* Can the Huskers keep a lead? The last two games Nebraska has been up by double-digits, but didn’t’ win.
* Who will play for Nebraska? The Huskers are banged up heading in the Black Friday contest.
* Running back Ameer Abdullah (knee) isn’t 100 percent, but will play.
LINCOLN, Neb. - While Nebraska’s injury list is long heading into their matchup with Iowa, one player who won’t be absent is senior running back Ameer Abdullah.
Abdullah isn’t 100 percent. He hasn’t been since the first quarter against Purdue nearly a month ago. The Huskers are out of playoff contention, they can’t win their division, a win might not even affect their bowl destination – but the future NFL draftee is still trucking out there. It’s actions like this that proves he belongs as a Doak Walker Finalist (announced earlier this week).
"I haven’t had the proper time to give myself rest, but we don’t have time right now. We have to keep grinding,” said Abdullah. “The way things have been the last two weeks, that hurts much more than me being injured and statistically finish how I wanted to finish.”
Abdullah joins Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon in a Big Ten sweep of Doak Walker finalists. Abdullah won’t win. The way the last two weeks have gone, the argument could be made by critics there might be more worthy candidates - it’s not always about statistics. Take Ameer Abdullah off Nebraska’s roster and what is the Huskers record in 2014? Can the amount of leadership he’s brought to the team be measured? The numbers might be lacking due to his injury, but the voters got it right in his selection.
“That’s a good group, all guys from the Big Ten,” said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. “That shows the amount of talent we have at the running back position in the conference. He’s obviously one of them.”
Abdullah needs…well he needs a lot of yards to break Mike Rozier’s Nebraska career rushing record. It also won't happen. At one point, it looked like it might be easy for him to do it. It’s okay, it’s not what the senior wants to be remembered for.
“I just want to be remembered as a guy who gave it up for his team,” said Abdullah. “A guy who tried to be as circumstance free as possible. As a running back here, I try to be circumstance free instead of circumstance based. No matter what odds are thrown at me, an adversity thrown at me, I try to rise above that. I try to do my best with what I’m given. That’s the kind of person that I want to be remembered for here. A guy who genuinely cares about the well-being of the team rather than himself.”
Harvey’s keys to a Nebraska victory:
Tune out the noise. Last year the argument can be made Nebraska didn’t respond well to all the noise surrounding the Bo Pelini situation. The noise is back this year and it can’t become a distraction to players and even coaches. If it is, a little in-game adversity might end this team's day. You can't have a fragile mindset in November.
Limit the turnovers. It’s pretty obvious, but the proof is in the pudding. Nebraska committed three turnovers against Iowa last year. It was the difference in the game. Nebraska commits three turnovers last week against Minnesota, and it’s definitely the difference in the game – even if there were other blaring weaknesses.
Shut down the outside running lanes. There is a perception out there that Iowa is a running team. With Greg Davis calling the offensive shots, I wouldn't say that is true. They are a balanced squad and actually move the ball through the air a little bit better than on the ground. That said, a guy like running back Jordan Canzeri has the ability to get to the outside and hurt the Huskers – he did it against them last season. Wisconsin and Minnesota gave Iowa the perfect blue print to beat the Nebraska defense. If the Blackshirts (I use the term loosely) can’t be at least a little better in the area, it might be a long day.
Bo Pelini previews Iowa on Wednesday:
Big Red Report predictions:
Josh Harvey, Scout.com: Nebraska 24, Iowa: 17
Bryan Munson, BRR staff: Iowa: 31, Nebraska: 24
Brandon Huffman, Scout.com: Nebraska: 27, Iowa: 24
HuskerMo, BRR member/moderator: Nebraska: 21, Iowa: 17
CollegeFootballNews.com: Iowa: 27, Nebraska: 21