Going into the season, of course, the offensive line was looked at as the potential strength of the team. You had well over 60 starts between the group that would pave the way for the slightly tweaked offense under Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson.
Things didn't work out quite the way most thought.
It's amazing what a 52-17 thrashing can do for a team.
Following that debacle against
Since then, an offense which
could only put 315 yards in total offense on
In addition, a rushing attack
which proved almost futile early on, netting just 76 yards against
Then there is time of possession, a statistic which can be misleading in a score-a-minute conference like the Big 12. But there's little doubting the philosophy that if you have the ball, those offenses don't.
That kind of control made Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini admit that despite his defensive background, he preferred this type of approach. "Hey, I have always said that the best defense is keeping the other team's offense off the field," he said.
Another thing which has helped
Penalties which hampered the team
weekly and seemed to often find the culprits on the offensive line, have
steadily gone down throughout the season. Where
So, probably more than any unit on the team or even any individual, the offensive line has changed dramatically from where it started the year, and they might not have regained the title as the best unit on the team, but where they were perhaps once considered the Achilles Heel, this group is definitely a strength.
One of the most obvious comparisons to the Clemson defense for Husker followers is Virginia Tech. When asked about how Clemson approaches things from a defensive standpoint or how that team looks athletically, the Husker coaches have said that Virginia Tech is somewhat the same.
For Husker fans, though, one of the big comparisons is going to be up front, and as big as the Hokies were, Clemson is bigger.
From DE-to-DE, Virginia Tech goes
267, 293, 290 and 256 pounds. Clemson has two 300-plus pounders on the interior.
Size isn't everything, of course, but
Unfortunately for the Tigers, time hasn't really been their friend.
While they tank as one of the top scoring defenses in the country, giving up only 16.58 points per game, their opponents actually have the ball more time each game on average than they do. And they haven't been able to provide consistent pressure on the backfield, ranking 51st in tackles for loss and 106th in sacks.
That might be a bit of a wash in this instance as the Huskers rank 50th in sacks allowed and 68th in allowed TFLs.
What Nebraska has going in its favor there, though, is the fact that amongst the teams they have faced this season you have a number that ranked fairly high in regard to sacks versus Clemson's defense, which only faced one team which when it came to stopping sacks, was ranked in the top 25.
Sacks by Natl Rank
V. Tech T-21st
T. Tech T-25th
Iowa St. 93rd
Avg Rank 50th
Clemson Opponents (FBS)
Sacks allowed Natl Rank
Georgia Tech 35th
Avg Rank 62nd
One of the most telling stats, however, could be 3rd down conversion percentage. The Huskers rank 14th in the country converting third downs 48.4 percent of the time, whereas Clemson ranks 48th in the country in stopping teams from converting on that particular down. The lack of being able to put pressure on the QB, along with the loss of their top pass-rusher in Ricky Sapp, due to injury, could make this even more interesting.
The stats don't necessarily weigh in Clemson's favor here, and it goes back to just how different the leagues are in which they play. The ACC might be considered a league which has a far more prototypical approach to offense, whereas the Big 12 seemingly comes off the bus throwing it 40 times per game.
That means defenses in each league are going to be concentrating the most on what they are most likely to see in the course of a conference-schedule. With that being said, though, because almost everyone in the conference passes the ball all over the place, putting that much more emphasis on getting to the QB to at least disrupt what they are doing, some of Nebraska's stats carry perhaps a bit more weight.
It should be noted that
The war on the field starts and
ends in the trenches. The Husker offensive line has rekindled a bit of hope that
they might not be THE strength of the team, but since the
This is where it begins and ends