No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes preview
When the No. 16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-2) take the field against the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4) at Kinnick Stadium, the Big Ten West title will be on the line. Currently, the Huskers are sitting in a first-place tie with the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers at (6-2) in conference play. However, the Badgers hold the tie-breaker and will win the division if the Huskers fail in their quest for a 10-win season. In addition, the Big Ten West has a chance to finish the season in a four-way tie for first place.
When: Friday Nov. 25 3:30 p.m. et
Where: Kinnick Stadium- Iowa City, IA
The big question for the Huskers is who will play quarterback. Last week, Tommy Armstrong missed the Maryland game with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Ryker Fyfe on Senior Day. As a result, Fyfe played the best football game of his career in his second start with the Huskers. Unfortunately, Fyfe suffered an injury to his non-throwing wrist and had to miss the first few days of practice. Therefore, the Huskers had to toy with multiple options at QB, including Zack Darlington, earlier in the week. Armstrong is set to start the game, but the Huskers are prepared if he's unable to finish the contest. He enters the game with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Both defenses have played stellar football for the most part. Currently, the Hawkeyes have the No. 15 scoring defense, giving up 18.6 points per game. Meanwhile, the Huskers give up 21.2 points per game. With both offenses struggling to score in an explosive manner, the game could be a low scoring affair. The Huskers average 28.3 points per game, while the Hawkeyes score 25.5 points per game.
Huskers Ground Game vs. Hawkeyes Run Defense
Through 11 contests, the Huskers have run the ball 42 times per game in 2016. They only average 186 yards per game, equating to 4.4 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes give up 4.1 yards per carry. Opponents tend to shy away from the passing game. Therefore, the Hawkeyes face 39 rush attempts per game. It's imperative that the Huskers can break a couple of big runs. They also need to be able to sustain drives. Otherwise, the Huskers' offense may get overwhelmed as the game goes on.
Terrell Newby leads the Nebraska offense with 825 rushing yards. Does he have one more huge game left? Last week, Newby scored three short touchdowns in the win over the Terrapins. He gained 98 yards on 22 attempts. Newby hasn't been able to reach the century mark since gaining 102 yards in the win over Indiana. Therefore, Newby will likely need a breakaway run early-on. Keep in mind the Hawkeyes give up less than one rushing touchdown per game.
Once again, Josey Jewel leads the Hawkeyes' defense with 105 tackles. He also has five tackles for loss this season, giving him 13.5 for his career. It's not just Jewel's presence leading the way for Iowa's defense stout defense. Jaleel Johnson has been a monster inside for the Hawkeyes. He leads the defense with 7.5 sacks. Therefore, the Huskers have to avoid the big losses in the passing game. If they are able to consistently run the ball, Armstrong and company may keep the defense off balance.
Stopping the Hawkeyes' Ground Attack (Running Backs)
The Blackshirts are well aware of the two-headed rushing attack by Iowa. Leshun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley each have over 850 yards rushing this season. Wadley is the more explosive back in the passing game and is tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions. Daniels and Wadley make the team go. Yet, the Hawkeyes only gain 163.5 rushing yards per game.
The Hawkeyes have had plenty of trouble in their passing game with multiple injuries. Additionally, C.J. Beathard has been battered all season. Currently, he has been sacked 27 times. That's the second most sacks in the Big Ten behind Clayton Thorson's 29 sacks. Therefore, the Huskers have to stuff the run all day.
If they are able to get the Hawkeyes into passing situations, the defense will be able to pressure Beathard. The Huskers' defense enters the game with 22 sacks. Ross Dzuris leads the way with 5.5 sacks. So far, Beathard only has a 14-7 touchdown-to-Interception ratio, but the Huskers have quite a few ball hawks in the secondary. As a result, he may be reluctant to throw the ball during adverse conditions.
Safety Kieron Williams is tied for the Big Ten lead with five interceptions. Nate Gerry is second on the team with four interceptions, while Aaron Williams and Chris Jones have three interceptions apiece. In all, the Huskers have forced 16 interceptions. They rank eighth in the country, and third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin and Ohio State's 17 INTs.
The Verdict- Score Prediction
Since joining the Big Ten in 2011, the Huskers have a 3-2 series lead over the Hawkeyes. The last four games have been won by the road team. Last season, the Hawkeyes finished their undefeated regular season by defeating the Huskers, 28-20. Meanwhile, the Huskers defeated Iowa 37-34 in 2014. The Huskers keep up the trend of the road team winning and come away with a tough victory. In the end, the Huskers make enough plays in the passing game to secure the victory. Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp will be able to find the mismatches at the right time.