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Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?

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Recently, ESPN came out with their “Top Ten Greatest College Football Team’s of All-Time” and on that list, coming in at number four was the 1995 Nebraska Football team.  Over the years, many analysts have claimed that the 1995 Huskers team is one of the greatest teams of all-time, but are they the best?

passingscatterplot - Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?
This scatterplot shows four quadrants, two of which are highlighted: Bad Pass Defense, Bad Pass Offense and Good Pass Offense, Good Pass Defense.

Where does the 1995 Nebraska team stack up against the rest of the top ten list? Shockingly, this dominant team is in the bad pass defense, bad pass offense quadrant with the 2009 Alabama team.

There is an upward trend here, and the 1995 Nebraska team is an outlier. There was only one team who made the good pass offense, good pass defense quadrant, and that was the 2001 Miami team. Now there are two factors that must be included here, the 1995 Nebraska team ran over the competition they played, so they didn’t need to depend on passing the ball as much and the 1995 Nebraska team excelled in stopping the run. Still, this doesn’t mean they should’ve given up over 200 yards of passing each game.

rushingfacetwrap - Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?
This facet wrap shows rushing yards throughout the season for each team. *The 1972 USC Trojans didn’t keep any individual game records, only end of season totals.

Although the 1995 Nebraska team’s pass defense was the worst on the top ten list, they were the best team running the ball. There was a game they had over 600 rushing yards. That is insane. The horizontal line is the average rushing yards amongst the ten teams. Most of the teams hung around that average of 275 yards.

 When it comes to running the ball, the 1995 Nebraska team dominated, and the rest of the teams couldn’t keep up. Once again, the 1995 Nebraska team is an outlier. If ESPN ranked the top ten list based on offense alone, the 1995 Nebraska team would be number one.

 Interesting things to note: the 2009 Alabama and the 2001 Miami teams only appeared to have averaged more than 275 rushing yards once. The 1979 Alabama team almost stayed above 275 rushing yards for their season. The 1956 Sooners, started off hot, had a bad performance, and continued to climb.

But ESPN clearly didn’t just base their top ten list on offense alone. “Defense wins championships,” isn’t just a saying, it’s the biggest factor in ranking these teams.

nu95vnu71illustrator - Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?
This waffle chart compares the 1995 Nebraska total defense and the 1971 Nebraska total defense.

Comparing the defenses of both the 1995 Nebraska team and the 1971 Nebraska team, the 1971 Nebraska team is the greatest college football team of all-time. Overall, they gave up fewer yards and were more balanced than the 1995 Nebraska team, which is maybe what ESPN was looking at when deciding who was the better team.

nu95vou56illustrator - Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?
A waffle chart comparing the 1995 Nebraska total defense and the 1956 Oklahoma total defense.

The 1956 Oklahoma team gave up fewer passing yards and more rushing yards than the 1995 Nebraska team. This team wouldn’t hold to today’s standards, due to how the game has changed over the years. The 1995 Nebraska team would hold to today’s standards because of how big and athletic they were and how dominating they were stopping the run.

nu95vum01illustrator - Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?
A waffle chart comparing the 1995 Nebraska total defense to the 2001 Miami total defense.

The 2001 Miami team had a balanced defense, which is better than having a clear weakness, and in my scatterplot, they were the only team to have a good pass offense and a good pass defense. Should ESPN have ranked the 2001 Miami team higher?

nu95vua09illustrator - Is the 1995 Nebraska Football Team the greatest team of all-time?
A waffle chart comparing the 1995 Nebraska total defense to the 2009 Alabama total defense.

The 2009 Alabama had the best defense amongst all the teams on the ESPN top ten list. They dominated defensively, even more so than the 1995 Huskers. Both teams averaged the same number of rushing yards allowed on them, and the 2009 Alabama team allowed fewer passing yards. With all this information, ESPN ranked them number ten on the list.

With all the statistics accumulated, the 1995 Nebraska team isn’t the greatest team of all-time. ESPN ranked them at number four and with the stats that were compared to above, that’s where they belong.