Iowa vs. Nebraska, 11.27.15

Nebraska defensive tackle Kevin Maurice (55) corrals both Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) and offensive lineman Jordan Walsh (65) in the first quarter on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, at Memorial Stadium.

TED KIRK/Lincoln Journal Star

It may be getting colder outside, but fortunately Nebraskans this week have hot takes firing off all around them to the question, "Is it a rivalry?"

Mike Riley got his chance to field that question about the Nebraska-Iowa game at Monday's news conference.

"I think, and you guys have a better sense of it than me, it seems like a really great natural rivalry that will just do nothing but grow and become bigger and bigger," the coach said.

"I mean, just the proximity, kind of the like-mindedness, I just think it's a perfect fit that way."

Riley isn't sure if all of his players view Iowa as a rivalry game or not.

But the games have been close, and fairly evenly split since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, with the Huskers coming out on top three times and the Hawkeyes twice.

The road team has won each of the last four games.

"The guys in this program see them as ... a constant competitor for this Western Division deal," Riley said. "So every game will be big, and you know, I think the rivalry part of it will be great for all of us surrounding it, the fans. And I think it will become more and more real."

Injuries to monitor: Both sophomore wide receiver Stanley Morgan and junior kicker Drew Brown suffered injuries during Nebraska's 28-7 win against Maryland that require them to go through concussion protocol.

Riley seemed upbeat that both could be available for Friday's game at Iowa.

"We anticipate if that all goes well, he’ll be ready," Riley said of Morgan.

And Brown, who was injured while making a tackle on the opening kickoff, was already set to practice Monday, according to the coach.

Sophomore linebacker Dedrick Young, meanwhile, continues to work on healing an ankle injury that kept him out of Saturday's game.

"He has improved. He feels better," said Riley, though he acknowledged he didn't know how much the linebacker would be able to do at Monday's practice.

Turkey delay: Kevin Maurice will admit something. He's not big on these Black Friday games, even though he's well used to them as a senior.

For one, it's a day less of rest. For another, it produces a strange Thanksgiving experience.

"It's tough for the fat boys," said the defensive tackle with a smile. "That's our favorite holiday."

The team does have a Thanksgiving meal of sorts earlier in the week. "But some guys, we just hold off on Thanksgiving until after," he said. "Starve yourself a little bit on Thursday, lose all that weight on Friday, and then scarf up on the weekend."

On the bright side, Maurice is looking forward to watching some games over the weekend.

"It will be cool to kind of have Saturday to kind of sit around and watch what happens," he said.

If NU wins, the Huskers will have heavy rooting interest in one Saturday game in particular: the Minnesota-Wisconsin game. The Huskers are hoping for a Gopher win, which would put a 10-win Nebraska team in the Big Ten Championship Game.

"Praying. Just crossing your fingers and just hope that they find a way to beat Wisconsin, and see what happens from there," Maurice said. "But we've just got to focus on beating Iowa first."

Time to be (really) tough: It's a short week of preparation and also the last week of November, which means everyone is dinged up in some way.

Both physical and mental toughness are a must.

"I think that this kind of week will exemplify those qualities that will be probably the separator in the game," Riley said. "That with where we are and how we're going to fight through with our quarterback (injuries), it's just going to be a different situation. We're going to be fine, but we've got to figure out what that means, and then mentally and physically be ready to play our toughest game."

Maurice said each player has to understand that "everyone at this point is hurting and everyone is tired."

No excuses there.

"If you're not hurting by now, you're not doing anything," he said. "It shows the work that you've put in throughout the year."

Keeping it pink: The visiting locker room at Iowa is painted pink.

As you may have heard, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had some redecorating done before his team hit the locker room.

Riley has no such plans.

"I don't think that that worked out so well for Michigan, so we're just going to go in there and play," he said. "Unless someone comes up with a real good idea for me, I'm not going to think about it too much, actually."

Quotable: "I think it would be awesome to get the 10th win. It's not that common. There's not going to be that many people in the picture of double-digit wins during the season," Riley said.

"There's lots of reasons to win this game. It's Iowa, it's a rival game, it's a chance to win the division to get to the Big Ten Championship Game. It's 10 wins. It's a better bowl game. There's a bunch of reasons."

Brian Christopherson

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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