Last week, @CFBNumbers wrote a great article about the disappointing 2021 Nebraska season. In it, he outlined various metrics that showed just how much better the team (offense and defense, at least) played than the record indicated. The biggest takeaway, it was more likely Nebraska would’ve been playing in Indianapolis in December than what we saw happen on the field. Unfortunately, 2021 was just the most recent entry of disappointing series of events.
As @CFBNumbers showed, the 2021 season was historically disappointing. The 2021 Huskers finished 4.6 wins below expectation using post game win probability. The only other team to finish more than 3 wins below expectation during the College Football Playoff era is the 2021 Navy Midshipmen. However, 2021 wasn’t the only Huskers team, or even Scott Frost Huskers team, to finish with the most wins under expectations. The 2018 team was also worst in the nation at 2.8 wins below expectation during Scott Frost’s first season in Lincoln.
Over the entirety of the College Football Playoff era, no team has won fewer games than expected than the Cornhuskers. Since 2014, the Huskers have a total of 9.4 wins below expectation (the number 9.4 is a cruel irony in itself). Louisville and Iowa State are the only other programs giving up more than 7 wins over the last eight seasons.
Two of Nebraska’s conference mates are among the top four programs who have most exceeded expectations in the playoff era – Iowa and Ohio State. These programs trail only Louisiana and Stanford for biggest overachievers. Iowa’s latest campaign was the third highest wins over expectation for a single season while only expecting to win 7 but managing to get 10. While expected wins paints a better image of Nebraska football, it does still show how Nebraska is struggling. The Huskers are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in terms of expected wins
Football has three components – offense, defense, and special teams. Nebraska, especially in 2021, performed well at two of those. The third was bad enough to turn a lot of potential wins into a lot of actual losses. No game encapsulates that fact more than the 2021 Iowa-Nebraska game. In 2022, there’s going to be a lot of new faces in the locker room. Bill Busch, in his third stint at Nebraska, might be the most important if the Huskers are going to win more games outside of Microsoft Excel.