The Nebraska Cornhuskers haven't said "Aw, shucks" very often this season, going 9-2 (6-1 Big Ten) with victories over Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.
The Iowa Hawkeyes, on the other hand, haven't had "The Eye of the Hawk" lately (see what I did there?), losing their last five games after defeating Michigan State on Oct. 13.
The Hawkeyes are 4-7 (2-5 Big Ten) and just got thumped by Michigan, 42-17.
Here's a breakdown of the Big Ten matchup on Friday in Iowa City.
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
When: Friday, Nov. 23 at 12 p.m. ET
Live Stream: BTN2Go
Betting Line: Nebraska -15 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
What's At Stake?
Nebraska is currently leading the Legends division, holding the tie-breaker over Michigan after the Oct. 27 victory at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska hasn't won a conference championship since capturing the Big 12 back in 1999.
The Hawkeyes tied for first in the Big Ten in 2004. They tied for second in 2009.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
WR Kenny Bell - Ankle - Questionable
RB Rex Burkhead - Knee - Questionable
RB Damon Bullock - Back - Questionable
OL Nolan MacMillan - Undisclosed - Questionable
What They're Saying
James Vandenberg echoed how miserable Iowa's five-game losing streak has been after the loss to Michigan last week.
The senior quarterback simply said of the offense, via the Des Moines Register, “Same story, different day.”
The same could be said about the defense, which hasn't held an opponent to under 24 points since Oct. 13 against Michigan State. Michigan racked up 513 total yards against the Hawkeyes last week.
As for the Cornhuskers, they are one win away from making it to the Big Ten title game, where they would face Wisconsin (Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible in the Leaders division).
They have already beaten Wisconsin this season and a victory would propel them to the Rose Bowl.
Of course, head coach Bo Pelini isn't looking past Iowa on Friday.
Pelini said at his weekly press conference on Monday, via the Lincoln Journal Star:
There’s a lot of parity in college football and every week you’re going to get challenged. I think there are certain media outlets or fans who will try to put this team on a pedestal, or say these teams are better than these other teams. In college football you can get humbled in a heartbeat. You can get beat every week. We need to understand that going to Iowa if you don’t bring you’re A game, you can get beat. You’d better have respect for the game.
One only has to look at some of the wild weeks in college football this season to know that statement holds a lot of truth.
Nebraska Player to Watch: Taylor Martinez, QB
Taylor Martinez is the engine that drives this offense and his improvement has been remarkable this season.
The junior is averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt this season (best mark among qualifying quarterbacks in the Big Ten, via CFBStats.com) and he has tossed 21 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
As for carrying the pigskin, Martinez is seventh in the nation among quarterbacks in rushing yards (right ahead of Kansas State's Collin Klein) and third among quarterbacks in the Big Ten (behind Braxton Miller and Denard Robinson).
Iowa Player to Watch: James Vandenberg, QB
After Iowa's weak performance on the ground lately, it may be up to James Vandenberg to save the Hawkeyes on Friday.
But Vandenberg has not only averaged 5.9 yards per pass attempt this season (second to last in the Big Ten), he has tossed a mediocre seven touchdowns to six interceptions.
Oh yeah, and Nebraska has allowed 5.3 yards per pass attempt this season, second in the nation.
Key Matchup: Iowa Run Defense vs. Nebraska Rushing Attack
If Iowa can't stop Nebraska's running game, nothing else will matter. The Hawkeyes gave up 199 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to Michigan last week.
For the season, Iowa is allowing 4.15 yards per carry (68th in the FBS) and Nebraska has averaged 5.51 yards per carry (eighth in the nation) while accumulating 27 rushing touchdowns.
Prediction: Nebraska 35, Iowa 20
It's pretty simple: To beat Nebraska, you have to either be able to stop the run or have an explosive offense. Iowa doesn't have either and will fall in Iowa City.
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