The Iowa Hawkeyes have done a complete 180 on this season. Four weeks ago, Iowa was 3-4 and in last place in the Big Ten West. Now, after four straight wins, the Hawkeyes are in control of their own destiny. A win on Black Friday and Iowa is headed back to Indianapolis, winners of the West for a second year in a row and the third time in the last seven seasons.
A major part of that resurgence, of course, has been tremendous defense. The Hawkeyes, despite giving up a ridiculous 312 yards rushing (at 6.2 yards per carry, no less) to the Minnesota Golden Gophers a week ago, remain a top-5 scoring defense and top-6 total defense nationally. Phil Parker’s bunch has yet to give up more than 13 points during Iowa’s stretch run.
Up next, the Hawkeyes will face off with the Nebraska Cornhuskers with the Heroes Trophy and a Big Ten West title on the line.
The Huskers come in averaging just under 23 points per game on the year, but have really struggled during their most recent skid. Over their last four games, Nebraska is averaging fewer than 10 points per game and has scored just three TDs.
Even more important than the lack off offense over the last four games has been the lack of defense for the Huskers all season. Nebraska comes into the final week of the year with the 108th ranked total defense and the 91st ranked scoring defense giving up 427 yards and nearly 29 points per game.
Here’s an early look at what you need to know about this week’s matchup.
Date: Friday, November 25th
Time: 3:00 pm CT
Matchup: Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-8, 2-6) at Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3)
Location: Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, IA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: mostly sunny with temps in the mid-40s, 10% chance of precipitation with 10mph winds out of the W
DraftKings Opening Line: Iowa -10.5, O/U 37.5
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Friday’s matchup between Iowa and Nebraska will mark just the 53rd meeting between the two programs all-time. Despite dating back to 1891 (a game the Hawkeyes dominated 22-0), the series is nowhere near as active as most other on Iowa’s regular schedule given the Huskers have only been in the Big Ten conference since 2011.
The teams faced each other regularly in 1890s and then again for a seven game stretch in the teens and again for most of the ‘30s and ‘40s, but then took a 32-year hiatus before resuming for four years in the ‘70s. It was then off again 1983-1998 before the Huskers demolished Iowa twice more, and then never played again as a member of the Big 12.
Since joining the conference, however, this rivalry has clearly heated up. Iowa and Nebraska have faced each other annually on Black Friday since 2011, even amidst the pandemic in 2020. Iowa is 8-3 in those conference matchups and the Hawkeyes have won their last seven meetings. That’s the second longest streak in the series behind only Nebraska’s 8-game streak from 1931-1941.
The Huskers haven’t won in Iowa City since 2014. Coincidentally, that was their last win overall in the series. It came three coaches ago in a game the Hawkeyes looked set to win. Infamously, head Husker Bo Pelini was fired after that game as Nebraska needed to “evaluate where Iowa was as a program.” Where they were was on the brink of an undefeated season and the first of their Big Ten West division titles.
Now, eight years later, the Hawkeyes are in a position to defeat Nebraska to wrap up a third title in that period. Meanwhile, the Huskers have had just one winning season since Pelini’s firing and it came way back in 2016. Nebraska has averaged fewer than five wins per season in that span and have just nine total wins over the last three seasons.
While Iowa has won seven straight in the Heroes Game, the last four have been decided by one score or less. Nebraska is 5-24 in one possession games over that four year span. The Hawkeyes have scored at least 26 points against the Huskers in every matchup since 2012.
Preseason Prep Work
As we march toward kick off, be sure to check out our preseason preview for this week’s matchup. There’s loads of important details and unique looks at this week’s opponent, including these great stats:
0: Nebraska’s point differential going 1-8 during their 2021 conference schedule.
5: Nebraska’s win total in 23 one-possession games under Scott Frost, a 21.7% rate. That includes seven one-possession losses in 2021.
4.2: The yards/carry from Nebraska’s opponents last year. While it’s a 0.9 yard increase from the first season under Frost (109th in the country), it still ranked in the middle of the pack of the country at 66th and fifth in the Big Ten West.
-0.5: The Cornhuskers’ turnover margin per game last season. It ranked 103rd in the country and second worst under Frost.
Here’s a look at the preseason predictions for this one:
Staff Prediction: Iowa win, 80% of the vote
Fan Prediction: Iowa Win, 86% of the vote
BizarroMath Prediction: Iowa 20.51, Nebraska 22.44 (Nebraska +1.94)
Stay tuned all week as we dive deeper on the players, matchups and stats to know as the Hawkeyes face off with the Huskers.