, see Carriker Chronicles: Way-too-early predictions for Scott Frost's first Husker season.

Why the yards per play variable as our main standard of team comparison?
See NAYPPA at SportPundit and the Best Teams of All Time.

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CAN SCOTT FROST & COACHES DUPLICATE THE UCF (CENTRAL FLORIDA) SUCCESS?

UCF KNIGHTS 2015 to 2017 YPP STATS

YEAR..Won-Lost...Scoring......Yards Per Play.offense.defense.difference

2015...0-12.........13.9-37.7...diff -23.8...4.12ypp...6.54ypp... -2.42 ypp

Scott Frost hired as head coach by AD Danny White....for 2016 season
YEAR..Won-Lost...Scoring...............Yards Per Play offense defense diff
2016...6-7...........28.8-24.6...diff +4.2...4.68ypp...4.78ypp... -0.10 ypp
2017...13-0........48.2-25.3...diff +22.9..7.46ypp...5.74ypp... +1.72ypp

The NAYPPA (net average yards per play advantage) improvement of 4.14 yards per play in two years is fabulous, equatable in our YPPSYS system (when multiplied by 10) to a net theoretical improvement of 41.4 scoreboard points per game, i.e. about 6 touchdowns (plus PAT) PER GAME. In other words, the UCF 13-0 undefeated season was not "luck". The 2017 Knights were a championship quality team.

NEBRASKA SPRING GAMES 2017 and 2018

THE 2018 SPRING GAME The last time the underdog intramural White Team (as chosen by the coaches) beat the favored more experienced Huskers Red Team (as chosen by coaches) was when Scott Frost quarterbacked the White Team, more than 20 years ago.

2018 SPRING GAME
Spring Game April 2018 (Red Team vs. White Team)
- Yards Per Play (YPP) Stats

2018 Red Team 6.3 ypp on offense
- conversely White Team 3.7 ypp on offense
2018 Red Team 3.7 ypp  on defense (Top 10 class performance !)
 - conversely White Team 6.3 ypp on defense

2017 SPRING GAME
Spring Game 2017 stats via HuskerMax.com - Red Team vs. White Team
7.7 ypp on offense (Red Team) and 5.8 ypp  on defense (Red Team)

As one can see, the current Huskers are much stronger on defense, as was the case in the Scott Frost coaching staff's first year at UCF (see stats above).
The main UCF offensive improvement came in the following, undefeated year.

Whether the Husker offense can be built up more quickly remains to be seen.

Based on a comparison of the yards per play stats of the 2017 and 2018 Spring Games -- all other things equal -- we view the Huskers as played in the Spring Game 2018 as ONE touchdown better in 2018 than in 2017.

HOWEVER, based on Scott and Co.'s UCF success, we expect an additional ca. 2 TD improvement in the course of Autumn 2018 due to training, newly recruited players, better player knowledge of the new system, better knowledge of the players by the coaches, and greater overall strength.

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL SEASON 2017
YPP and SCHEDULE DIFFICULTY

Nebraska 2017 Season Cumulative Stats
YARDS PER PLAY - YPP
5.59 ypp on offense
6.34 ypp  on defense 

Defense was the big problem in 2017.
Schedule difficulty 2017: #29 (Massey), #9 (Sagarin):
(= our schedule difficulty handicap as the average of Massey plus Sagarin schedule difficulty ratings, multiplied by 3, and divided by 10. We then calculate the numerical result as a "schedule difficulty handicap". It is 6 points for Nebraska -- the schedule difficulty handicaps of opponents are included in calculating the final predicted game score.

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL SEASON 2018
ESTIMATED YPP and SCHEDULE DIFFICULTY
Nebraska 2018 Estimated Yards Per Play YPP Stats (OUR ESTIMATE)
(our preseason estimated improvement is based on the Spring Game and the coaching staff's UCF track record, as somewhat minimized due to tougher competition that will have to be faced in the Big Ten).

