Date: Friday, November 27
Game Time: 2:30 pm
Venue: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
For the fifth straight year Nebraska and Iowa will meet on Black Friday with more on the line than usual in the Heroes game.
Usually when the two meet up at the end of the regular season, the game garners some sort of national attention. None more than this year, with Iowa looking to keep their playoff chances alive. But, Nebraska has plenty to play for as well and not just as spoilers. Just three weeks ago the Huskers were 3-5 and their bowl chances looked bleak. After an upset win over Michigan State and a victory at Rutgers, Nebraska looks to become bowl eligible. A win over Iowa would also give the Huskers two wins against teams ranked in the top 10 in 2015.
“It would be big for our team, and our team going forward. It would give us a chance to continue practicing (if bowl-eligible) and in that practice, work longer with younger guys in the development part of it, the guys that are redshirting right now that we could spend a little more time with,” said Nebraska head coach Mike Riley. “Lots of residuals there, just for this team, it would be great and also for our upcoming team.”
A year ago this time Riley was game planning for Oregon State’s rival Oregon, with no thoughts of leaving Corvallis. Now he looks to prep Nebraska in a game that is becoming a rivalry at least between players.
“It’s Iowa. That’s all the motivation we need,” said quarterback Tommy Armstrong. “It’s been tough games every year. We went in their hometown and upset them last year. Two years ago they did the same thing here and we’re looking forward to it. I think the seniors are looking forward to it. That’s going to be a great atmosphere with the crowd and our fans and things like that, being in the top two or three in the nation, just like Michigan State was in the past. We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great game. We just have to make sure we take care of the football and give ourselves a chance to win the 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.
“One thing about Iowa, my impression of them is that there’s not a lot of fancy stuff,” said defensive end Jack Gangwish. “They’re just good at what they do. It doesn’t matter who they play. That’s what they are going to do. The challenge for us is to execute at a high level and try and make them change it up.”
THE SERIES: Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is just 1-5 against the Huskers and Nebraska is 3-1 against the Hawkeyes since joining the Big Ten. Nebraska also leads the all-time series 29-13-3. A recent Black Friday affair, Nebraska came back from 17 down in 2014 to beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.
WHAT A WIN MEANS FOR NEBRASKA: The Mike Riley era didn’t get off to the start many thought, but finishing the regular season with three straight wins, including two against top 10 opponents would give many the confidence the program is headed in the right direction. It would also push the Huskers’ record to 6-6 meaning they would lock themselves into a bowl game. The last time Nebraska missed a bowl was 2007.
WHAT A WIN MEANS FOR IOWA: The Hawkeyes look to stay in the College Football Playoff picture with a win over Nebraska. Iowa is already slotted to represent the Big Ten West in the conference championship, but will likely need to beat both the Huskers and Michigan State, despite having a 11-0 record, to make the semi-finals. If they were to lose one of the two, they would likely fall to the Rose Bowl.
NEBRASKA INJURY LIST:
RB.) Mikale Wilbon – OUT
RB.) Terrell Newby - PROBABLE
WR.) Brandon Reilly – PROBABLE
DT.) Kevin Williams – PROBABLE
WR.) Stanley Morgan – PROBABLE
LB.) Michael Rose-Ivey - PROBABLE
NEBRASKA PLAYERS TO WATCH ON OFFENSE/DEFENSE:
WR.) Jordan Westerkamp – After not registering a catch in 2013 against the Hawkeyes, the junior wide receiver only logged two catches for 13 yards against Iowa in 2014.
“We’re going to have to be strong in our routes, we’re going to have to be good in protection because if indeed you’re getting disrupted,” said head coach Mike Riley. “If you can buy the quarterback a little bit more time so that those receivers have some time to get back and win in the secondary, that’s going to be a big issue in this game.”
DE) Jack Gangwish/Greg McMullen – Iowa quarterback C.J. Bethard is an escape artist. While he’s not one the Hawkeyes will set up a designed run for, he can extend a play with his scrambling ability. Nebraska’s two defensive ends will really have to do a solid job trying to contain the quarterback with pressure coming up the middle from Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins.
REASONS TO BE CONCERNED: Iowa is often labeled a run-heavy team, but the Hawkeyes have had success through the air. In 2015, they have actually have more passing yards than rushing yards. Quarterback C.J. Bethard only has three interceptions and is hitting on nearly 61 percent of his throws. The Nebraska secondary has improved the last few weeks, but is far from a finished or fixed product. Currently the Huskers rank No. 125 in the country in total passing defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We want to put all of our focus into this like we always will for here forever more. We are where we are right now. We can’t redeem those games or get them back in any way, so what we try to do as coaches is continue to grow and play our best game. What the players need to do is do that too. I think we’ve done that the last couple weeks. We’ll need to do that with another jump to win this game. That is it. Yes, it will feel good. It will feel good to beat a good football team. That’s the goal.” – Nebraska HC Mike Riley
JOSH HARVEY’S PREDICTION: I think this is going to be a really close game. Ultimately I could change my prediction right up until kickoff, but at this point I’m going to go with Nebraska. Memorial Stadium is probably worth a couple points and the amount of pressure Iowa will face coming into the game will play a factor. It’s a close one. Nebraska: 28 Iowa: 24
DEREK YOUNG’S PREDICTION: It is really hard to go against Iowa right now. It would be a shame for me to pick against the Hawkeyes. I think they win. I think it’s a close game. I think it’s another close loss for Nebraska. You have no reason to pick against the Hawkeyes right now. They keep finding a way to win.
OTHER NEBRASKA PREDICTIONS:
Matt Svoboda, BRR contributor: Nebraska 35 Iowa 34
Joe Quinn, AM 590: Iowa 35 Nebraska 28
Brett Edwards, KLKN-TV: Iowa 24 Nebraska 17
Andrew Ward, KLKN-TV: Nebraska 28 Iowa 24
Peter Terpstra, KLKN-TV: Nebraska 24 Iowa 21
HuskerMo, BRR board member: Nebraska 31 Iowa 28
OTHER BIG TEN GAMES OF NOTE:(Ohio State at Michigan / Indiana at Purdue / Maryland at Rutgers / Penn State at Michigan State / Wisconsin at Minnesota / Northwestern at Illinois)
Harvey (21-7 overall): Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Svobdoa (17-11 overall): Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern
Quinn (18-10 overall): Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Edwards (17-11 overall): Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Ward (17-11 overall): Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern
Terpstra (17-11 overall): Ohio State, Indiana, Rutgers, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern
HuskerMo (19-9 overall): Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern