Photo courtesy of Nebraska athletics
Less than two months separate us from the start of Nebraska football.
Year No. 3 of the Scott Frost campaign has fans in Lincoln excited. Hopefully, expectations are controlled after last season’s 5-7 finish.
The Cornhuskers bring back roughly 15 starters from the 2019 season. The loss of JD Spielman will hurt, but the continual pursuit of getting that true ‘Husker football culture back is well underway. In this 12-part series, we’ll be giving an early-season preview of each game.
To this point in our series, we have the Cornhuskers sitting at 6-3. On Thursday however, the Big Ten announced that it will play conference-only schedules.
Nebraska won all three non-conference games in our series. Take those away and Nebraska will be sitting at 3-3 heading into mid-November. On Nov. 14, Nebraska will continue a tough stretch at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have won five straight in the series, including a hard-fought 27-24 win last season in Lincoln. Iowa finished 10-3 and in the top 15 last season. Nebraska leads the all-time series, 29-18-3.
Why Nebraska Will Win
The last two meetings between the Huskers and Hawkeyes have come down to the very end. The Hawkeyes will also be breaking in a new quarterback this year in Spencer Petras. There’s a strong feeling that the Huskers are starting to game plan the right way for Iowa. The contest was a nail-biter last season in Lincoln, but quarterback Adrian Martinez really struggled.
Only five returning starters return for Iowa defensively, and it’s about time for the Huskers to expose this Hawkeye defense. Nebraska has nearly as many returning starters on offense as Iowa has in total too. The Iowa rushing game should still be solid with the combination of Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent. The Huskers need to win this contest in the special teams phase of the game. With a new kicking game, and speed in the returning game, Nebraska can do that. Expect a healthy Martinez or Luke McCaffery to help as well.
Why Iowa Will Win
Controlling the time of possession is the name of the game for the Hawkeyes. The last two match-ups have come down to exactly that, and it is why Iowa has won them. Iowa has been able to finish games better than the Cornhuskers since Scott Frost has taken over in Lincoln.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette is the key player in this game because of his big-play ability at the wide receiver position. Nebraska will want to stack the box as much as possible, so the 1-on-1 match-ups that Smith-Marsette will have could change this game in a big way. The Huskers have to limit the Hawkeyes to less rushing yards than the 225 they had in the 2019 match-up in order to feel good about this one. It should help the Huskers that AJ Epenesa won’t be suited up for this one. Epenesa tallied 14 total tackles, five for loss and two sacks in last year’s game for Iowa.
The offensive game plan must be better for the Huskers in this match-up as compared to last year. Can Martinez make the throws downfield to open up the running game? That will be the key because he missed far too many deep shots last year, which could have broke the game open. It’s not something that provides encouragement, but the kicking game could be key.
Iowa might possess the best kicker in all of college football in Keith Duncan. What he did to the Husker sideline after that game-winning kick from 2019 should leave a bad taste in Nebraska’s mouths. That taste will carry over and the Huskers will return the favor with a game-winning kick from 46 yards out to win in Iowa City this year.
Final Score: Nebraska 27, Iowa 24