HOW THE HUSKERS LIGHT UP THE SCOREBOARD
1. Regain efficiency. The conditions played a big part in Nebraska’s rough offensive day against Michigan State, but so did the Spartan defense. Nebraska doesn’t necessarily have to put 600 yards on Iowa, but it does have to find better efficiency than it managed against MSU. The Hawkeyes are coming off a shutout, but they’ve been scored on at times this fall.
2. A healthy JD. NU might take JD Spielman’s availability right to game time, but it would obviously be a big boost if he’s able to play. The sophomore receiver is second on the team in yards and catches and changes the game in many ways when he’s right. Even a less than 100 percent version would probably help the Huskers.
3. Contain the big boys. Iowa has a dynamic trio of defensive ends in A.J. Epenesa, Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse. Epenesa, in particular, is an emerging star not only in the Big Ten but nationally. The Huskers have to be able to at least hang in there both in the run game and in protecting Adrian Martinez.
4. Touchdowns. Nebraska beat MSU without a touchdown Saturday, a feat not accomplished by a Husker team since 1937. Still, it’s not an advisable strategy at Kinnick.
HOW THE BLACKSHIRTS SHUT ’EM DOWN
1. Stop the run. Iowa’s run game is not particularly good, checking in at No. 11 in the Big Ten at just less than 4 yards per carry. Given the other ways that Iowa can make hay on offense, the Huskers can’t afford to let the Hawkeyes get going on the ground.
2. Keep the turnovers coming. The Huskers have forced multiple turnovers in each of the past four games and have 13 takeaways in that span. Junior quarterback Nate Stanley has thrown nine interceptions and the Hawkeyes have lost just six fumbles, helping Iowa to a plus-seven turnover margin.
3. Tight against the ends. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson might be the best pair of tight ends in the country. In order for Nebraska to stay in the game, they at least have to limit the damage. Both are big and Fant, being an Omaha native, will be out to leave his mark. Last year in Lincoln, he had 116 receiving yards and two scores.
4. Stalemate Stanley. Stanley has played some tremendous football this season — 600-plus yards and 10-2 TD/INT ratio in a two-game stretch against Minnesota and Indiana — and had some really rough days, too, like an 18-for-49 outing against Penn State. Can the Huskers keep him in check and out of rhythm?
THREE NUMBERS TO KNOW
7: Iowa’s national rank in yards per carry allowed. The Hawkeyes give up just 3.04 yards per rush attempt.
77: Yards Stanley Morgan needs to become the first 1,000-yard receiver in Husker history. He needs 63 to tie his own single-season record, set last fall.
7.8: Yards per play NU is averaging against Big Ten West opponents this season. The Huskers average 582 yards per game against their own division and have at least 482 in each of those five games. This will be the biggest test yet.
UNDER THE RADAR
TE, No. 86, so.: Iowa’s got two exceptional tight ends, perhaps Nebraska gets a lift from one of its own. Stoll’s played a lot this year and has been productive at times, but has never had a real breakout game. No time like the finale for such an outing.
ILB, No. 5, sr.: The senior inside linebacker has started for four years and plays his final game Friday. He’s had his struggles this fall, but he’s been dependable and he’s slowly climbed the career tackles chart as a result. Young enters Friday with 274 career stops and needs just three to move past Lee Kunz and into the top five in school history. Eleven would tie him for fourth with Lavonte David.
Iowa’s defensive line against Nebraska’s offensive line
The Huskers have a chance to show just how much progress they’ve made under Greg Austin in Year No. 1. It’s the final game for senior center Tanner Farmer and left guard Jerald Foster. Can the Huskers get back on track on the ground and hold up against Iowa’s talented pass rushers? It’ll be an excellent test.
Hockenson and Fant against NU’s outside linebackers/nickels.
The Huskers don’t have a natural candidate to defend Iowa’s talented tight ends. Of course, not many schools do. It will be some combination of JoJo Domann, Cam Taylor, Tyrin Ferguson, Luke Gifford and NU’s other safeties that will team up to try to handle the big boys. It’s not that Nebraska can’t do it, it’s just that it’s going to take a lot of resources and attention to slow them down.
Iowa 31, Nebraska 30
It’s hard to pick against Nebraska given the past five weeks and the resoluteness with which, to a man, people in the program talk about this game. Picking the Hawkeyes by a point’s got nothing to do with the last three years or rivalries or anything like that. It’s just that Iowa’s a little deeper and has a defense that can cause some disruption. NU’s made plays all year and will again Friday, but maybe just one too few.