Nebraska's path to a win in Boulder isn't that narrow
Despite going from favorite to underdog, Nebraska's trip to Colorado is still in toss-up territory. Here's how the Huskers win the toss.
I love when a movie sequel starts by reusing footage from the first movie. The first five minutes of Rocky II is just the last five minutes of Rocky. Evil Dead II director Sam Raimi had to reshoot the final scene of the first film (for legal reasons) so it could lead off the sequel, but same principle. It’s an assurance from filmmaker to audience that, if you loved the first one, no need to worry, we’re picking up right where we left off.
It's a fun technique, but Nebraska shouldn’t have used it to begin the Matt Rhule era. The close final margin, and unforgettable errors that made it so, felt like recycled footage from the previous film.
ESPN’s Bill Connelly provides one of the first stats I look for after a weekend of football—postgame win expectancy. “It takes all the key predictive stats that a given game produces, tosses them into the air and says, ‘With these stats, you could have expected to win this game X% of the time,’” he writes.
Nebraska’s postgame win expectancy against Minnesota: 94%. A number like that isn’t just footage from the previous film, it was basically the entire run time of Mr. Frost Returns to Lincoln. The Huskers put up numbers like that multiple times a season over the previous five years.
But, as Rhule noted in different terms, he can’t play the lead in Mr. Frost Returns to Lincoln Again. He’s in a different movie.
As it pertains to facing Colorado this week, Nebraska theoretically beating Minnesota 94% of the time while playing the exact same game is a good thing. Picture a world where 1) Gopher wide receiver Daniel Jackson needs one more inch to get his foot down in the end zone, and 2) Colorado still outpunches TCU, 45-42.1 Are we having different conversations leading up to Saturday?
Of course we are. The context is completely different. Nebraska’s ability to leave Boulder with a win, however, is the same in either universe, the one where it won last week or the one where it only won on paper.
There’s a path here for the Huskers and it isn’t even all that narrow. Let’s chart it.