Bring Down the House: Iowa vs. Nebraska Preview

In this Thanksgiving edition of Bring Down the House, House makes some predictions for Iowa this weekend.

Bring Down the House: Iowa vs. Nebraska Preview

Jonathan House, Sports Editor

We have finally made it to turkey day, and with the holiday, comes football. This week, there are plenty of good matchups around the country, but I want to focus on Iowa’s chance for an undefeated regular season (its first of the modern era). Who would have even dreamed of this as a possibility in January following Iowa’s 7-6 season? College football is a crazy (but wonderful) thing, and I expect this week and the coming month and a half or so to be no different.

Iowa’s game against Nebraska presents a few interesting challenges. For starters, Nebraska needs to win just one more game to become bowl eligible-but only one game remains, and it’s this one. (although the NCAA has talked about letting 5-7 teams in to bowls if there aren’t enough bowl eligible teams). Secondly, this game is being played on Friday, giving Iowa only six days to prepare. The Huskers had a bye week and should be well rested and well prepared for this game. Also, Iowa must travel to Lincoln. Memorial Stadium is often considered one of the toughest places to play in in the country. (One article ranked it at 6th.) All that adds up to a game in which ESPN’s football power index only gives Iowa a 50.3% chance to win, despite being undefeated and playing a team that is under .500. Vegas only has Iowa as a two to three point favorite. What does Iowa need to do to cap off a historical regular season and avoid the upset in Lincoln?

  1. Find success in the passing game. Iowa is considered a running team, it always has been, and that may always be the case. However, with that being said, Nebraska’s secondary is quite honestly downright awful. Nebraska ranks 123rd out of 128 teams in passing yards allowed. The Huskers give up over 300 passing yards in their average game. However, Nebraska’s pass defense is great compared to another team that Iowa played this year-Indiana ranks dead last in pass defense. (Iowa had almost 100 fewer passing yards than the average team that has faced Indiana) I’m not saying for Iowa to pass all the time; Iowa will need to stay balanced, but one might expect the Hawks to put a bit more of a focus on the pass on their offensive possessions. Weather may also be a factor-winds will be from 10-20 miles per hour. It will be interesting to see how the weather is a factor for both teams.
  2. Win the turnover battle. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again, but teams that win the turnover battle generally win games. Iowa’s +11 turnover margin is part of the reason the Hawkeyes are 11-0. Nebraska ranks second to last in the Big Ten, behind only Maryland at -10 in turnover margin. If Iowa limits turnovers, and can force Nebraska to make mistakes, the Hawkeyes should win.
  3. Stop Nebraska’s passing attack. Nebraska has tended to favor the pass more than most Nebraska teams. Nebraska is also second in the Big Ten behind only Indiana in passing offense. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has over 2500 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. However, Armstrong also sometimes makes poor decisions. He has 12 interceptions, and a completion percentage just below 55%. If Iowa can get pressure on Armstong, as well as force him into third and longs, he may make mistakes, leading to Iowa’s success in the turnover battle.

I’ll admit that I’m scared for this game, the fact that it is a short week, and Nebraska is motivated and at home add to an already somewhat difficult matchup. I think that Nebraska will hang around in the first half, and Iowa will either be tied or have only a small lead at the half. However, Iowa will wear the Huskers down in the second half, and they will also make mistakes that will ultimately cost them the game. Iowa 31, Nebraska 24

Other Predictions:
Baylor 52, TCU 42
Michigan 24, Ohio State 21
Michigan State 24, Penn State 17
Florida State 34, Florida 21
Stanford 34, Notre Dame 28
Oklahoma 42, Oklahoma State 31