Iowa football takes on Nebraska on Black Friday at Kinnick Stadium. Here are three things to watch and a prediction for the game.
The No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2) host the Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-3) on Friday in a battle for the Heroes Trophy at Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon CT on FOX. Iowa is favored (-13.5).
Both teams are headed in opposite directions, as Scott Frost has struggled to gain his footing in his third year as Nebraska’s head coach. The Hawkeyes have won three straight games after starting 0-2. Iowa will look to win their sixth straight against the Huskers.
Here’s three things to watch:
1. Who will be Nebraska’s starting quarterback?
We truly don’t know the answer as of Thursday evening. Both Luke McCaffrey and Adrian Martinez have gotten the nod for Nebraska this season, but neither have been particularly great. Martinez has struggled with accuracy, while McCaffrey has struggled with turning the ball over.
Frost stated several times during Monday’s presser that McCaffrey has a bright future for the Huskers, but was noncommittal about a starting quarterback for Friday’s game. Martinez opened the season as the starter, but lost his job two weeks ago when McCaffrey started against Penn State.
On the season, McCaffrey is completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 434 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Martinez has tallied 273 yards, one touchdown and one interception while completing 58.7 percent of his throws. Expect to see both against the Hawkeyes.
2. Can Nebraska’s run defense hold Iowa in check?
If Nebraska wants to pull off an upset, they’ll need to halt Iowa’s ground game. That won’t be easy. The Hawkeyes boast arguably the best running back duo in the Big Ten in Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent. The two runners are each tied for second in the Big Ten in rushing touchdowns (six). Sargent eclipsed 20 touchdowns for his career against Penn State, becoming the 17th player to do so in Iowa football history.
The Huskers have been one of the worst team’s in the country at stopping the run this season. Nebraska gives up 223.3 rushing yards per game, good for 115th in all of college football. Iowa doesn’t want to have to rely on quarterback Spencer Petras to be a major factor. Based on Nebraska’s track record, that likely won’t be the case. Expect big days for both Goodson and Sargent.
3. A clashing of heads: Iowa run defense vs. Nebraska run offense
The Huskers do one thing well on offense, and that’s running the ball. Nebraska averages 193.3 rushing yards per game, good for 39th in the FBS. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes allow 112.8 rushing yards per game (23rd) and just 2.84 yards per carry (5th). Something has to give. I’m gonna go with the Hawkeyes shutting down the Huskers rushing attack, especially if Nebraska can’t get the passing game going.
Prediction: Iowa 42, Nebraska 20
It’s hard to see the Huskers’ path to victory in this matchup. Nebraska doesn’t do many things well on offense, and the defense’s biggest weakness is Iowa’s greatest strength on offense. Expect over 200 rushing yards for the Iowa offense and a few takeaways for the defense, as the Hawkeyes make it six straight against the rivals from the west.