So, the Iowa game is finally here. Let us all pause for a moment to fantasize about slapping the ginger right off Shawn Eichorst’s miserable head for temporarily moving this game off of Black Friday.
There - I know yoiu all did it and don’t you feel better already?
Anyway, here is a game which many of us wrote off weeks ago as we wallowed in misery convinced we were headed for 4-8 or worse. Nobody’s chalking up a victory just yet, but we seem relatively healthy again and the offense is showing signs of life and..
There’s a sliver of hope and suddenly the idea of 6-6 - abhorrent before the season started when people were predicting division titles - seems like a pretty good thing.
So as we do each week, we contact one of our opponents in the SB Nation-verse and get their take on the upcoming tussle. This week, our counterpart is Jonah Parker of Iowa’s Black Heart Gold Pants, who was kind enough to answer our questions, even the snarky ones. Many thanks to Jonah for taking the time and away we go:
The Hawkeyes have won four in a row in this series and five of the last six. Hold on, before I ask a question, I need to go slap a small child.
*thwack* (Shrill scream)
What are the keys for Iowa to make it five in a row?
The key to success this season has really been the offense finding a way to look competent for more than the blink of an eye. If the offense line can get anything going in the run game and keep Nate Stanley clean, the defense has proven to be good enough to hold just about anyone under 20 points.
However, the run game has been a major issue all season. Despite having a pair of first rounders at tackle, Iowa is starting a freshman converted defensive tackle at center and is still looking for someone, anyone, to block somebody at guard. For a team that is built on running to set up play-action, that’s a major problem. Look for Iowa to try to establish the run early. If they don’t, Nebraska may be in business.
On the other side of the ball, the biggest key is keeping contain on Adrian Martinez. Phil Parker’s defense has been tremendous and is built to give up yardage between the 20s, but if they don’t account for Martinez’s legs they could have some issues keeping the Huskers out of the end zone.
Mekhi Sargant appears to have taken a backseat to freshman Tyler Goodson and even the bruising Toren Young, however neither of them could gain much against Illinois. Does that rotation shake up for the Huskers?
You’ll likely see all three sprinkled in. Goodson is clearly the future of the backfield and brings a gear that nobody else has for Iowa. However, given Nebraska’s struggles stopping the run, I would expect Brian Ferentz to try grinding out some yardage with Toren Young, who’s the big bruiser without a lot of burst. And Sargent is some blend of the other two who is the best pad blocker and a solid receiver on third down.
While Nate Stanley’s completion percentage is consistent with past years, his passes are finding the end zone less. Is this on him, his receiver corps or is there just a change in scheme this season?
It’s not just Stanley that’s finding the end zone less, it’s the entire offense. Kicker Keith Duncan leads the nation in field goals made and attempted in large part because the Iowa offense seems largely incapable of doing anything once they get inside opponents’ 35.
If offered a drink by a Nebraska fan at a tailgate, do you place your trust in us and drink up? Or do you ask your new benefactor to take a sip first? (Hiding evil grin)
I think the fact you had to ask the question should give you your answer. Trust no one at a tailgate west of the Missouri.
If you win Friday, your streak in this series will reach five in a row. Coincidentally, that equals the number of national championships the Cornhuskers have won. I guess there’s no question here, feel free to comment.
Do you still watch the VHS occasionally or did you have a Creighton grad concert it to a DVD? ;)
The Husker offense appears to have started waking up the last couple having gone for 531 (okay, Maryland but still) and 493 (outgaining Wisconsin). Does that give Iowa pause at all?
I don’t know that the raw numbers are concerning only because Iowa will gladly give up big yardage numbers if that does t add up to points. That’s been the recipe for this defense all year and really all career for Phil Parker.
All kidding aside, time to pick - Nebraska is highly motivated to get to 6-6 and bowl eligibility while Iowa is motivated by the opportunity to rub our noses in poop for another year. Who takes it and by what score?
This Iowa offense is simply not great. But the defense is very, very good. I expect this one to look a lot like every other Iowa game since Ferentz arrived in Iowa City. It’ll be close, the Hawkeyes will look lost with the ball, but ultimately I think AJ Epenesa and the defense pull out a win.
Iowa 27, Nebraska 20