1.) How was the mood after the Wisconsin game and was there any sort of moral victory that came from it?
Howe: “I'd say the mood was mixed. I think the players felt good about being able to hang with the Badgers but falling short of their goal was pretty crippling. Several players bristled at the "moral victory" assertion as did the head coach. The Hawkeyes had a chance to stay alive for their first Big Ten championship since 2004 and a horrible first half against Wisconsin did them it. It was a microcosm of the season that has seen them play lights out at times, like the second half against the Badgers, and them look confusingly awful at other times, like at Minnesota earlier this month. All season, the players and coaches have talked about consistency and we've reached the regular-season finale with them still searching for it.”
2.) How has quarterback Jake Rudock settled in after all the noise earlier in the season for either a two-QB system or to see C.J. Beathard?
Howe: “I think the two-quarterback system was a blip on the radar as it pertains to this season. It's basically turned out that C.J. Beathard was an injury replacement for a clear-cut starter in Jake Rudock, at least in the minds of the coaches, in particular, Kirk Ferentz. He was the person most uncomfortable with answering the time-share questions at quarterback and I don't think he ever believed it would work. In way, he agree. Rudock and Beathard are more similar than different in style so juggling them probably just prevents either from getting in a rhythm. We could see Beathard against Nebraska but I think it only happens in a blowout or if Rudock gets hurt. Honestly, Iowa's four losses can be traced back to a lot of other ills before you got to quarterback play.”
3.) At 7-4, the season hasn't gone exactly how Iowa fans envisioned it. How would a win over Nebraska for the second straight year help with the fan base?
Howe: “I got the sense that the majority of the fan base was encouraged by the team's play against Wisconsin. I think many of them feared a blowout after what happened to their team at Minnesota and what the Badgers did to Nebraska. There's certainly a growing faction of followers who have bailed on Ferentz and think the program needs a chance, but I think a win against Nebraska and then a win in a bowl would keep the natives from getting restless.”
4.) Give Nebraska fans a player on offense and defense that they need to know that doesn't necessarily have the star power of others.
Howe: “This is a tough one because Iowa doesn't have a whole lot of star power. I think the guy I would point to on offense is tight end Jake Duzey. The junior has become a bigger part of the game plan the last two weeks and delivered. He's basically a wide receiver playing tight end and creates mismatches. He's too quick for linebackers and can overpower defensive backs. He also has a knack for finding soft spots in the defense. Rudock seems to look for him quite often and Duzey can make yards after the catch.
“On defense, I'd go with Nebraska's own, Drew Ott. I think the Husker folks know about him but maybe are unaware of his breakout season. He's really excelled by taking advantage of one-on-ones with tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat eating up blockers. Ott can get to the quarterback quickly off the edge and has been much improved against the run. Keeping Armstrong and Abdullah inside this week will be a big assignment for him.”
5.) Your keys to the game and prediction.
Howe: “I think the key for Iowa will be stopping/slowing down Nebraska's option attack. It's something the Hawkeyes have struggled mightily with this season and given up some huge plays on the ground. For Nebraska, it will be getting pressure on Rudock. Maybe Iowa continues to try to pound the ball into the line for another week but something tells me the home team will lean on the air attack a little more, a little earlier this week.
“I think this is a toss-up game that could come down to field position, turnovers and special teams. I think the Hawkeyes are playing a little better right now and the home field could be big. Give me Iowa, 24-21.”