Hawkeyes, Cornhuskers renew their rivalry in Lincoln
As you spend your Friday after Thanksgiving recovering from some early shopping and a day full of food, football, friends and family, the Big Ten invites you to watch The Heroes Game, otherwise known as the budding rivalry between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Since Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes have continued the tradition of playing on the Friday after Thanksgiving, although that tradition will be going away soon. The rivalry has been a fun one to watch since 2011, even though Iowa has taken an upper hand with three wins in the last four meetings, including a pair of blowouts. We have seen three one-possession games, an overtime matchup and one perfect regular season clinched in this series since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
The storylines for this year's matchup don't quite have a flattering tone to them, however. Both teams are coming off losses, and neither team is a factor in the Big Ten championship picture. And one coach may be out of a job soon after the conclusion of this game.
Iowa at Nebraska
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Iowa -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. What Iowa team shows up this week?
Seriously, take your pick. Will it be the Hawkeyes that took Penn State down to the wire? The Iowa that blew the doors off Ohio State? Or the Iowa that couldn't move the football against Wisconsin and then got humiliated at home by Purdue? Iowa has taken quite the roller-coaster ride this season, and you just don't know for sure what kind of game you will see from this team. If you place money on this one, you just might be a true riverboat gambler.
2. Tanner Lee vs. Josh Jackson: What could possibly go wrong?
Nebraska's Lee has been picked off a Big Ten-worst 13 times this season, and a handful of those have been returned for touchdowns. Jackson, Iowa's Jim Thorpe Award finalist, just so happens to lead the conference with seven interceptions and two pick-sixes. Needless to say, it would be wise for Lee to do everything he can to avoid throwing the football in the direction of Jackson this week.
3. End of the line for Mike Riley (for real this time?)
It was fair to wonder if Riley (above, right) had coached his final game a week ago on the road at Penn State. As coaches in the SEC and Pac-12 have been terminated before the end of the season and the way things are going at Nebraska, it would not have been a shock to learn that Riley had been given his walking papers prior to the end of the regular season. With no hope to play in a bowl game unless five-win teams are needed (which does not look likely), it seems inevitable that Riley will be out of a job soon as the Cornhuskers hit the reset button.
Call it a weird gut feeling to suggest that Nebraska will carry over the offensive momentum it created late in the game against Penn State's backups last week, but playing at home against an Iowa team that has suddenly looked lost on offense may help the Cornhuskers find a way to end this otherwise forgettable season on a positive note. That won't be enough to stave off an inevitable coaching change, but it may provide a slight bit of redemption for the players who have played through this season. Stopping Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley will be essential, but perhaps too difficult for a Nebraska defense that has been gashed by the running game the last couple of weeks.
Prediction: Iowa 34, Nebraska 30
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.