Iowa CITY, Iowa - Iowa and Nebraska fans held big dreams for their first Big Ten meeting this preseason. Many followers felt like the Heroes Game, as it was dubbed this summer, would be for a spot in the conference's first championship game.
Well, some luster was taken off that trophy in Year 1. Michigan State didn't cooperate and has the Legends Division clinched heading into the final week of the regular season.
Still, this is the inaugural trophy game in this series, which has only pitted the boarder schools against each other six times since 1946. It has the makings of a rivalry.
"Two competitive teams," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said of what makes a good rivalry. "We haven't done so well in this series. We were next to last I think, I don't know where we were ranked, I guess they don't rank the bottom third, but we were certainly at the bottom of the bottom third in '99, and they were in the top five, so that didn't help. Then we went over and turned it over a ton in 2000. We weren't very good then either and they were pretty good. That wasn't much fun."
Those contests came in the first two years of Ferentz's run as Iowa head coach. The Hawkeyes were in a rebuilding mode and Nebraska still was competing for national championships. Since then, the two programs have enjoyed similar success.
"We have a lot of respect for their program, coaching staff and fan base,' Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said. "It'll be a good tradition to play the University of Iowa every year."?
"I don't think anybody is trying to force (a rivalry). I think it is a natural thing. Big Ten matched us up on the last weekend, and I think it was the right thing to do."
HAWKEYE HUDDLE: Hawkeye fans attending the Iowa football game at Nebraska on Friday, November 25, are invited to attend the “Hawkeye Huddle” prior to kickoff.
The Huddle will be held from 8:00 – 10:00 a.m., at the Pershing Center, 226 Centennial Mall South in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Pershing Center is located one mile from Memorial Stadium where kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.
Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments, snacks, door prizes, cheerleaders and Herky. Visit www.jointheiclub.com for additional information.
TELEVISION: The game will be televised to a national audience by ABC. The announcers are Bob Wischusen, Bob Davie and sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards.
RECORDS, RANKINGS: Iowa is 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten.
Nebraska is 8-3 and 4-3. The Huskers are ranked No. 22 in both major polls.
HISTORY: This is the 42nd game in the series. Nebraska leads the all-time series by a 26-12-3 margin. The Cornhuskers have won the last three meetings. The last time the teams met was in 2000 and Nebraska came away with a 42-13 win in Lincoln. Nebraska has won five of the last six in the series. Iowa’s last win came in 1981 (10-7) in Iowa City. The last Hawkeye win in Lincoln came in 1943 (33-13). Nebraska leads the series (17-6-3) in games played at Lincoln.
THE LINE: Caesar's in Vegas installed Nebraska as a 9.5-point favorite to open on Monday.
FIrst thought: That's a lot of points for the Huskers to be laying coming off a beating at Michigan, a team Iowa defeated. Although still embryonic, it's a rivalry game.
The number makes more sense when you take a closer look.
Iowa has won once on the road this season, last week against Purdue in a game littered with mistakes by both teams. It also was not the true road test the Hawkeyes will face this week in Lincoln, as Ross-Ade Stadium was half full.
In addition to a raucous home crowd at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska runs the ball very well, something with which the Hawkeyes struggle. The Huskers also are tough at home, having handed Michigan State its lone conference setback there.
Nebraska also is the only team to beat Penn State this season, albeit coming during the week the sexual abuse scandal broke in State College.
The over-under number was off the board as of Wednesday morning.
Here are a some interesting trends:
-Hawkeyes are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games as an underdog of 3.5-10.0.
-Hawkeyes are 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 games as an underdog.
-Hawkeyes are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games as a road underdog.
-Hawkeyes are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 conference games.
-Hawkeyes are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games.
-Cornhuskers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games as a favorite of 3.5-10.0.
-Cornhuskers are 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 games as a favorite.
-Cornhuskers are 3-8-1 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
-Cornhuskers are 3-13-1 ATS in their last 17 games as a home favorite.
Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz vs. Nebraska LB Sean Fisher - The Hawkeyes true sophomore is starting to benefit from teams loading up against Marvin McNutt and Marcus Coker. And he's talented enough to make the opposition pay.
Fisher is athletic and can run. That should make this a good matchup and one that could play a big role in this game.
The Huskers likely will load up against Coker and double McNutt. Fisher and Fiedorowicz could get to know each other real well in one-one-one situations.
Iowa WR Keenan Davis vs. Nebraska CB Andrew Green - Similar to what we talked about above, a concentration by Nebraska on McNutt and Coker could open things up for some other Hawkeyes. Davis might be one of those guys.
