It was brutal football on a brutally windy day. And Nebraska was up to it's old first half tricks; fumbling and bumbling around on offense to allow Iowa to take a halftime lead. But we've seen this all season long from Nebraska; were you concerned?
I wasn't, but apparently Bo Pelini was. He was hoping not to play Rex Burkhead unless it was really necessary, and apparently trailing the Hawkeyes was alarming enough to make it necessary. And Rex's performance was simply legendary, especially in that fourth quarter. After a wind-aided Iowa punt was downed inside the one yard line, Rex submarined the Huskers out of danger. On second and eight from the three yard line, Rex looked like he was going to be stopped at the six, but kept moving the pile with his legs for another five yards. Then he did it again on the next play, making it look like a rugby scrum.
The victory sends Nebraska to the Big Ten championship game as west division champions for a rematch with the 7-5 Wisconsin Badgers. The winner will claim the trophy as Big Ten champions, though some will claim that title comes with an asterisk. Anybody who claims that should write that asterisk with tattoo ink; Ohio State's lack of oversight of Jim Tressel and the football program got Ohio State in the mess they are in. They also elected to serve their punishment in 2012 instead of 2011. And even if Ohio State were eligible to participate, there's no assurance that the Buckeyes would win again in Indianapolis.
With the victory, Nebraska rises to #13 in the USA Today Coaches poll and #14 in the AP poll. It's unlikely that a three-loss Nebraska team would get an at-large berth to a BCS bowl game,so it's pretty much assured that Nebraska will be playing on New Years' Day afternoon. Beat Wisconsin again, and it's off to Pasadena again. That's a good season, no matter how you look at it.
If Nebraska wins the B1G, our choice is Northwestern or Michigan. If Wisconsin wins the B1G, the choice is Nebraska or Northwestern.— Capital One Bowl (@CapitalOneBowl) November 25, 2012
If not, it's either Orlando (Capital One Bowl) or Tampa (Outback Bowl). My gut feeling is that it's the Outback Bowl, but it depends on the SEC team available to the Capital One Bowl. A Nebraska vs. Texas A&M game might be awfully intriguing to Orlando.
But let's not think about that just yet. There's one more game to win. But first, let's look at a rather ugly game in Iowa City.
QB: Taylor Martinez might have had his worst game of the season. No, he didn't throw any interceptions, but he did have a couple fumbles. One was lost, and the other resulted in a seven yard loss. Decent day throwing the ball on a cold, windy day, though. Grade: C
RB: Ameer Abdullah was only moderately effective; hence, the decision to bring in Rex Burkhead. Burkhead gave the Huskers an unquestioned spark and relentless effort. Braylon Heard ran really well once again in very limited action; unsure why Ron Brown and Tim Beck don't use him more. Grade: B
WR: I almost want to give an incomplete here because the weather took the receivers out of the game. Quincy Enunwa and Ben Cotton delivered several clutch catches, though. Grade: B
OL: Mark Pelini (Bo's nephew) came in and played pretty well in relief of Justin Jackson, who's ankle injury will keep him out of the B1G title game. Frankly, if it's this close, I'd tend to go with Pelini over Cole Pensick at center to keep the guard rotation intact...as well as set up the future of the line. Brett Qvale's two-fer of holding and clipping on one fourth quarter play was the biggest issue I saw. Otherwise, it was a solid game in run blocking when everybody knew what was coming. Grade: B
DL: Such a shame that Baker Steinkuhler's Nebraska career is over; he'd been playing really well and was improving his draft stock. Hopefully his knee won't keep him out of the NFL combine. This is Chase Rome's opportunity to nail down a spot. All told, I thought the line played really well against Iowa after the opening drive. Especially Eric Martin; Iowa couldn't figure out how to block him. Grade: A-
LB: Alonzo Whaley might have had his best game of his Nebraska career. 11 tackles to lead the team and clinching the game with that interception. All of the linebackers played pretty well, I thought. Sean Fisher had to put up with a few extracurriculars from James Ferentz in the second quarter. Grade: B+
@huskerextrasip Sip after the play Ferentz smashed Fisher to the ground, continued to pin his head down and used his facemask to get up— Sports Nightly (@SportsNightlyNE) November 23, 2012
Secondary: Daimion Stafford had the easy interception, but his best play was tipping the ball away from Zach Derby in the end zone to keep Iowa from going up 14-3. Granted, Iowa's passing game wasn't going to put much of a strain on any secondary, so that freed them up on run support. Grade: B
Coaching: Nice adjustments, but I do have one criticism. In the fourth quarter, Taylor Martinez pitched the ball to Rex Burkhead on an option, except the pitch went forward. The officials missed the call originally, but it was clear from the overhead view it went forward. The coaches in the press box should have noticed that, and immediately signaled down to get a quick play off before the replay official could overturn the call. Instead, the coaches went about their normal routine, and gave the replay officials plenty of time to call for the replay. In that situation, even an incomplete pass for 2nd and 10 was better than the 3rd and 7 that resulted from lazily allowing the replay officials to correct the call. Grade: B-
Overall: B- It wasn't pretty...but it's effective. Six down, one big one to go. Originally, I was thinking this was a C performance, but as I went through this, it moved up to a B.
Elsewhere in College Football
Notre Dame: C- Once again, the Luck of the Irish prevails. Irish eyes are smiling that Lane Kiffin was on the other sideline last night.
Texas: F Bevo ended up in the turkey frier after the game.
ACC: F Lost Maryland to the B1G, then Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Florida State got demolished.