We estimate the following predicted stats for the 2018 season for the Huskers:
ca. 6.00 ypp on offense
ca. 5.00 ypp on defense


Our game score predictions are based on these provisionally prognosticated 2018 figures, plus an adjustment for schedule difficulty, plus 3 points advantage or disadvantage for home or opponent home field advantage.

Last season's 2017 ypp stats of Nebraska's 2018 opponents are taken here as provisionally predictive marks of 2018 opponent team strengths, i.e. as if nothing had changed. Of course, things have changed, and some teams will be stronger, others weaker, but we have no way to calculate that quantitatively.

Trend - 2018 NU Opponent 2016 & 2017 YPP
(YPP = YARDS PER PLAY)
(source: http://www.cfbstats.com/)

Akron Zips 2017 YPP 4.88 offense, 6.02 defense
Akron Zips 2016 YPP 5.99 offense, 6.05 defense

Colorado Buffaloes 2017 YPP 5.51 offense, 6.12 defense
Colorado Buffaloes 2016 YPP 5.54 offense, 4.87 defense
(what happened to the defense? one explanation is that defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt left for Oregon, which went from 6.44 ypp on defense in 2016 to 5.07 ypp on defense in 2017 - coaches can make a big difference!)

Troy Trojans 2017 YPP 6.24 offense, 4.78 defense
Troy Trojans 2016 YPP 5.72 offense, 5.05 defense

Michigan Wolverines 2017 YPP 5.18 offense, 4.52 defense
Michigan Wolverines 2016 YPP 5.85 offense, 4.21 defense

Purdue Boilermakers 2017 YPP 5.59 offense, 5.27 defense
Purdue Boilermakers 2016 YPP 5.11 offense, 6.22 defense
(that's theoretically equivalent to a 2-TD per game improvement)

Wisconsin Badgers 2017 YPP 6.09 offense, 4.42 defense
Wisconsin Badgers 2016 YPP 5.45 offense, 4.92 defense
(that's theoretically equivalent to an 11-point per game improvement)

Northwestern Wildcats 2017 YPP 5.31 offense, 5.02 defense
Northwestern Wildcats 2016 YPP 5.26 offense, 5.40 defense

Minnesota Golden Gophers 2017 YPP 4.88 offense, 5.52 defense
Minnesota Golden Gophers 2016 YPP 5.24 offense, 4.82 defense

Ohio State Buckeyes 2017 YPP 6.88 offense, 4.44 defense
Ohio State Buckeyes 2016 YPP 6.02 offense, 4.36 defense

2017 Illinois Fighting Illini YPP 4.64 offense, 5.66 defense
2016 Illinois Fighting Illini YPP 5.32 offense, 5.54 defense

Michigan State Spartans 2017 YPP 5.13 offense, 4.87 defense
Michigan State Spartans 2016 YPP 5.64 offense, 5.53 defense

Iowa Hawkeyes 2017 YPP 5.12 offense, 5.08 defense
Iowa Hawkeyes 2016 YPP 5.20 offense, 5.11 defense

We predict a 9-3 Husker season in 2018 with 10-2 as the extreme optimum and 8-4 as the likely minimum, though as bad as a 6-6 season is possible, if things go the wrong way. Some of the scores below appear to us at first glance to be more lopsided than one might expect by normal analysis. It must be recalled that we base our calculations upon a presumed nearly 3 touchdown NU improvement per game in 2018 over 2017. If that assumption proves to be too optimistic, then games will be closer than predicted below, and some games that we now see as Husker winners, may be losers.

Saturday,  September 1, 2018 vs. Akron at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Akron 2017 at 4.88 ypp on offense 6.02 ypp on defense, i.e. a minus -1.2 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp (plus) the minus -1.2 for Akron = a running 22 point advantage for NU.
Schedule difficulty Akron 2017: #95 (Massey), #85 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap for the Zips (AVERAGE of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 27 points ... minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska (subtracted from 27) gives 21 more points for NU, i.e. a running 43-point total.
Plus the home field advantage ... 3 points in favor of Nebraska gives a predicted 46 points in favor of Nebraska.
Our Call: 53-7 for Nebraska. Akron in recent years has given excellent teams such as Penn State some difficult games, so nothing is certain.

