Last week the Iowa football team had nearly every starter back in the win over Illinois. Will we see the lone wolf, Brandon Smith, return vs Nebraska?
It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, it’s always important to have as many starters as possible healthy for a Big Ten game. Last week against Illinois, I thought it could be the case but we weren’t sure about Michael Ojemudia and Brandon Smith. Ojemudia ended up starting for the Iowa football team and put together a fantastic performance that earned the best defensive back grade in the Big Ten.
Smith, meanwhile, ended up not playing after seeing snaps the previous week against Minnesota.
I’ll be honest, I thought after Smith got in versus Minnesota, all systems were a go for Illinois, but it sounds like the injury isn’t progressing quite like Kirk would hope.
In his Tuesday press conference, he had this to say about the Smith situation:
"Brandon Smith is doing some things this week. We’ll see how effective he can be. But he’s clearly not 100 percent healthy at this point. We’ll just kind of play that one by ear."
Given the approach the Iowa football team has taken with other injuries this season (e.g. relying on the next man up mentality) and how the weather is expecting to shake out, I highly doubt we see much of Brandon Smith in tomorrow’s contest. It certainly helps too that Tyrone Tracy Jr has been outstanding as a replacement and Sam LaPorta is starting to get a bit more production out of the tight end position for Brian Ferentz eliminating the need to go four or five-wide at times.
On Nebraska’s side, the big question mark on the injury report is Paul Hornung Award finalist Wan’Dale Robinson. If he is unable to go, it will be a big blow for the Huskers as he is instrumental in three phases of the game (rushing, receiving, and return). The other injury to watch is kicker Barret Pickering, who statistically is Nebraska’s most consistent kicker. As we saw against Minnesota, a backup kicker can make a big difference.