Iowa found itself ranked as high as 20th in the College Football Playoff rankings coming off an unlikely thrashing of Ohio State earlier this month, but the offense that was so proficient against the Buckeyes has returned to its early-season form. The Hawkeyes may catch a bit of a break in that regard in their final regular-season contest, however, when they travel to Nebraska on Friday to face the worst defense in the Big Ten as the teams battle for the Heroes Trophy.
Entering its Nov. 4 meeting with Ohio State, Iowa had scored fewer than 20 points in four of its first five conference games, but the Hawkeyes rolled up 487 yards on a one-loss team en route to a 55-24 victory. The Hawkeyes fell 38-14 at No.4 Wisconsin the following week and mustered only 258 yards last week in a 24-15 loss to Purdue to give the Boilermakers their first conference road win of the season. The Cornhuskers may provide a bit of a soft landing, however, as they have surrendered league-worst marks of 34.6 points and 429.9 yards under first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. During the 1-5 slide that may very well mark the beginning of the end for third-year coach Mike Riley, Nebraska is coughing up an average of 43.2 points and 510 yards - numbers made worse after giving up 609 yards in last weekend’s 56-44 defeat at No. 11 Penn State.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Iowa -3
ABOUT IOWA (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten): Akrum Wadley ranks seventh in the conference in rushing with 862 yards and needs 138 to become the fourth player in program history to produce back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and the first since Fred Russell in 2002-03. Linebacker Josey Jewell, who is one of the five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation with 11.7 tackles per game; his 117 stops are nine shy of matching his career high. Josh Jackson paces Division I in interceptions (seven) - one shy of tying the school record - and passes defended (24); the junior cornerback also ranks third in FBS in pass breakups (17) and interception return yards (163).
ABOUT NEBRASKA (4-7, 3-5): Stanley Morgan Jr. (Big Ten-best 91.2 receiving yards per game), who produced a career-high 185 yards on seven catches against Penn State, ranks second in the conference in receiving yards (912) - 31 shy of topping former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers’ school record. JD Spielman has already set school freshman receiving records for yards (830) and receptions (team-high 55). Tanner Lee went 19-for-22 for 327 yards in the second half versus the Nittany Lions after going 7-for-15 for 72 yards before the break; he has not thrown an interception in four of his last five games and is 62 yards shy of becoming the fourth Nebraska quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.
1. Iowa is 9-2 in trophy games since the start of the 2015 season and has won three of the last four meetings in this rivalry, including both games in Lincoln.
2. Morgan (second) and Spielman (seventh) already rank inside the top 10 in school history in single-season receiving yards and are the first Nebraska duo to top 800 receiving yards in the same season.
3. Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley (23) needs four more touchdown passes to tie Chuck Long’s single-season school record.
PREDICTION: Iowa 34, Nebraska 24