Davis has been hobbled by an ankle injury the last month, but he looked good against Purdue last week. The Boilermakers played more straight up and got burned by McNutt and Coker, however.
If Davis gets single coverage on Saturday, he could, and needs, to make the Huskers pay.
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez vs. Iowa Front Seven - Iowa has troubles matching up against dual-threat quarterbacks. Is Martinez truly a dual-threat, however?
He looks a lot more like Denard Robinson than he does Dan Persa. Iowa likely will employ a similar game plan as it did to slow down the Michigan quarterback.
That's not full-proof, however. Minnesota's MarQueis Gray isn't a great passer, but he had his way with the Hawkeye defense.
Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead and Company vs. Iowa's Defensive Line - Iowa's issues against the rush have not been a secret. It has happened most often when the defensive front gets blocked down and the linebackers are forced to come up and make tackles.
Yes, that's normally the plan at Iowa. The Hawkeyes want to linebackers to make tackles.
But Iowa is young at the second level and has a tough time getting off of blocks. The Hawkeye linemen at least have to slow up Burkhead and his back-ups so they're not running full speed as they get down field.
Nebraska- Eric Martin (questionable, ankle), Ben Cotton (doubtful, shoulder), Andrew Rodriguez (out, foot).
Iowa - Mika'il McCall (out, discipline), Jordan Canzeri (out, hamstring), Jim Poggi (doubtful, undisclosed), Nolan MacMillan (doubtful, hernia).
-Nebraska stands at 8-3 in 2011 and a win over Iowa would allow the Huskers to secure their fourth straight nine- win season under Head Coach Bo Pelini.
-The Huskers have topped 200 yards on the ground six times this season, including a season-high 346 yards against Minnesota.
-Nebraska has produced nine 100-yard rushing games in 2011 (Burkhead, 6; Martinez, 3).
-Burkhead ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally in rushing yards per game (100.7 ypg), while Martinez is eighth in the Big Ten (74.3 ypg).
-Nebraska is averaging 31.5 points per game to rank third in the Big Ten Conference. The Huskers scored 40 points or more in each of the first three games, and have topped 30 points six times this season.
-Nebraska has fallen off in this department in 2011, allowing 24.3 points per game. Nebraska allowed just 17 points in back-to-back wins against Minnesota and Michigan State, but did allow 28 in a loss to Northwestern.
-Nebraska ranks 19th nationally in passing yards allowed at 189.7 ypg. NU is 30th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
-Nebraska PK Brett Maher is 17-of-20 on the season with all three misses from 50 yards or beyond. Maher is also perfect on 40 extra-point tries. Maher is tied for 10th nationally in field goals per game at 1.55 per contest and his 8.3 points per game places him third in the Big Ten and 33rd nationally.
-Nebraska has committed 17 turnovers in 11 games, and is -1 in turnover margin on the year.
-Nebraska has outperformed the opposition in the penalty department in seven of its eight wins in 2011.
-The Iowa football team is bowl eligible for the 11th straight season under Coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff.
-Iowa is 1-1 in 2011 against ranked opponents, defeating 13th-ranked Michigan and losing to 13th-ranked Michigan State earlier this month, both at home.
-Senior WR Marvin McNutt, Jr. has established a single season record for touchdown receptions with 12 this season (Maurice Brown had 11 in 2002). He also holds Iowa records for single season yardage (1,240), career yardage (2,786) and career scoring receptions (28).
-Iowa is sixth nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (34.3), tied for ninth in red zone defense (71.4%), tied for 17th in fewest turnovers (14), 17th in fewest penalties per game (4.6), 26th in pass efficiency (147.5), tied for 31st in turnover margin (+.4) and 32nd in net punting (38.2).
-Iowa’s Marcus Coker is 13th nationally in rushing yards per game (117.9).
- Iowa is tied for ninth nationally in red zone defense (71%), while Nebraska is
19th in red zone offense (89%).
-Iowa has two players on its roster from the state of Nebraska, including senior
DB Shaun Prater and freshman LB Cole Fisher. Junior TE Ben Cotton (Ames) is the only Iowan on the Nebraska roster.
THE PREDICTION: Full disclosure, I'm 1-3 in my last four predictions. Overall, I'm 6-5. So, whatever you do, don't take this prognostication to the bank.
I don't like this match-up for Iowa.
Nebraska runs the ball well. The Hawkeyes aren't good against the run.
The Huskers are good at home. Iowa is not good on the road (last week's environment at Purdue was tame compared to what it will face on Friday).
Nebraska does have a tendency to turn over the ball. Iowa is pretty good at protecting it. The Hawkeyes likely will need to win that battle to pull this one out.
Nebraska 24, IOWA 17