Iowa CITY, Iowa - The drive to send Iowa's seniors out with a victory in their last home game Saturday ignited an improbable comeback against Michigan. The Hawkeyes now are faced with overcoming an emotional lift Nebraska could receive this week when 23 Huskers play their final contest in Memorial Stadium.
"That will be guys that have given a lot to the program," Cornhuskers Head Coach Bo Pelini said Monday. "Hopefully we can honor them by beating a very good Iowa football team, a team we have a lot of respect for. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff. They do a very good job; a very sound group. They play hard. They're a well-coached football team."
It's Year 3 of the teams competing for the Heroes Trophy, something Iowa has yet to possess. After being favored by 9 and 14.5 points the last two seasons, the Huskers begin this week as a 3-point choice, showing that the team to the east may be making up ground.
"It's nothing fancy," Pelini said of the Hawkeyes. "They execute. They're very fundamentally sound. It exudes the fact that they're a very well-coached football team.
"Kirk (Ferentz) obviously is a guy that's been known for his offensive coaching. Phil Parker, I have as much respect for him as any coach out there. These guys do a good job and the players play the right way."
A win in Lincoln will give Iowa a second-place finish in the Legends Division.
Iowa is 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers are 8-3 and 5-2. Nebraska is receiving votes in both major polls.
Nebraska holds a 28-12-3 advantage in a series that began in 1891.
Nebraska opened as a three-point choice on Sunday at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. The number remained there on Monday morning. The total had yet to be posted.
-Huskers are 13-2 Straight Up in their last 15 games at home
-Hawkeyes are 4-0 Against the Spread in their last 4 road games.
Iowa Front Seven v. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah: Last week, it was Devin Gardner whom the Hawkeyes had to contain. The challenge shifts farther into the backfield on Friday. Like Michigan, injuries have hit the Huskers hard on their offensive front and Iowa will need to take advantage of it in trying to slow Abdullah.
Iowa QB Jake Rudock v. Nebraska DEs and DBs: Iowa's first-year starter has been prone to throwing interceptions. His 12 picks are tied for most in the Big Ten with Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, who has attempted 74 more passes. The Huskers have picked off 13 balls, which ranks fourth in the conference. They also have 33 sacks, second in the league.
Hawkeye fans are invited to the Hawkeye Huddle before Saturday's game, 8:30-10:30 a.m. The Huddle will take place at the Embassy Suites - Downtown, located at 1040 P Street in Lincoln.
POINTS OF INTEREST
-Nebraska has limited Iowa to 14 points or fewer the last seven meetings.
-James Dobson, Nebraska's head strength coach, was a member of the strength training staff for Iowa football from 1999-07. Nebraska assistant strength coach Tyler Clarke also was previously a member of Iowa's strength training staff.
-Nebraska assistant Rick Kaczenski was an Iowa graduate assistant for two years (2005-06) working with the offensive line, then served as Iowa's full-time defensive line coach from 2007-11.
-Nebraska heads into Friday's contest with Iowa with an 8-3 overall record, putting the Huskers one win from their sixth straight nine-win season. Nebraska is one of four schools that has won at least nine games each of the past five seasons. The others in that group include Alabama, Boise State and Oregon. Alabama and Oregon have secured nine-win seasons in 2013, while Boise State stands at 7-4 on the season.
-Nebraska will have 23 seniors participate in their final game at Memorial Stadium on Friday. The 23-man senior class has helped Nebraska to 47 wins over the past five seasons
-Nebraska is 9-3 in November since joining the Big Ten, including two wins over Iowa.
-Nebraska is averaging 233.7 rushing yards per game to rank third in the Big Ten and 19th nationally.
-Junior RB Ameer Abdullah has rushed for 1,483 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, while averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per carry. Abdullah's average of 134.8 rushing yards per game leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth nationally. In conference games only, Abdullah averages 145.4 yards per game to rank second in the league in rushing.
-In conference play, the Nebraska defense is allowing 323.9 yards per game to rank fourth in the conference in defense in league contests.
-Nebraska is second in the conference in pass defense, allowing just 172.4 passing yards per contest in seven Big Ten games, just two yards behind Iowa. Nebraska's seven league foes have completed just 48.2 percent of their passes, the best mark in the conference.
-The combined record of the four teams to defeat Iowa this season is 42-3. The Hawkeyes six wins are against teams that are 28-50.
-After winning four games a year ago, Iowa is 7-4 and one of eight BCS conference teams to have improved by three victories or more from a year ago.
-Iowa is bowl eligible for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons.
-The Iowa defense has not allowed a first-quarter touchdown in 10-of-11 games. Northern Illinois scored a first-quarter touchdown in Week 1. Michigan returned an interception for touchdown in Week 11.
-Iowa has scored 30 offensive touchdowns – 16 pass and 14 rush. Net yards are separated by 50 yards (2,279 passing yards vs. 2,107 rushing yards).
-Iowa's 2,107 rushing yards are its highest single-season total since 2008 (2,453).
-Iowa has three players on its roster from the state of Nebraska, including LB Cole Fisher (Omaha), DL Drew Ott (Trumbull), and DL Nathan Bazata (Howells). Nebraska has three Iowans on its roster: WR Alex Balke (Iowa City), WR Lane Hovey (Adel), WR Gabe Rahn (Le Mars).
-Iowa's scoring defense is ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten (18.9 ppg), while its pass defense (189.2 ypg) and total defense are rated third (304.5).
-Iowa has forced 54 3-and-outs on 132 drives, (40.9-percent).
Iowa has allowed 11 red-zone touchdowns, the fourth-lowest total in the nation.
Iowa has played 19 games decided by three points or less since 2009. The Hawkeyes went 4-1 in those games in 2009, 1-3 in 2010, 0-2 in 2011, 2-4 in 2012, and 1-1 in 2013. Iowa is 2-0 in overtime the last two seasons.
After a miserable 2-4 start to the season, I've picked the last five Iowa games correctly. That gave me the same record as the Hawkeyes.
You might think that I know something; haveIowa figured out. Um, no. Far from it.
Going into Game 12, it's a hard team to gauge. The players will give maximum effort. Beyond that, they might blow a halftime lead or overcome a deficit as they did against Michigan.
This week's game looks very even as did the one against the Wolverines. The difference for Iowa is that it's on the road.
The Hawkeyes have three wins away from Kinnick this season including what's turned out to be an impressive domination of Minnesota. The others came against Iowa State and Purdue, which has three wins between them.
I think Iowa has a really good chance in this game but I'm having a tough time getting past it being senior day in Lincoln.
SCORE: Nebraska 16, IOWA 13