Nebraska vs. Iowa State: 5 Things To Watch, Plus Key Matchups

Mike WehlingAnalyst INovember 4, 2010

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Coach Bo Pelini of the Nebraska Cornhuskers pumps his fist to the Husker faithful after their game against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Missouri 31-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Oct. 24, 2009 

The Cornhuskers were reeling from their blowout loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and were looking to bounce back against a 4-3 Iowa State Cyclones team.  It looked like a blowout—Nebraska with their great defense would shut down the Cyclones, and their average offense would be able to take advantage of field position. 

Both teams had injuries; Nebraska was missing Burkhead, Helu had an injured shoulder and most of their O-line had some sort of injury.  Iowa State was missing their quarterback Arnaud and running back Robinson, along with other players out due to swine flu. 

Even without their two best running backs, Nebraska was favored by a lot to win this game.  Eight turnovers later the Huskers were stunned, and Memorial Stadium fell silent by a 9-7 Iowa State win.


Nov. 6, 2010

The thing on both teams' minds going into this game is revenge.  The Huskers want to avenge their terrible performance last year, and the Cyclones want one last parting shot over Big Ten-bound Nebraska.  Both teams will win the Big 12 North if they win out, which would be the sixth for Nebraska and the first for the Cyclones. 

The Cyclones have had an up-and-down season, getting blown out by Iowa, Oklahoma and Utah, while pulling off their first win over Texas, and are still in contention for the Big 12. For a team that was picked last in the preseason, that's pretty good.

Nebraska comes into the game ranked seventh in the BCS standings.  They are on top of the Big 12 North, and they still have a shot at a national title with some teams ahead of them losing.  They have the best chance of the Big 12 North contenders at a Big 12 title and a BCS-bowl bid.


1. Is Taylor Martinez Ready To Go?

During the last game against Missouri, Taylor Martinez took a helmet to his leg and sat out for the second half.  Bo Pelini said that he was good to go after Martinez was determined to have a sprained ankle.  If Martinez cannot play or gets injured in the game, then Nebraska's offense may stall, as it has when Martinez is not in the ball game.


2. Can Helu Have Another Great Day?

Last week, Helu did what no other Nebraska running back did in the history of Nebraska: He rushed fro 307 yards in a game.  Mike Rozier, Ahman Green and other Nebraska greats never accomplished that.  Missouri had one of the best rushing defenses in the country, but Helu was able to run right through them.  Iowa State ranks towards the bottom of the country in stopping the run, and it will be very hard to stop Helu.


3. Can Paul Rhoads Pull Off Another Miracle?

Last year Paul Rhoads led his injured team into Memorial Stadium and upset the heavily-favored Cornhuskers on their way to a bowl season, something that Gene Chizik never could do.  Currently, Iowa State sits at 5-4 and needs one more win to get back to a bowl game, and the Cyclones would love to get win No. 6 against the Huskers.


4. Can the Defense Stop Robinson and Arnuad?

During last year's upset, Iowa State played without starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and starting running back Alexander Robinson, these two are the heart and soul of the Cyclone offense.  No offense to their backups, but these two are way better than what Nebraska saw last year, especially with another year of experience under their belts. 


5. Can Nebraska Hold On to the Ball?

Last year's game had the Huskers throw three interceptions and fumbled five times.  Nebraska has fumbled the ball 28 times this season and has given away nine of those.  If Nebraska wants to win the game, they need good ball control.  Iowa State's offense wasn't potent Nebraska last year, but they were able to make do with the favorable field position from the turnovers.


Bonus: Will the Nebraska-Iowa State Series Be Revived in the Future?

Who knows, Nebraska and Iowa State have played over a 100 times.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, Nebraska and Iowa State will not play any time in the future as conference rivals.  The only chance of this series continuing is an out-of-conference series or a bowl game.  The two campuses are not that far away from each other, and Nebraska has expressed interest in playing some of its Big 12 rivals in the future, so why not play each other?




Nebraska Offense vs. Iowa State Defense

Nebraska has the sixth best rushing attack in the country, but has one of the worst passing attacks in the country.  Martinez has improved as a passer, but other than Oklahoma State, he has not thrown the ball around that much. 

He may not play for this game, which would be a huge loss for the Huskers.  As a team, Nebraska averages 458 yards per game, which ranks as the 17th best offense in the country.  The team has fumbled 28 times this season and has lost nine of them; if they are turnover-prone like last year they may very well lose this game.

Iowa State's defense has not been very good this year.  Iowa State is 103rd against the run.  They rank as 102nd in the country in total defense, giving up an average of 432 yards per game.  If they want to stop Nebraska, they need to shore up on defense.

Edge: Nebraska


Iowa State Offense vs. Nebraska Defense

Iowa State does not have the greatest offense, in fact they rank 98th in the country.  It has not been great, especially against the ranked teams it has played, Utah, Iowa and Oklahoma.  They have been able to get the job done though.

They needed a third-quarter rally last week against Kansas to pull off the win, but it's never good when you need to rally to beat the worst team in the conference. 

Iowa State's biggest strength is its run game, and it ranks 52nd, avg. 152 yards per game, in the nation. Compared to their not so great passing game, that ranks one spot lower than Nebraska.

Nebraska has the best secondary in the country.  The average rating of a quarterback against Nebraska is an 89, and only allow 47 percent of the opponent's passes to be completed. 

On the other hand, the run defense has been a bit of a liability this season.  It ranks 72nd in the nation, giving up 162 yards a game.  If Iowa State can exploit that, they can make this a game.

Edge: Nebraska


Prediction: 38-14 Nebraska