Big Red Report caught up HawkeyeInsder.com this week to take a look at the Huskers' matchup with Iowa.
1.) Iowa comes in more than likely needing a win to stay in the playoff picture despite locking up the Big Ten West. How do you think they will handle the pressure?
"They are a team that has seemingly been unrattled by anything they face all year. Whether that has been significant injuries, road contests, becoming the first 10-0 team in school history, key third downs, or last second field goals, they have stayed the course. They've credited it all year to the senior leadership on the team, and even recently Kirk Ferentz has grouped quarterback C.J. Beathard into that group.
Because of all that, I just don't think pressure has much of a factor in this one. Kirk Ferentz and a few of the players have mentioned that the only pressure they have is letting each other down."
2.) Nebraska didn't see C.J. Bethard last year under center. What has he brought to this team in 2015 that has allowed him to jump out to a 11-0 record as a starter?
"If you count his start last season, he is actually already 12-0 as a starter but yes, 11-0 t his season. He is just well grounded, focused, and comes up with so many clutch plays and it has spread to the rest of the team. His presence alone has made a significant difference. Tight end Henry Krieger Coble said after the Purdue game that as a team, they always feel like a play will be made as long as C.J. Beathard is under center. From that, a lot of it is just intangibles and the confidence and energy he instills in the rest of the team.
On the field, he does have a very, very strong arm and that sometimes gets overlooked. He's not some game manager. His biggest asset is the added element he gives the Iowa offense. He can run. His escapability has prevented a lot of sacks this season but he can also make plays out of the pocket whether that is running for first downs, long gains, or extending the play to allow his receivers more time to break open. That's the most important thing he brings to the table.The offense took a hit when he was playing injured and couldn't move around as much."
3.) What are the strengths of the defense and when teams have had success scoring, what have they been hurt on?
"The strength of their defense has been limiting the big plays and stopping the run. This team isn't complex. They know their identity and they stick to it. They don't beat themselves. They take care of the ball and commit very few penalties. They run the ball. On defense, they stop the run and force turnovers.
They make teams one-dimensional by stopping the run. They can be burned against the pass but in more of a 'bend but don't break' type of way. They'll allow yardage through the air but most of it is from the 'dinking and dunking' variety. When teams break free of the underneath routes and try to make a play downfield, that is where the Iowa defense begins feasting because they have such an opportunistic secondary. That's when they make you pay by breaking passes up and forcing turnovers.
As Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby said after last week's game, "They make you dink and dunk it to death. They make you earn everything. Every snap is grueling."
The defense has gotten in trouble on the perimeter of late. They haven't set the edge as consistently as they were before the season and some chunk plays are beginning to be allowed on the perimeter. They also have had a lack of pass rush lately. It was a concern when Drew Ott was injured and ruled out for the season but it hasn't reared it's head until lately."
4.) How has Hawk fans' mood changed regarding Kirk Ferentz after an offseason filled with doubt?
"They are still weary of the struggles of the past few seasons but they are just gracious that he found a way to figure it out again for the most part. They are forgiving and are just glad that he took the time to look in the mirror and make the changes needed to stem the tide of last year.
His critics are still there but he's nowhere near the hot seat as he was and the fans are no longer ready to jump off a cliff. They're not calling for his job anymore, as can be expected."
5.) What will be your biggest stat category to watch on Friday?
"Turnovers and penalties. The biggest discrepancies that I have found lie in those two categories and they are both in the Iowa Hawkeyes' favor. Iowa has the best turnover margin in the Big Ten at +11 and Nebraska's is the worst at -10. Iowa has committed the fewest penalties in the league with 55 while Nebraska has committed 82.
Nebraska is certainly talented enough and a good enough football team to win games like this. Look at the recruiting rankings and it is easy to see why they are only a few plays from being 8-3 or 9-2. However, they will not win a game like this if they continue to beat themselves.
On the other hand, Iowa's margin for error is much smaller. They've known that all year. They can't overcome mistakes like other teams. That is just the nature of the beast with a program like the Hawkeyes have. If they beat themselves, they aren't going to go anywhere. They'll have to continue using that recipe for success in order to get a win in Lincoln."