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The Pants Predicts: Iowa vs Nebraska

Can the Hawkeye seal the deal on a Big Ten West title?

Iowa v Nebraska
Will another set of Hawkeye seniors leave with the Heros Trophy?
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The Iowa Hawkeyes have done the unthinkable. After that abysmal start with one of the worst offenses in college football, the Hawkeyes are one win away from a Big Ten West division title and a second straight trip to Indianapolis. Standing in their way are a reeling Nebraska Cornhuskers team that’s lost five in a row.

Vegas is not expecting this one to be terribly close. Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have this one at Iowa -10.5 after opening a full point lower than that. The over/under on this one has slid down from 42.5 total points at open to 38.5 total points today (and that’s actually up from a low of 37.5 earlier in the week). That seems to indicate more of an Iowa style of game.

At The Pants, we like the Hawkeyes in this one, but not as much as we like the under. While all but one of our staffers is taking Iowa to win outright, none of us have the Hawkeyes covering a double-digit spread. All but one of us is on the under. On the whole, we’re calling for an average score of Iowa 19, Nebraska 13. That puts us well under the 38.5 total points in total.

Here’s a look at our individual predictions for Friday’s regular season finale.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.


I’ve been trying to stay pessimistic about this team for several weeks for a couple of reasons. For starters, I’m typically optimistic and if I learned nothing else from Seinfeld it’s that when things aren’t going well you should just do the opposite of what you normally would. It’s worked. Secondly, I’m not saying I’m superstitious, but I’m a little stitious and constantly picking against (and betting against) the Hawks has worked out quite well.

But I just don’t know that I can bring myself to do it this week. I don’t see a world where this defense lets a demoralized Cornhusker team sling it around in Kinnick on senior day. And this feels like another one of those games this Iowa staff has circled and we’ve seen in those games they actually seem to bring some semblance of juice to the offensive gameplan. I think Iowa actually puts some things together offensively, particularly in the run game, and we see one of the more complete games of the year.

Prediction: Iowa 23, Nebraska 13

Bartt Pierce

After attending Saturday’s Gopher game I’m both excited and nervous for the game against Nebby. We are good enough to play with most anyone, but we also can play down to most anyone. Nebraska has had a fairly talented roster for the past number of years, but they have found a way to help the Hawks win. With the injury to two offensive starters, LaPorta and Pottebaum, our bad offense will be even worse than normal. Can the Hawks go to the defense/special teams well again? I’m afraid we have pushed our luck and Nebby keeps us from Indy. I’m not one who doesn’t want to get to Indy; I’d love the chance. The Hawks will need to make a few plays on offense to win this one.

Prediction: Nebraska 23, Iowa 16


After playing so many tough defenses early in the season, catching a quick reprieve, then going back into the teeth of Wisconsin-Minnesota, Iowa gets another break this week. Scope those Nebraska defensive stats. 108th in total defense. 117th in rush defense. It’s a defense that is somehow WORSE than jNW and Purdue. That’s enough to give Iowa’s offense a lift, even if it’s artificial because of Nebraska’s incredible struggles on that side and Iowa being down Sam LaPorta and Monte Pottebaum.

Exactly none of us envisioned it happening this way, but they get just enough from the offense, and, oh yeah - they have the best unit in the game. Somehow, Iowa gets it done again and they make a repeat trip to Indy.

Prediction: Iowa 21, Nebraska 6


Man, I don’t know anymore. Is it possible for ties to become allowed mid-game? Because I could see that happening. This season is just weird and I have no idea anymore. Once again, we’re the better team on paper, but I think Nebraska wants this one more, but who knows. I’m going to flip a coin - heads for Iowa, tails for Nebraska. Let’s see what we get:

Prediction: Siri says heads, so Iowa wins, 17-13


I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. My head tells me to pump the brakes on my division championship expectations because you never know what could happen in any game, not to mention one against a border rival who hasn’t beaten you since 2014.

After tough wins against two other rivals who both field tough defenses, they’ll now face the conference’s 13th ranked total defense, and 12th ranked scoring defense. This should be a relief for an Iowa offense missing key pieces in Sam LaPorta and Monte Pottebaum. This is Luke Lachey’s time to shine, and newcomer Addison Ostrenga has a chance to start adding his name to Iowa’s storied tight end history. The Iowa defense should be effective at stopping the Cornhuskers’ 11th ranked (Big Ten) scoring offense, and putting the offense in favorable position. Ours isn’t any better (13th) so they’re going to have to carry their own weight as well.

