Nebraska rush offense vs. Iowa rush defense
Iowa’s run defense, allowing 3.04 yards per carry, is every bit as good as Michigan State’s. The Hawkeyes have perhaps the Big Ten’s best defensive line, anchored by defensive ends AJ Epenesa (13.5 tackles for loss) and Anthony Nelson (9) and well-coached, seasoned linebackers. Nebraska’s run offense, prolific as it's been against bad defenses, has struggled against the league’s best, gaining 39 yards against Michigan, 111 against Wisconsin and 103 against Michigan State. Adrian Martinez may have to be a bigger threat in this game, but he’ll need to watch his ball security. Devine Ozigbo is one of the Big Ten’s best backs, and NU’s offensive line has steadily improved this year. If Nebraska reaches 150 rushing yards, call it a good day.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense
Scott Frost and offensive coordinator Troy Walters know how to scheme a pass game, and so long as the weather is decent, they’ll find route combinations and schemes that work against the Hawkeyes’ secondary. Iowa’s front four is so good it doesn’t usually need more than four pass rushers, which helps the secondary. Iowa’s 17 interceptions are second-most in the Big Ten, and if Nebraska doesn’t have slot receiver JD Spielman, the passing game will be more challenging. Iowa’s young cornerbacks are vulnerable. Martinez plays beyond his years as a quarterback.
Iowa rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
The Hawkeyes run to set up the play-action pass, so they’re not necessarily trying to break big run plays with their zone-based scheme. They want to get linebackers flowing toward the run so Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley can throw over the top or create open routes on bootleg plays. Nebraska has struggled mightily with this scheme the last two seasons, but NU’s new, more aggressive run defense — coupled with Iowa’s lack of a playmaker at running back — should give Nebraska a decent chance to slow down Iowa’s run.
Iowa pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
The Huskers’ secondary is bordering on pretty dang good at this point. After a half-season of struggles — especially that awful 99-yard touchdown drive at Northwestern — Nebraska’s pass defense has righted the ship and will provide a significant challenge for the strong-armed Stanley, who’s capable of big games and big struggles. That said, Iowa tight ends TJ Hockenson (41 catches) and Noah Fant (38) are two of the nation’s best. Nebraska has neither faced tight ends this good, nor covered tight ends very well throughout the season. Iowa will see that on tape and try to exploit it.
Iowa has the league’s No. 1 kickoff return unit — according to average yards per return — and No. 2 punt return unit. The Hawkeyes also have excellent coverage units. Iowa’s lone struggle — punting — is shared by the Huskers. Special teams remains a work in progress for Nebraska, and if Spielman isn’t returning punts, it could be a tough matchup.
If you watched one quarter of the last two Nebraska-Iowa games, it was clear the Hawkeyes wanted it more and took pleasure in kicking dirt on the Huskers as they won. Iowa sees this game as a rivalry. Is Nebraska ready to admit the same? Husker players seem to embrace it. Frost has been a little cool to the touch for now because when he played, Nebraska had no true peers outside of Oklahoma. But on Friday it needs to matter to Nebraska. Iowa will punch the Huskers in the mouth otherwise.
Key matchup: Adrian Martinez vs. Iowa’s defense and the moment
Iowa is the better team in almost every key stat. The Hawkeyes’ defense is actually more robust, top to bottom, than Michigan State’s. But Nebraska has Martinez, and he’s capable of making runs and throws above and beyond what Iowa has seen this season. The true freshman will be a big part of NU’s attack.. He also has to protect the ball. It’s a tall order.
The Hawkeyes have won three straight in the series, and they should make it four. The numbers say it, home-field advantage at Kinnick Stadium says it and NU’s recent history against Iowa’s offense says it. And yet, doesn’t it feel like Nebraska is onto something at the end of this year? That the Huskers, for the first time in a long time, are a sum greater than their parts? Look for Frost and Walters to have scouted Iowa nicely, and look for Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander — a former Hawkeye offensive lineman who must know Iowa’s offense in his sleep — to have a plan, as well. Look for a close game. Heck, look for an overtime game. Look for Nebraska to find a way.
