That's why this is supposed to be a real nail-biter, a game that could go either way, right? If Marshall could upset then no. 6 Kansas State and Troy State beat Marshall, well, NU is in for a helluva game.
Stop right there.
With Ell Roberson, Marshall loses by 20. No way, no how do they beat a Roberson-ran team. Kansas State's identity revolves around Roberon and yes, on both sides of the ball. It starts with Ell, it ends with Ell and his absence from that Kansas State team meant you weren't seeing the Kansas State team ranked 6th. Once Roberson went out, their identity and source for how that team gets into the rhythm of the game was gone.
Give Marshall credit for beating a still pretty talented team on the road, but without Roberson, that isn't Kansas State, so their victory is more for the paper-tiger-lovers everywhere.
Given that, the victory by Troy State over Marshall shouldn't be overstated because of their victory in Manhattan, so let's just look at the Troy State team and forget this philosophy of deciding how good a team is by who they beat and who THAT team beat, because it won't score any points today.
DeWitt Betterson is said to be the main threat for the Trojans, a physical and experienced tailback with deceptive speed. Betterson has managed a 5.5 yards per carry average, but has averaged just 13 carries per game. And, let's look at the teams's he has gone up against. Against Kansas State, they managed to not even get 40 yards total on the ground on almost 40 attempts. Against Minnesota who ranks in the lower half of the division in rush defense, they managed just 125 yards. Their three best performances toting the football where they gained over 200 yards each game came against UAB, Southeastern LA. and Marshall who are ranked in rush defense, 105th, 103rd (that's Division 1-AA) and 103rd respectively.
Bottom line, against Nebraska, no way they run.
How about that passing game?
Troy State actually ranks only 3 spots ahead of the Huskers in yards per game and you know what the Huskers' passing game is like.
Ok then, it has to be defense. Surely, if Troy State has a chance to pull this huge upset, they must have an incredible defense to make that happen.
Well, let's look at the defensive category that matters most and that's how the Trojans have done against the run. Against Kansas State, they allowed just under 150 yards on the ground. That's not bad actually, but they followed that up by allowing Minnesota almost 300. The following 3 games they tightened up considerably, but again, UAB, Southeastern LA. (Division 1-AA) and Marshall ranked, 101st, 121st (that's actually dead-last in division 1-AA) and 51st respectively.
Hmmm, maybe there's something else.
In total offense, they rank 99th. In total defense, they rank 70th. Well, they must be doing something on special teams then. They can't run or pass all that well, so that means they aren't kicking the ball thru the uprights too much, so let's take a look at punting and returns, because you know as well as I do, special teams can either win or lose games for you. Nobody can put a price on the value of both David Dyches and Kyle Larson for the Huskers this year as well as Josh Davis on both kickoff and punt returns. So, let's see. Rayshaun Reed ranks 72nd in the country in punt returns, about 30 spots behind Josh Davis. And, out of the top 100 ranked kickoff returners in the country, Troy State's Jermaine Richardson ranks........well, 100th.
Am I missing something here?
Nebraska going into the game against a paper-tiger is one thing, ya know? A team that has padded it's stats against sub-par competition and at least on the stat-sheets, yeah, they could give NU a battle. You can't even say that here as Troy State isn't a paper-tiger, they are a paper-door-mat, doing their best against some of the most sub-par competition, but even then, it wasn't that good.
I don't want to take anything away from Troy State, but all this build-up off a victory over Marshall, when you look at how they won, who they have beaten and just about everything else, it leaves me scratching my head as to where, why, when or how in the heck someone thinks this game is going to be close, much less a possible upset in the making.
Maybe everyone is looking at Nebraska's own anemic passing game as the reason for speculation as to how NU will lose. Or maybe, they think NU's propensity for killing themselves will help Troy State enough to bring out a possible home-loss for the Huskers. Or, maybe someone thinks that the players for Nebraska are going to all slip and fall down during the tunnel-walk, leaving the scout team to play today.
I don't know.
Granted, NU's vaunted defense faced their best offensive opponent in the first game of the season and since then, it's been marginal competition at best. Well, marginal as that competition may have seemed, not even Southern Miss. is ranked below Troy State in total offense and we know how bad their offense was.
Upset in the making, huh? Another notch in the belt for a team out of nowhere to knock off a powerhouse this season, eh? Many will say that numbers can be interpreted many ways and that it is in the eye of the beholder that you are likely to see where the slant on those numbers go.
I'm not trying to sound like these numbers say just one thing, but..........ok, I AM saying that. Where in the heck is Troy State supposed to win this game?!?!? In Smack talk?
I could be wrong. Lord knows, that it wouldn't be the first nor last time, but I can't fathom even for a second how this is a letdown in the making, an upset waiting to happen or some milestone victory for a team that could very well be worse than the one NU faced last time the Trojans came to the capital city.
No way folks. Not happening.
Nebraska wins by at least a 35-7 score.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619