It's Four Factor Wednesday this week with the Black Friday game and Thanksgiving tomorrow. (Happy Thanksgiving a day in advance everyone!) Iowa has a chance to make an already successful year and quite good year and is playing for bowl positioning. A win probably means the Outback Bowl, while a loss is anywhere between the Texas and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. So what does Iowa need to do to win?
Running back rotation
In the second half against Michigan, Iowa figure out how to use Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, and Damon Bullock together, Bullock became the 3rd down back and Canzeri and Weisman split the load getting the primary carries. Weisman mostly ran inside, Canzeri outside. And it worked.
Nebraska, facing teams not named Michigan, has not defended against the run well. Teams have been racking up right around 200 yards against the Husker D as of late. Michigan State and Minnesota, whose rushing attack most closely resembles Iowa's, had 168 and 271 yards on the ground respectively.
If Iowa can get its rotation working early and pound out some yards, then it should have success in this game.
Conversely...Iowa needs to try and slow down Ameer Abdullah. Nobody has been able to stop him this year. UCLA came the closest, holding Abdullah to just 98 yards (even then he had 50 receiving yards). But he's had 100+ in every other game and a couple of 200-yard games. He is a HUGE part of Nebraska's offense. He averages around 20 carries per game with another couple of touches in the passing game.
One thing Iowa might have going for them, is that Ron Kellogg is not as strong of a runner as Taylor Martinez or Tommy Armstrong. That should allow the Hawkeye D to focus on stopping Abduallh. The D has been good against the run and the linebackers should be up for the test. If the Hawkeye's keep Abdullah around or below 100 yards, that'll be a win.
The turnover battle
Nebraska has had turnover problems this year. They fumble it A LOT (29 times this year...15 lost, which is 2nd worst in the nation). Turnovers are the reason Michigan was able to hang with the Huskers. They are the reason Michigan State won so easily. Turnovers played a role in the Northwestern game, the Minnesota game, and the Penn State game.
On Iowa's side of things, last week turnovers played a key factor in allowing Michigan to build a lead and really stay in the game at all. And it was a really late fumble that let the Hawkeyes seal the deal. Similarly against Northwestern, it was a late fumble that kept the game tied and let Iowa win in OT. Will Iowa have another close game decided by a late fumble?
Nebraska's QB situation has been rough this year, with Martinez injured and out. Armstrong has been Martinez's primary replacement, but he is also dealing with an injury and may not play on Friday. So that leaves Ron Kellogg. He's played in 8 games this year and handled most of the offense last week against Penn State. He's not quite as interception prone as Armstrong, but did throw one early against Northwestern that allowed the Wildcats to go up 21-7.
The Huskers have a bunch of seniors on their roster (23) and a lot of them are starters and have been played very well. Both corners, Evans and Jean-Baptiste, are seniors and have 4 interceptions a piece. The offensive line is almost all seniors and they pave way for Abdullah. Kellogg is a senior at QB. The other big threat on offense is WR Quincy Enunwa who has 44 receptions this year.
And there are more seniors, but the point is, with their final game in Memorial Stadium, they'll probably be fired up and ready to play. Iowa going to have to do its best to limit the impact of this large and talented senior class.
Both teams are going to lean heavy on the run. I think Abdullah will have the best day of any of the running backs, but Iowa will have the better day overall with its 3 running backs. Jake Rudock, who plays better on the road, will take care of the call and manage the game better than Kellogg and Iowa takes home the Hero trophy.
Final Score: Iowa 24, Nebraska 20