How POSSIBLY can the Nebraska Cornhuskers give the Iowa Hawkeyes their first loss on Friday evening? Here are five ways.
Who has Iowa played?
Iowa’s strength of schedule ranks 65th in the country according to teamrankings.com. On the season, Iowa has top-25 wins against Wisconsin (10-6) and Northwestern (40-10) but outside of that, Iowa does not have an impressive resume. While a non-conference win over Pittsburgh is looking better each week, Iowa still lacks a big win. Vegas sees that too, the current spread is 1.5 in favor of Iowa. The Hawkeyes have escaped two of the last three weeks, against opponents a top-5 team should take care of with ease. It should be a great atmosphere and both teams have a lot to play for. Look for Iowa to struggle to contain a Nebraska offense that has been clicking of late and for Nebraska to have a good shot in this one.
Nebraska has dominated good defenses:
Nebraska has played some of the best defenses in the country this season, and had success against them. Versus Wisconsin, a top-5 defense, Nebraska ran for 196 yards, the second most of any team this season (Alabama). Against Northwestern, the number 11 defense in the country, Nebraska threw for 297 yards, the most of any team Northwestern has faced. Against Michigan State, a top-25 defense, Nebraska put up 500 yards of offense, the most any team has put up against MSU all season.
Iowa’s defense is very similar to Michigan State’s. Both teams rank inside the top-10 in rushing defense and struggle against the pass. The game could play out similarly to the Michigan State game, as long as Tommy Armstrong and this Nebraska offense can avoid turning the ball over. Look for the Huskers to establish a power running game, as they have the past few weeks, and then open up the offense (weather permitting) a bit later in the game. The Husker offense has showed the ability to move the ball against the best defenses, and I don’t expect that to change this week.
Iowa’s offense plays to Nebraska’s strengths:
Iowa is a team that relies on the run, and if you’ve watched a Nebraska game this season you know how good the Huskers are against the run. Iowa ranks 81st in pass offense throwing for just 210 yards per game. Iowa QB C.J. Beathard is a game manager, and does an excellent job of not turning the ball over. On the season Beathard has thrown just three interceptions compared to 13 touchdowns. Iowa’s rush offense is one of the best the Huskers have faced all season, Iowa ranks 28th in yards per game at 208. It also ranks 5th in the country with 33 rushing touchdowns on the season. If Nebraska is able to slow down the Iowa running game, look for the Huskers to have a real good chance at this one. If Iowa can establish the run early, it could be a different story.
The rivalry is developing:
I don’t like Iowa, but when Nebraska joined the Big Ten I didn’t see them as a rival. This is the type of season it takes for a rivalry to form. Whether Iowa wants to admit it or not, Nebraska has always looked at Iowa as a fly on the wall. At 11-0 that fly on the wall has become increasingly annoying to Husker fans. Nebraska has a chance to get the fly swatter out and kill the hopes of Iowa fans. All week the Huskers have heard about how Iowa is the superior team (there is reason for them to say that) and Nebraska fans have had to listen to it. It is hard to argue with 11-0 no matter how weak their schedule has been. It is going to be a crazy environment on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd (something Iowa isn’t used to playing in front of… even on senior day with an 11-0 team). Both teams want this game, and both teams have a lot to play for. I don’t see this being a blowout either way, and Nebraska should have a good shot towards the end of the game.
Iowa’s offensive line struggles to protect its quarterback:
If Nebraska can shut down the rushing attack of Iowa, and Nebraska takes an early lead Iowa will have to start throwing the ball. With the talent of the Nebraska defensive line, and the aggressive blitz calls we have seen from Trent Bray and the Nebraska defense, we could see a big day for the Nebraska defense. Iowa has allowed 20 sacks on the season, which ranks 54th in the country.