The Iowa Hawkeyes are set to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the final regular season matchup of the 2021 season on Friday. Iowa comes into the showdown on a three-game winning streak and holding a six-game winning streak over the Huskers. For their part, Nebraska has lost five in a row in 2021 and haven’t defeated Iowa in Lincoln since their first year in the Big Ten back in 2011.
Despite the different trajectories both this year and really over the last half decade, Nebraska opened up as a 4-point favorite in this one according to DraftKings Sportsbook. That likely had much to do with the Huskers playing in loads of close games despite a difficult schedule. All but one of their eight losses on the year have come by one score.
But when news broke that Adrian Martinez would miss the season finale for the Huskers, the oddsmakers quickly moved the line in favor of Iowa. When the spread came back to the books, it was Iowa -1 and the over/under dropped from 44.5 total points to 41.5. As of Thanksgiving Day, the line has moved half a point in favor of Iowa with the Hawkeyes now at -1.5 with the over/under still holding steady at 41.5 total points.
At The Pants, we’re on the Hawkeyes. Perhaps a little too on the Hawkeyes. All but one of our staffers is on Iowa to win this one outright and given the tight spread, that puts all but one of us on the Hawks to cover. Collectively, we’re calling for a final score of Iowa 21, Nebraska 19. That’s a bit closer to that 1.5 point spread but does still have us taking Iowa to cover. It also has us on the under. Again, it would have been more comfortable before the line change due to the Martinez injury, but we’re still on Iowa and the under - a tale as old as time.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions for this Black Friday showdown.
I was really excited to see Iowa as a 4-point underdog in this one when the line first dropped. Then we got the news on Adrian Martinez and I wasn’t totally sure what to make of it. Martinez has been up and down for most of his career. He’s a special talent, but his decision-making is pretty wild sometimes. In my mind, I had been marking him down for 4-5 back-breaking 3rd down conversions, a pair of interceptions and a likely early exit in this one anyway.
Without Martinez, I think Phil Parker focuses on stopping the run and we see more discombobulation out of the Nebraska offense, even if we get a solid performance from Logan Smothers or whoever else Scott Frost chooses to throw out there. That doesn’t help Iowa’s offense much, but I do think the Hawkeyes find a way to win another close one in this series. Or maybe it’s that Scott Frost finds a way to lose another one-score game for Nebraska. Either way.
Iowa 20, Nebraska 17
This is a game that has been terrifying me. Nebraska is a pretty decent football team. If Scott Frost stays out of the way of his players, Nebraska can beat us. I don’t feel that much better that Adrian Martinez is going to miss the game. The dude is a player and can cause problems, but I’ve witnessed too many games where an unknown player comes in and sets the world on fire. I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan and something called Cooper Rush put up numbers that Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman would have been proud of against my team. Our offensive line has been making a few strides; it helps to have Alex Padilla back there who can sidestep a pass rush or step up in the pocket. Tyler Goodson and Gavin Williams are proving pretty effective. Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV are going to be stars, and Iowa’s defense is Iowa’s defense (with the exception of David Bell). LeVar Woods has crafted one of the best special teams units in the country (please no more miscues with our punt unit) - also, look for a fake this week. Nebraska has played close games literally all season. Iowa is built to win a game by 7 points or less. I know, frustrating. It’s going to be another close one.
Iowa 20, Nebraska 17
Nebraska may be the best bad team in college football, but that still makes them a bad team. The Huskers are exactly one score worse than almost every team in the sport, and a program can only drop so many close games before we should stop viewing them as victims of bad luck and acknowledge that losing has become a pathology. When the Huskers win, they blow out their opponents (Nebraska’s margin of victory through its three wins is a whopping 39.66 points), and it’s difficult to see Iowa losing to this team in such a fashion with the Big Ten West still very much in play. The Huskers might keep it close as they are one to do, but their best hope to win the game disappeared along with Adrian Martinez’s name from the top of the QB depth chart. That being said, if the Hawkeyes jump out to an early lead, don’t be shocked if this game ends up getting out of hand.
Iowa 27, Nebraska 20
What has two thumbs and never beat Kirk Ferentz?
Iowa 20, Nebraska 16
Nebraska has 3 wins and fired a large portion of their offensive coaching staff in mid-season. Their veteran and playmaking starting quarterback, who has powered through many injuries which I’m assuming are from his coach throwing him under the bus, is out. Why does this game terrify me?
Well, this Iowa offense isn’t very good and the Nebraska defense is pretty salty. Oh, and that is a defense that will be without their top linebacker due to hand surgery. Everything is pointing in Iowa’s direction at this point and that alone is all I need to run the other direction and cover my eyes for three and a half hours. I’ll likely be making a significant emotional hedge bet to offset the therapy bills coming if the Hawkeyes lose this one. Please wake me when this one is over with good news.
Iowa 16 - Nebraska 23
I’m just going to need to see Nebraska beat Iowa under Scott Frost before believing Nebraska can beat Iowa under Scott Frost. Given that it’s Nebraska, they’re probably going to lose in the most excruciating way possible. Maybe something like Nebraska turns the ball over while driving to put the game away and then suffers the same fate as the Nebraska team two years prior. Caleb Shudak turns a loss into a win as time expires.
Iowa 21, Nebraska 19
That’s what we’re expecting come Black Friday. How about you? What’s your final score prediction as the Hawkeyes take on the Huskers in the regular season finale?