LINCOLN, Neb. – After giving his players Sunday and Monday off, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley had his team practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. The staff will then hit the road recruiting while players are given time off besides their normal scheduled weight lifting.
"We've played 11 straight weeks. We went right through fall camp and started playing games, so I'm approaching this week a little bit differently than I would normally." Riley said. "I'd like to get them rested. We'll start practicing Sunday afternoon."
Nebraska plays Iowa on Black Friday, meaning the Huskers have one less week of preparation time than a normal game week. A Sunday practice isn’t the norm on the game week schedule, but will work out considering the circumstances.
"In my old league, we were playing any night. We played them all…Thursday, Friday, Saturday. So we were always pretty flexible,” said Riley. “It's just about the countdown to the game and it doesn't matter the day of the week. Having a bye really, really helps us, considering that it's a Friday game. It's about time for us. I've really appreciated this team a lot. I think that they've stayed the course, battled a lot of injuries, got better and positioned ourselves to set the table for a big game."
On Tuesday, Riley said Nebraska did get an early jump on Iowa, but also focused much of the pracitce working on themselves.
At 5-6, Nebraska could be playing for their bowl lives (although a 5-7 Nebraska team might make a bowl game anyway) next week. A 22 point favorite over Purdue this week, Iowa will likely enter the game 11-0 and inside the top five in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
"It's really exciting." Riley said. "This is another great opportunity for this year's team. We've been on a little bit of a roller coaster in a lot of ways, so it would be just a great opportunity to win."
Nebraska players and coaches admitted on Tuesday they will be cheering for the Hawkeyes this weekend.
"I want Iowa to win. You want to play someone at their best,” said Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker. “I want to see them stay undefeated. I want to see them win. And they will. They won’t get beat by Purdue.”
Anyone associated with the program knows a 6-6 overall record wasn’t what many fans expected coming into the year. A three-game winning streak doesn’t erase anything. But, finishing the season strong with wins over two top 10 ranked opponents would be a big step for the program under a first-year head coach.
“To me it would really reveal who we are,” said senior running back Imani Cross. “We are fighters to the end. We always believe that. I think we are ready to prove that again.”
Despite giving up 35-points to Minnesota last weekend, Iowa is allowing just 18.4 points per game this season, good for No. 16 overall. They currently rank No. 17 overall in total defense.
“Top to bottom, they are really solid,” said Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf. “They have a very active front and every play they are playing lights out. Every play they are flying around, playing hard. They don’t give up any big plays.”
Big Red Report will have more on the Huskers’ matchup with Iowa over the weekend.