Nebraska debuted its new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and presumptive new starting quarterback in Saturday’s spring game. As is so often the case with spring scrimmages, we didn’t learn much about what Mark Whipple and Casey Thompson can be expected to accomplish this fall.

But the new duo surely has Huskers fans optimistic that a decade-plus of erratic play at quarterback might finally be stabilized.

And there is one area in particular where Scott Frost’s program needs to improve if it is going to continue being Scott Frost’s program.

Since joining the Big Ten in 2012, Nebraska is one of the league’s most interception-prone teams. Almost on an annual basis. The Cornhuskers have been in the second half of the league in interceptions in 5 of those 10 seasons, and have never finished better than 5th in the category.

As much as anything, that is a hurdle preventing the Cornhuskers from recapturing past glories.

In the past decade, Nebraska is among only 4 Big Ten programs to not have at least 1 season with a ratio of 1 interception per 50 pass attempts or better. The others are Rutgers, Maryland and Minnesota — not quite company the Cornhuskers want to keep.

Ohio State, which has been by far the class of the conference since Nebraska joined, has had 4 seasons where its quarterbacks averaged better than 50 attempts for each interception thrown. Buckeye quarterbacks also have gone better than 40 attempts per interception in 2 other seasons.

Nebraska only has 1 season of averaging better than 40 attempts per interception since joining the Big Ten. That was 2016, when Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ryker Fyfe were picked off 9 times in 400 pass attempts — an average of 44.4 attempts per interception.

The Huskers have a whopping 6 seasons where they’ve thrown an interception every 30 passes or fewer. The Buckeyes have no such seasons.

Interceptions per pass attempt

Nebraska

  • 2021: 1 INT per 31 attempts
  • 2020: 1 INT per 25.4 attempts
  • 2019: 1 INT per 35.8 attempts
  • 2018: 1 INT per 36.7 attempts
  • 2017: 1 INT per 27 attempts
  • 2016: 1 INT per 44.4 attempts
  • 2015: 1 INT per 21.8 attempts
  • 2014: 1 INT per 29.9 attempts
  • 2013: 1 INT per 29.1 attempts
  • 2012: 1 INT per 29.1 attempts

Ohio State

  • 2021: 1 INT per 61.8 attempts
  • 2020: 1 INT per 37.5 attempts
  • 2019: 1 INT per 135.3 attempts
  • 2018: 1 INT per 70.1 attempts
  • 2017: 1 INT per 44 attempts
  • 2016: 1 INT per 58.4 attempts
  • 2015: 1 INT per 36.1 attempts
  • 2014: 1 INT per 34.1 attempts
  • 2013: 1 INT per 40.8 attempts
  • 2012: 1 INT per 39.7 attempts

The Buckeyes, of course, represent the opposite end of the extreme.

It’s hard to even claim that Ohio State represents an apples-to-apples comparison given the current state of each program. Or any other Big Ten program. No one is approaching a gaudy 2019 in which Justin Fields and a pair of backups combined for 48 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

But it’s not just that the Huskers don’t compare to the Bucks.

Iowa, which hasn’t exactly been QBU under Kirk Ferentz, does a far better job protecting the football than Nebraska. The Hawkeyes have just 1 season worse than an interception per 30 attempts.

Iowa

  • 2021: 1 INT per 36.7 attempts
  • 2020: 1 INT per 49.6 attempts
  • 2019: 1 INT per 58.7 attempts
  • 2018: 1 INT per 37 attempts
  • 2017: 1 INT per 59.1 attempts
  • 2016: 1 INT per 31 attempts
  • 2015: 1 INT per 73.8 attempts
  • 2014: 1 INT per 62.4 attempts
  • 2013: 1 INT per 25 attempts
  • 2012: 1 INT per 48.6 attempts

Wisconsin, like Nebraska, has 6 seasons with fewer than 30 attempts per interception. But even the Badgers have a truly great season in the mix. Jack Coan threw just 5 interceptions in 339 attempts in 2019 before losing out the starting job to Graham Mertz for reasons only Paul Chryst can understand.

Wisconsin

  • 2021: 1 INT per 23.1 attempts
  • 2020: 1 INT per 28.9 attempts
  • 2019: 1 INT per 70.2 attempts
  • 2018: 1 INT per 21.7 attempts
  • 2017: 1 INT per 21.6 attempts
  • 2016: 1 INT per 32.3 attempts
  • 2015: 1 INT per 32.2 attempts
  • 2014: 1 INT per 20.1 attempts
  • 2013: 1 INT per 23.7 attempts
  • 2012: 1 INT per 48.5 attempts

The Badgers are proof that an interception ratio alone doesn’t necessarily sink a team. Thanks to its powerful run game and dominant defense, Wisconsin is 30-12 in the Big Ten since 2017. Nebraska, which has been more balanced offensively and often struggled defensively, is 13-31 in the B1G in that span.

If your quarterbacks are turning it over too frequently, you need to be good enough in other areas to make up for it. The Huskers have not been. And until that happens, the onus is on the passing game to keep Nebraska out of trouble.

Rest of Big Ten

Best interception ratios (since 2012)

Illinois

  • 2015: 1 INT per 64.9 attempts

Indiana

  • 2020: 1 INT per 58.4 attempts

Maryland

  • 2018: 1 INT per 48.2 attempts

Michigan

  • 2016: 1 INT per 53.9 attempts

Michigan State

  • 2013: 1 INT per 61.4 attempts

Minnesota

  • 2019: 1 INT per 40.4 attempts

Northwestern

  • 2016: 1 INT per 53.6 attempts

Penn State

  • 2015: 1 INT per 67.3 attempts

Purdue

  • 2020: 1 INT per 65.3 attempts

Rutgers

  • 2016: 1 INT per 47.4 attempts