Saturday,  September 8, 2018 vs. Colorado at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Colorado 2017 at 5.51 ypp on offense 6.12 ypp on defense, i.e. minus -0.6 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp (plus) the minus -0.6 for Colorado = a running 16 point advantage for NU.
Schedule difficulty Colorado 2017: #71 (Massey),  #63 (Sagarin)  gives a schedule difficulty handicap for the Buffaloes (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 20 points ... minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 14 more points for NU, i.e. a running 30-point total.
Plus the home field advantage ... 3 points in favor of Nebraska gives a predicted 33 points in favor of the Huskers.
Our Call: 47-14 for Nebraska. Colorado was good two years ago. It could happen again, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.

Saturday,  September 15, 2018 vs. Troy at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Troy 2017 6.24 at ypp on offense 4.78 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +1.5 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +1.5 ypp for Troy = a 5 point running advantage for Troy.
Schedule difficulty Troy 2017: #118 (Massey), #149 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap for the Trojans (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 40 points... minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 34 points to NU, for a running 29-point total advantage to the Huskers.
Plus the home field advantage ... 3 points in favor of Nebraska gives a predicted 32 points in favor of the Cornhuskers.
Our Call: 45-13 for Nebraska. Troy has a super head coach and excellent players. They defeated highly regarded LSU last year. Accordingly, we expect a much closer game than our stats and game call indicate, so do not place too much stock in the lopsidedness of this prediction, as made by stats only. We ourselves will just be happy if the Huskers win this one.

Saturday,  September 22, 2018 vs. Michigan at Ann Arbor, Michigan
Michigan 2017 at 5.18 ypp on offense 4.52 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +0.7 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +0.7 ypp for Michigan = a 3 point running advantage for the Huskers.
Schedule difficulty Michigan 2017: #12 (Massey), #24 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 6 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 0 points to any team, for a running 3-point total advantage to the Huskers.
Home field advantage Michigan ... 3 points in favor of Michigan, which gives a net result of 0, i.e. a tie game. Overtime?
Our Call: It's a toss-up. Our better half is a graduate of Michigan, so this one is in the family, no matter who wins, although the edge right now appears to be with Michigan, due to the home field advantage.
       
Saturday,  September 29, 2018 Homecoming, vs. Purdue at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Purdue 2017 at 5.59 ypp on offense 5.27 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +0.3 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +0.3 ypp for Purdue = a 7 point running advantage for the Huskers.
Schedule difficulty Purdue 2017: #34 (Massey), #41 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 11 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 5 more points to the Huskers, for a running 12-point total advantage to the Huskers.
Home field advantage Nebraska ... 3 points in favor of the Huskers, for a total of 15 points.
Our Call: 35-20 for Nebraska. Purdue is an improving team. It could be closer.

Saturday,  October 6, 2018 vs. Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin
Wisconsin 2017 at 6.09 ypp on offense 4.42 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +1.5 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +1.5 ypp for Wisconsin = a 5 point running advantage for the Badgers.
Schedule difficulty Wisconsin 2017: #20 (Massey), #47 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 10 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 4 points to the Huskers, for a running 1-point total advantage to Wisconsin.
Home field advantage Wisconsin ... 3 points in favor of Wisconsin, gives the Badgers an advantage of 4 points.
Our Call: 27-23 for Wisconsin. We can't see Nebraska beating Wisconsin yet, but the game should be close because of the improved Cornhusker defense.
   
Saturday,  October 13, 2018 vs. Northwestern at Evanston, Illinois
Northwestern 2017 at 5.31 ypp on offense 5.02 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +0.3 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +0.3 ypp for Northwestern = a 7 point running advantage for the Huskers.
Schedule difficulty 2017: #33 (Massey), #50 (Sagarin) gives schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 12 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 6 points to the Huskers, for a running 13-point total advantage to the Huskers.
Home field advantage Northwestern ... 3 points in favor of Northwestern, gives Nebraska a 10-point advantage.
Our Call: 31-21 for Nebraska. Northwestern tends to play NU tough and the defenses will probably decide this one.
       
