With a shot at the Big Ten West Divison crown still on the line, Iowa will hope to keep its conference championship hopes alive on Black Friday when the Hawkeyes face Nebraska.
And with the recent meetings in this particular series being as close as it has been lately — the last three have been decided by six points or fewer — Iowa may have to hold on to keep its hopes alive going into the weekend. The Hawkeyes (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) can clinch their first division title since 2015 with a win and a Wisconsin loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
Close calls have been the story of the season for Nebraska (3-8, 1-7), of course, and they never seem to go the Cornhuskers' way, with an 0-6 record in one-score games. That could be a bad omen for the Huskers, who are already assured of having a losing season but carry plenty of potential to play the role of spoiler for the Hawkeyes. But Nebraska will have to find a way to snap its six-game losing streak to Iowa.
Will Nebraska finally get a close one to go its way? Or will Iowa's Big Ten title dreams live to see another day?
Iowa at Nebraska
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -1.5
When Iowa Has the Ball
Iowa changed up its quarterback situation following Spencer Petras' shoulder injury, and Alex Padilla has risen to the occasion to mixed results. Padilla only completed six of 17 pass attempts for 83 yards last week in a sluggish outing against Illinois for 83 yards, but he passed for 206 yards in a key game against Minnesota before that.
Iowa's strength remains on the ground with Tyler Goodson. The junior rushed for 132 yards in the win over Illinois, and the running game will have to be effective against Nebraska for Iowa to get out of Lincoln with the win.
The Cornhuskers have a solid defense that ranks 57th nationally in both rushing (143.4 ypg) and pass defense (222.8) but punches above its weight in ranking 38th in scoring defense (22.2 ppg) because of its bend-but-don't-break style. Nebraska has only allowed a touchdown on 53.3 percent of opponents' trips inside the red zone, tied for 32nd nationally.
When Nebraska Has the Ball
Unfortunately for Nebraska, Adrian Martinez will not be available for the Cornhuskers in the final game of the season. Their starting quarterback will be out of action due to an injured shoulder, leaving Nebraska's offense without its top offensive player as a passer and a rusher. So that is a lot of offense to make up for in his absence. Nebraska freshmen Logan Smothers could be the next man up for the Huskers as a result.
Nebraska's offense is averaging the second-most yards per game in the Big Ten (457.5 ypg), but whether it can continue racking up that kind of yardage without Martinez will be a challenge. That's a lot of pressure to put on the shoulder of freshman running back Rahmir Johnson, who is 14th in the Big Ten with 49.5 rushing yards per game.
Iowa's defense is fourth in the Big Ten in total defense (314.8 ypg allowed). The Hawkeyes have also remained one of the best defenses against the pass with 21 interceptions this season, although they have fallen slightly off their hot start as the season has continued.
Iowa and Nebraska have had some close calls the last few years, and this one could develop into another one that goes down to the wire. Nebraska has shown some improvement on defense this season, and Iowa isn't the type to open things up too much. The question is whether or not the Hawkeyes believe their backup can lead them to another win. He will.