Josh Harvey of Scout's Nebraska site took time to answer a few questions regarding this week's showdown between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska is vying for a bowl game berth while Iowa is hoping to accomplish an undefeated regular season.
NEBRASKA HAS WON BACK-TO-BACK GAMES INCLUDING A MASSIVE UPSET OVER MICHIGAN STATE AND NOW HAVE A CHANCE TO GET TO .500 ON THE SEASON. I ASSUME THE CONFIDENCE IS HIGH AS IT'S EVER BEEN IN LINCOLN THIS YEAR. IS THAT TRULY THE CASE?
I think the win over Michigan State did a lot for the program in the short term and showed the players that even with a new scheme on both sides of the football Nebraska can play with anyone in the country. It was a slower than expected start, but after two wins Nebraska's confidence is high. If they would have just squeaked by Rutgers I think it would have been a different story, but Nebraska didn't play that well and still found a way to win by 17. That is a good sign.
IT IS NO SECRET WHAT IOWA WANTS TO DO OFFENSIVELY. THEY LOVE TO POUND THE BALL DESPITE THE PLAYMAKING ABILITY OF C.J. BEATHARD AT QUARTERBACK. THEY'VE HAD THREE DIFFERENT RUNNING BACKS RUSH FOR AT LEAST 195 YARDS IN A GAME THIS SEASON. THE STRENGH IS THE INTERIOR WITH SEAN WELSH, AUSTIN BLYTHE, AND JORDAN WALSH ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE. MICHIGAN STATE IS SIMILAR. THEY'LL HAVE CONNOR COOK THROWING THE BALL BUT LOVE TO RUN POWER. HOW DID THE HUSKERS RESPOND TO THAT TYPE OF STYLE AND WHAT'S IT MEAN FOR THIS GAME?
Nebraska has struggled to keep those style of offenses in check, mostly because the secondary has had issues slowing down quarterbacks who can get into a rhythm. Cook threw for 335 yards against the Huskers and Michigan State running back Gerald Holmes ran for over 100, despite Nebraska having a top 20 rushing defense. But, Nebraska's defense is probably at its healthiest all year, which is why we are seeing major improvements the last few weeks."
ADDITIONALLY, MALIEK COLLINS IS A HOUSEHOLD NAME FOR THE HUSKERS AND A LIKELY FIRST ROUND PICK IN THE NFL DRAFT WHEN THAT POINT COMES. IT'LL BE STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH WHEN HE FACES OFF AGAINST THE IOWA INTERIOR LINE. IS IT FAIR TO SAY THIS WILL BE HIS TOUGHEST TEST AND WHAT CHALLENGES DOES HE PRESENT FOR THE HAWKEYES?
Collins' box scores haven't been eye popping, but it's easy to look at the film and see how disruptive he has been in 2015. With the front seven finally healthy, he's also getting some help, which is not allowing teams to focus so much of their game plan on him - not only from the defensive tackle spot, but off the edge. Collins recorded a sack against Iowa last season and they will have to be wary of him again in 2015. This is the type of game where a player comes out and can get a lot of national attention. For a few games this season, Nebraska started to move the defensive tackle around and even stood him up. They haven't been doing it lately, but it will be interesting to see if they bring it back against Iowa.
WHERE ARE THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES ON THIS NEBRASKA OFFENSE? THEY'VE OBVIOUSLY CARRIED THIS TEAM IF YOU CONSIDER THE NUMBERS AND HOW MUCH THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SCORE. ALSO, THE ONE GAME THEY REALLY STRUGGLED WAS AGAINST ILLINOIS WHEN THEY ONLY SCORED 13. WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT GAME?
Earlier in the year I would have said Nebraska's offensive line was one of it's weak spots, but lately the front five has gotten a very solid push in the running game and protected Armstrong fairly well. During Nebraska's strongest offensive showings, Nebraska has had a solid running game and I think the Huskers will need to have a near 100-yard rusher again against Iowa to win on Friday. The strong running game has really taken pressure off Armstrong. Against Illinois, Nebraska's offensive line struggled to stay consistent and the running game couldn't create much up front. When Nebraska abandoned the rushing attack, the passing game was dealing with 30 mile per hour winds. It was a game Nebraska needed to establish itself on the ground and failed to do so.
IOWA IS ONE OF THE BEST TEAMS IN THE COUNTRY WHEN IT COMES TO TURNOVER MARGIN. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT TOMMY ARMSTRONG CAN BE TOO GENEROUS WITH THE FOOTBALL IN TERMS OF THROWING INTERCEPTIONS. IS THAT ONE OF THE TOP CONCERNS FOR THE HUSKERS HEADING INTO THIS GAME?
One stat usually doesn't tell the whole story, but in 2015 Iowa is +11 in turnover margin. The Hawkeyes are undefeated. Nebraska is -10 and fighting to get back to .500. Armstrong taking care of the football has to be the main concern for fans going into the contest. When he takes care of it, Nebraska is pretty hard to stop on offense and pretty hard to beat. He had three interceptions against Rutgers two weeks ago. He could get away with it against the Scarlet Knights. He won't be able to get away with it against Iowa. They are creating too many points off of turnovers.