Saturday,  October 20, 2018 vs. Minnesota at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Minnesota 2017 at 4.88 ypp on offense 5.52 ypp on defense, i.e. a minus -0.6 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp plus the minus -0.6 ypp for Minnesota = a 16 point running advantage for the Huskers.
Schedule difficulty 2017: #48 (Massey), #59 (Sagarin) gives a chedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 16 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 10 points to the Huskers, for a running 26-point total advantage to the Huskers.
Home field advantage Nebraska ... 3 points in favor of Nebraska.
Our Call: 43-14 for Nebraska. The Golden Gophers under their new highly touted head coach P.J. Fleck were a disappointment last year, so be careful in 2018. Things can change quickly when newly installed systems begin to work.

Saturday  November 3, 2018 vs. Ohio State at Columbus, Ohio
Ohio State 2017 at 6.88 ypp on offense 4.44 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +2.4 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +2.4 ypp for Ohio State = a 14 point running advantage for the Buckeyes.
Schedule difficulty 2017: #6 (Massey), #13 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10): of 3 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 3 points to Ohio State, for a running 17-point total advantage for the Buckeyes.
Home field advantage Ohio State ... 3 points more for the Buckeyes gives a total advantage of 20 points, by the stats.
Our Call: 41-21 for Ohio State. We can not see Nebraska losing by 20 and trust that the score will be closer, whereas an NU win would be a sensation.
       
Saturday,  November 10, 2018 vs. Illinois at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Illinois 2017 at 4.64 ypp on offense 5.66 ypp on defense, i.e. a minus -1.0 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp plus the minus -1.0 ypp for the Illini = a 20 point running advantage for the Cornhuskers.
Schedule difficulty 2017: #63 (Massey), #43 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 16 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 10 more points to Nebraska, for a running 30-point total advantage for the Huskers.
Home field advantage Nebraska ... 3 points more in favor of the Cornhuskers makes 33 points.
Our Call: 47-14 for Nebraska. Former Super Bowl coach Lovie Smith was seen as a resurgent coaching hire for the Illini, who have however gone 3-9 and 2-10 in the past two seasons under his leadership.

Saturday,  November 17, 2018 vs. Michigan State at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Michigan State 2017 at 5.13 ypp on offense 4.87 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +0.3 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +0.3 ypp for the Spartans = a 7 point running advantage for the Cornhuskers.
Schedule difficulty 2017: #11 (Massey), #14 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10): of 4 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 2 points to Michigan State, for a running 5-point total advantage for the Huskers.
Home field advantage Nebraska ... 3 points more in favor of the Cornhuskers makes 8 points in favor of NU.
Our Call: 28-20 for Nebraska. The Spartans are strong on defense and thus in a position to win any game on their schedule, so that this is likely to be a hard-fought win for either team.

Friday,  November 23, 2018 vs. Iowa at Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa 2017 at 5.12 ypp on offense 5.08 ypp on defense, i.e. a plus +0.1 ypp.
The predicted NU 6.00 ypp offense and 5.00 ypp defense give an advantage of plus +1.0 ypp minus the plus +0.1 ypp for the Hawkeyes = a 9 point running advantage for the Cornhuskers.
Schedule difficulty 2017 : #8 (Massey), #5 (Sagarin) gives a schedule difficulty handicap (average of Massey plus Sagarin x 3 divided by 10) of 2 points, minus the 6 points schedule difficulty handicap of last year for Nebraska gives 4 points to Iowa, for a running 5-point total advantage for the Huskers.
Home field advantage Iowa ... 3 points for the Hawkeyes makes it 2 points in favor of Nebraska.
Our Call: 26-24 for Nebraska. Iowa has been strong in recent years, so that this game in Iowa City is no gimme for the Cornhuskers.

CONCLUSION       
If all goes well, we thus think that a ca. 9-3 season is possible for the Huskers in 2018, with a 10-2 season marking our most optimistic view and an 8-4 season being the worst we currently would expect, based on our predictions. We shall see. No one really knows at this point, and that is what makes it all so exciting for the coming 2018 Nebraska football season.