Our prediction: NEBRASKA 25, IOWA 24
Big Red Today coverage
World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Chris Heady tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast.
Minnesota’s offense, which started eight freshmen in its bowl win over Georgia Tech, averaged 5.68 yards per play last season, ranking ninth in the Big Ten. That’s UM’s highest average in a decade.
Ask around the offense, and "plus-twos" are as important as any conventional statistic coaches and players track. Moving a defender two yards can demonstrate a strength advantage and extra effort on an individual level.
Former Husker running back Ameer Abdullah re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses which players in Husker football history he'd most like to bring back to play for Nebraska today, and which one's would fit the current system best.
Twenty-one of the 33 upperclassmen scholarship players play defense. And 11 of that 21 are seniors. Big, bold vocal seniors who have played a lot of football. With that experience comes urgency. Wisdom. Responsibility.
The Tony Tuioti effect for Nebraska football recruiting is in full swing.
Deontai Williams said, he’s the “OG” of the safety group. He’s right, too — he and junior Marquel Dismuke are the veterans while redshirt freshmen Cam’ron Jones and CJ Smith learn and sophomore Cam Taylor bounces among safety, nickel and…
His boss got all the attention during last fall’s miserable start, but put yourself in Barrett Ruud’s shoes for a moment. Nebraska’s all-time leading tackler returned to his alma mater and hometown in 2018 to coach his old position —…
On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker explores some of Nebraska football's hardest losses, and narrows down what one play in Husker history he'd choose to change.
JoJo Domann is one of Nebraska’s most versatile defenders. And his coaches need an array of colorful language to describe him. Leaning against a wall on the second floor of the Hawks Center, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said Domann…
Former Nebraska running back Greg Bell — who left the program four games into the 2018 season — is transferring to his hometown school, San Diego State.
Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti wants a consistent daily mindset from his players, where linemen “press the reset button” after each practice to gear up for the next one with the same energy and enthusiasm.
If the first two weeks of spring practices are any indication, Nebraska's defense has some playmakers.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker previews the Blackshirts' defensive line personnel for spring football, reasonable expectations for the group and much more.
Even if Jovan Dewitt can’t make every meeting — even if, during practice, he has to take a knee and “get some hydration” — he’s going to be at every practice he can.
Nebraska has given Logan Jones something to think about. The Council Bluffs Lewis Central defensive lineman tweeted Tuesday he has received a scholarship offer from the Huskers after committing to Iowa last month.
It's a spring of transition on the offensive line, which lost several leaders from last year's team. Now a trio of juniors holds that responsibility, and this spring is an important step in their development.
Videos include an interview with Scott Frost, a recap of the the practice by Sam McKewon and Evan Bland and an update on Maurice Washington.
Circumstances are aligning for Jaylin Bradley to prove himself. Now coaches are anxious to find out if the running back can.
Attack. That’s a buzzword for the Husker tight ends this spring. Collectively, they’re the offense's most experienced group. But there’s a higher level the coaches expect these tight ends to reach.
So far, so good for true freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey. Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said McCaffrey, an early enrollee, has done well in spring practices to pick up the offense.
Scott Frost doesn't even want to say the Oklahoma word. But the drill Nebraska threw out in front of the media Monday morning did look a whole lot like the infamous Oklahoma drill.
This timeline of events in the Maurice Washington investigation is based on allegations outlined in court documents, investigator reports and officials' statements.
Nebraska was in full pads for its fourth practice of the spring Monday morning. The media were allowed inside practice for the first 30 minutes. Here's what we saw.
On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker skis down a mountain and shares the story of his all-time favorite Husker football game.
Husker running back Maurice Washington returned to California over the weekend to self-surrender to authorities, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
This column might be a shot-clock violation. But I received so much feedback from emails and on Twitter last week on the idea of a shot clock in high school basketball that I thought I would spill over into this…
Adrian Martinez’s head coach, Scott Frost, wants more. Much more, based on his comments last week. Don’t gloss over them. If Frost is bullish on Martinez’s potential — talking him up as potentially one of the best, if not the…