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Nebraska Football: Previewing the "Heroes Game" Against the Iowa Hawkeyes

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 05: Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini prepares to take the field with his team against the Northwestern Wildcats at Memorial Stadium November 5, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Northwestern beat Nebraska 28-25. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIINovember 23, 2011

After getting throttled by the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House last weekend, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will look to bounce back in the last game of the 2011 regular season this Friday.

The opponent will be the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are 7-4 on the season. Iowa has lost some head-scratchers this season, losing games to the Iowa State Cyclones and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but they've also shown a penchant for the upset, beating teams like the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Michigan Wolverines. They'll be geared up for the rivalry game with the Huskers this week.

Nebraska will have to play mistake-free football if they want to head into the postseason with a 9-3 record. Here's a rundown of the Iowa Hawkeyes and a prediction for the game.

 

Offense

Iowa's offense is led by quarterback James Vandenberg, who has performed well in his first season. He has thrown for 2,624 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions on the season.

Running back Marcus Coker leads the running game with 263 carries for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns, while receiver Marvin McNutt has been Vandenberg's go-to guy with 74 catches for 1,240 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The offensive line is led by tackle Riley Reiff, a likely first-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 8:  James Vandenberg #16 of the Iowa Hawkeyes hands the ball off to Marcus Coker #34 against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the game on October 8, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K.
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Hawkeyes are ranked just 50th and 69th in passing and rushing yardage per game, respectively, but rank 41st in the nation in points per game, averaging 30.6 per contest.

Iowa clearly has a balanced attack that could give the Blackshirts fits. The defense will have to play much better against both the pass and the run with weapons like McNutt and Coker on the field. Alfonzo Dennard will likely be on McNutt for most of the game, so expect players like Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley to get more targets.

 

Defense

The Hawkeyes have been known for good defense under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and although they haven't been quite as good this year, they can still cause a good offense problems. A good example is their win over Michigan, in which they held Denard Robinson and the Wolverines to 323 yards and 16 points while forcing two turnovers.

The defensive line is led by end Broderick Binns and tackle Mike Daniels, who have a combined 96 tackles and 11 sacks on the season. The Hawkeyes are talented and productive at linebacker with Christian Kirksey (84 tackles, sack, interception), James Morris (87 tackles, interception) and Tyler Nielsen (46 tackles, sack).

Iowa's secondary is led by cornerbacks Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde. Prater is a lockdown corner, while Hyde has been a playmaker this year. Safeties Jordan Bernstine and Tanner Miller have had solid seasons as well.

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 5: B.J. Lowery #19 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends the final pass of the game against Roy Roundtree #12 of the Michigan Wolverines at Kinnick Stadium on November 5, 2011 in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa held on to win 24-16. (Photo by Joe Ro
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As a unit, this defense has allowed 23.5 points per game, good for 45th in the country.

 

Overview

The Hawkeyes have lost a few games they shouldn't have lost this year, just like the Huskers. But they have beaten some good teams and pose a real threat to spoil a the remaining possibility of another 10-win season for the Huskers.

Nebraska has been pretty good at bouncing back from losses for the most part under Pelini. However, there is some negativity surrounding the program right now, so we'll see how the players respond.

 

Prediction: Nebraska 24, Iowa 21

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