For the last few weeks I’ve been running on superstition. Picking against Iowa has delivered wins since the Purdue game. I’m sorely tempted to keep that trend going, not wanting to rock the boat this close to the finish line. This team has thrown expectations out the window so I’m going to do the same with my superstitions and be positive. The Hawks will have to win this one without my help.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Nebraska 14


The data says Iowa. ESPN’s FPI gives Iowa more than an 80% chance of winning in this game. Vegas has the spread at Iowa -10.5 (last I saw). My own algorithm has Iowa favored by a whopping 18.55 points, projecting a final score of 28 to 10 and awarding Iowa a 79.75% chance of victory. The Hawkeyes are home on senior day. Reese Morgan is the honorary captain. We’re playing for a second consecutive Big 10 West title we don’t really deserve, but, look, nobody else wants it, either. Go with the machine, right? Big Iowa win.

No. Throw it all out the window, it doesn’t matter. This is Nebraska and this series has been trending stronger and stronger in Nebraska’s favor every year since 2018. Iowa went from dominant blowout wins in 2016 and 2017 to choking away big leads in the fourth quarter in 2018, choking away big leads in the third quarter in 2019, choking away big leads in the second quarter in 2020, and never having a lead until the game clock had 3:00 left last year. I’m running out of creative scenarios in which Iowa falls further and further behind but figures out some way to win. Nebraska has put up 20 or more points on Iowa every year since Frost took over, and Iowa had some salty defenses. Even though Nebraska’s defense isn’t good, I’m still not sure Iowa can score 20 on them.

I would not be the least bit shocked to see Nebraska win this something like 20-10. I’m going to stick with Iowa because of all the factors I cited in my opening paragraph, but I don’t feel good about it at all and am probably dooming Iowa to lose.

Prediction: Iowa 16, Nebraska 13.


I know Iowa will be without Sam LaPorta, one of the only players that can make plays in the passing game. I know the Hawkeye defense got gashed on the ground last week. I know the Huskers have a history of playing close games against the Hawkeyes, and that they are probably due for a win one of these years. I know Iowa tempts fate in every game it tries to win in spite of its offense, and that the team’s absurd streak of defensive and special teams heroics is unsustainable. I know all of this.

But I also know that I’ll believe Nebraska can beat Iowa (or any team with a pulse, for that matter) when I see them do it. And I haven’t seen them do it in a loooooong time.

Nebraska score early, but once Phil Parker locks in on its gameplan, the defense goes into full corn harvester mode and takes out its frustration from last week. Kaleb Johnson breaks loose a few times in the 2nd half, and the Hawkeyes make it a Senior Day to remember as they win the West.

Prediction: Iowa 17, Nebraska 10


I waited to get my prediction in later this week just to make sure Boilerhawk didn’t try to sneak in a prediction and jinx the season.

I both love and loathe this rivalry. I love beating Nebraska again, and again, and again, and again, and again...and again. But I also cringe at the thought of Nebraska fans coming out of the woodwork to rag on us if they ever do win this game. This year is no different. The three things to look for in this game are as follows:

  1. Is Casey Thompson careless with the ball.

The transfer QB from Texas has had a roller coaster of a year. He had been off to a nice start to the season passing yardage wise until an injury held him out for a few games down the stretch. He started last week against Wisconsin for the first time in a few weeks. Thompson’s problem this year has been his propensity for interceptions as he has 10 on the season. That stat alone is a reason to be confident in Iowa this weekend. If Thompson isn’t dialed in all game, this defense is going to pounce. If he is, Iowa may have problems.

2. Can the Hawks contain Trey Palmer.

Another transfer, Try Palmer is the best receiver in the conference not on Ohio. St. Palmer is approaching 1000 yards receiving for the season so he will probably get his in some form on Friday. It’s crucial though that when if he does, the Hawkeyes keep the damage between the twenties. Force Nebraska to drive the entire length of the field and it ever increases the chances for Thompson to make a mistake.

3. Can the Hawks move the ball without Laporta?

This one is self explanatory. Can an offense that struggles to move the ball to begin with, move the ball without its most reliable offensive weapon? Nebraska has been getting trolled all season for how terrible their defense was with Scott Frost at the helm. Since his departure though, save for the Oklahoma game, they have been respectable, including in their last two outings against West teams which saw them hold Minnesota and Wisconsin scoreless in the 1st half. It’s imperative for Iowa to be able to run the ball in this game and score off of that success.

After everything I mentioned above, give me the Hawkeyes. I said going into the Northwestern game if they got that win they would win out. Now that the Hawks are on the doorstep of making that happen I can’t jump ship. With that said, I believe Nebraska’s defense does give Iowa some problems and this game stays low scoring.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Nebraska 13

So that’s what we see happening on Friday. How about you, Hawkeye fans? Let us know your predictions in the comments below.