With a win, Kirk Ferentz notches his eighth straight over the Big Red and will coach in back-to-back Big Ten Championship Games. If Mickey Joseph picks up his third victory as interim head coach, Iowa has to hope Indiana can knock off Purdue on Saturday.
Will the Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) hold the Heroes Trophy once more after a ho-hum-been-there-done-that affair or can Nebraska (3-8, 2-6) finally get over the hump and send the Iowa City crowd home sour?
Nebraska at Iowa
|National Rank Category||Nebraska||Iowa|
129.91 YPG (95th)
94.82 YPG (122nd)
215.6 YPG (88th)
158.9 YPG (123rd)
22.5 PPG (T-103rd)
17.5 PPG (T-123rd)
195 YPG (117th)
108.91 YPG (T-17th)
232.2 YPG (79th)
28.5 PPG (T-91st)
13.5 PPG (5th)
3rd Down Conversions
Red Zone Conversions
When Nebraska Has the Ball
Casey Thompson's return against Wisconsin may not have been triumphant, but no other quarterback gives the Cornhuskers a better chance at the upset. That said, he needs an amazingly porous offensive line to give him even a modest amount of time to read and react.
Likewise, running back Anthony Grant has been stuffed over the previous two outings. He recorded 27 carries for all of 51 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown since an Oct. 15 loss to Purdue. Worse, nobody's been able to spell him following freshman Ajay Allen's injury versus Oklahoma.
The Thompson-Trey Palmer connection sparked more than it has in weeks against Wisconsin, with Palmer scoring both of Nebraska's touchdowns. Getting fellow wide receivers Marcus Washington and Alante Brown as well as tight end Travis Vokolek involved is once again vital to moving the sticks.
It's been a season-long issue, but the Big Red has converted just 32 percent of third-down chances since their Oct. 7 win over Rutgers.
A typically stout Iowa defense features a mauling front with Joe Evans, Lukas Van Ness, and Deontae Craig. Ferocious linebacker Jack Campbell roams the second level and ranks fifth in the nation with 110 tackles (49 solo).
Defensive backs Cooper DeJean and Kaevon Merriweather prove exceptionally difficult for signal-callers to navigate with seven interceptions between them and DeJean taking two back for scores.
When Iowa Has the Ball
From an X's and O's standpoint, this is where it gets most interesting. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has turned things around somewhat after his unit averaged 14 points per game through a 3-4 start. The Hawkeyes scored 33 against Northwestern and 24 against Purdue and Wisconsin. Last week didn't go as well with only 13 against Minnesota.
Quarterback Spencer Petras runs hot and cold, but has been effective enough that he proves dangerous against Nebraska's defensive backs. Trouble for him comes with the absence of fullback Monte Pottebaum and star tight end Sam LaPorta.
The latter has 603 of the team's receiving yards, almost double that of leading wide receiver Nico Ragaini's output. Arland Bruce IV and Brody Brecht look to assist Ragaini in attacking the Huskers' coverage.
But some things in life are inevitable: death, taxes, and Iowa churning out quality tight ends. Make no mistake, Luke Lachey will be a handful in relief. Kaleb Johnson is the major problem on the ground for Huskers defensive coordinator Bill Busch's No Name Blackshirts. The freshman has racked up 653 rushing yards and five touchdowns while averaging better than five yards per carry.
Busch remains focused on pressing the opposition's passing game to make plays while trying to plug up running lanes. Unfortunately for him, conditioning woes with his personnel creep up in the second half and ball carriers continue to break through.
Being aggressive early on isn't the worst way to attack this Hawkeye offense. Forcing early turnovers only helps to safeguard against seemingly unavoidable second-half offensive breakdowns.
Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann continues to play like a man possessed while a secondary including freshman sensation Malcolm Hartzog takes some pressure off a still-shaky front seven.
This game should be Bowling Shoe Ugly. Maybe an insult to the sport itself. While everything on paper suggests Iowa should cruise to victory, this is a rivalry game, after all. Both teams will be chippy. Interference, late hits, and even some disconcerting signals could be on tap, making life easier for two immensely frustrating offenses.
Logic and reason say this ends up being an easy two-score win for the Ferentz family. But college football is weird sometimes. Maybe the Thanksgiving tryptophan hits differently or Iowa understandably chalks this up as a cakewalk. Either way, embrace the chaos.
Prediction: Nebraska 19, Iowa 16
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