Happy Thanksgiving Hawkeye fans! As you stuff your bellies with all the holiday goodness, we continue to prep for the final regular season Iowa football game of the year. The Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln for a Black Friday showdown with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in what is sure to be another tight one.
Our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook opened this one with the Hawkeyes favored by 1.5 points, but throughout the week the line has drifted more and more towards the Huskers. As of this morning, it’s flipped to Nebraska -2.5, marking just the third time Iowa has been an underdog this season. The Hawkeyes are 1-1 in those two prior matchups at Penn State and at Wisconsin.
While the line has flipped from Iowa to Nebraska, the over/under has also dipped lower and lower. After opening at 27.5 total points, it’s fallen to just 26 points as of this morning, making it the lowest point total on record.
Here at The Pants, we’re a bit more optimistic, which is a bit rare. All of us are on Iowa to win outright with an average score prediction of 17-11 in favor of the Hawks. That puts us pretty well on the over, another head-scratcher.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions for Iowa-Nebraska on Black Friday.
Is there a chance Iowa comes out flat after clinching the West on a short week? Yes. Is there a chance Nebraska comes out on fire with the first chance at a bowl in nearly a decade? Also yes. But everything about this season seems to indicate both of these teams are going to settle into an absolute slog where this just comes down to which team makes the fewest mistakes with the football.
So far this season, the Hawkeyes have managed to overcome mistakes despite a lack of turnovers created because the defense has been just so suffocating. I think this week, we see the defense get over the trend and create 2+ turnovers, including a game-sealer in the final minutes to give Iowa the edge in a revenge match these seniors want badly.
Prediction: Iowa 16, Nebraska 13
I was able to see our squad in person last week against Illinois. You get a much clearer picture of the team watching that way vs. what the TV shows us. My takeaway is that Iowa’s margin for error is less than razor-thin. The Hawks did just enough to get the win. That’s Iowa football, and I’m good with it. Winning is the goal. Deacon Hill is getting better. We now throw to wide receivers. As far as Nebraska is concerned, Matt Ruhle is a good football coach who respects the Hawkeyes. Such a far cry from Scotty Frost. I can’t hate Nebby as I did before. Nebraska has everything to play for. The Hawks? Not as much, but you know that Kirk Ferentz and our Hawks will do everything they can to win the ballgame. It won’t be pretty - it never is - but I think the Hawks get the win.
Prediction: Iowa 16, Nebraska 9
Ready for another rock fight? I know I am. It’s this way every week, always and forever. Iowa will be ready for this game despite having the division wrapped up - last year’s loss to the Huskers is fresh in everyone’s mind. Nebraska needs this for bowl eligibility, which they haven’t done since - are you ready for this? - 2016. Iowa has the better defense and Nebraska’s offense is about as bad as Iowa’s plus they turn the ball over at an alarmingly stupid rate. Iowa’s turnover luck shifts this week and the offense cashes in to push Iowa to 10 wins, somehow.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Nebraska 7
Another week, another game involving two of the worst offenses in the country and two of the best defenses, it’s no surprise that this game will set another record for lowest O/U (sitting at 26.5 as I write this). Nebraska put up 14 quick points last weekend against Wisconsin but could only manage 3 points in the final 3 quarters. Iowa struggled to put up 15 points against an Illinois team that is allowing nearly 10 more ppg than Nebraska.
Nebraska’s defense gave up 24 to a Wisconsin offense that featured a quarterback with a broken hand, while Iowa held Illinois’ offense to 13 points, stifling their rushing attack and keeping Isaiah Williams in check. Illinois does not have a good offense, but it’s better than Nebraska’s (and Wisconsin’s). In the battle between stoppable forces and immoveable objects, the team that has more to play for often wins the day. That being said, this Iowa team doesn’t just love winning, they hate losing, and I’m not sure Nebraska hates losing enough to go bowling in Matt Rhule’s first season as HC.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Nebraska 10
I can’t stomach the thought of losing to this team, year in and year out. I just can’t. Logic be damned, I can’t ever choose Nebraska to win this game. Also I have a good gut feeling about it. Our guys want to keep them out of a bowl — you know it’s true.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Nebraska 14
I’m fighting the temptation to call this one a loss really hard. Maybe it’s a possible post-division winning hangover or the ever-looming threat of this team falling off the tightrope they have to walk in every game. Maybe it’s the fact that for the last few years each Nebraska game has been closer than it should’ve been. However, I’m willing to bet that last year’s loss to the ol’ Bugeaters really bothers Kirk and despite this game not having any bearing on the division, he wants it for pride if for nothing else.
I haven’t watched a lot of Nebraska football this year, and when I did tune in it was more for the schadenfreude than opposition research. Therefore my prediction is based on nothing more than a feeling and superstition. This will be Deacon Hill’s first true road game since October 14 and I think it’ll get to him early on. He’ll struggle for much of the first half and Iowa will have to once again play from behind. The Iowa defense locks down in the second half and Drew Stevens breaks the tie, and Husker hearts, with a game winning field goal.
Prediction: Iowa 16, Nebraska 13
So that’s how we see this one playing out. How about you, Hawkeye fans? Let’s hear those predictions in the comments below!