Nebraska had been among the nationally ranked as recently as last week, but Bo Pelini’s club dropped a gut-wrenching 28-24 decision to visiting Minnesota in what was the team’s second straight loss, and first at home this season.
Iowa is bowl eligible for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons, but the team has uneven over the last month or so, going just 2-3 in its last five games. The Hawkeyes lost a nail biter at home to Wisconsin last weekend, 26-24.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Iowa, 28-13-3, but the Hawkeyes snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers with last year’s 38-17 triumph in Lincoln.
Nebraska produced just under 400 yards last week against Minnesota, with star RB Ameer Abdullah accounting for 98 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. did what he could with limited attempts, throwing for 223 yards and a score in going 12-of-19, with Jordan Westerkamp and De’Mornay Pierson-El combining for nine catches and 134 yards and a score.
Defensively, the Cornhuskers surrendered 416 yards as they were on the field more just over 35 minutes. Golden Gophers QB Mitch Leidner was allowed to run all over the place, as he finished with 111 yards and two TDs on 22 totes, while UM’s standout RB David Cobb finished with 80 yards and a score of his own. Nebraska had two players reach double-digit tackles in the game, as Zaire Anderson and Nate Gerry amassed 12 and 11 stops, respectively. Anderson made two of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and he forced a fumble as well.
For the season, Nebraska is averaging a healthy 37.5 ppg, but surrendering 24.0 ppg. With Abdullah leading the way with his 1,417 yards and 18 TDs, the team is generating 453.8 ypg, which is roughly 80 yards per outing more than the opposition typically produces. Armstrong has hit the mark on only 52.4 percent of his passes for a little more than 2,100 yards, 15 TDs and nine INTs, with Westerkamp and Kenny Bell being the two most productive receivers with a combined 76 catches, 1,317 yards and seven TDs.
Bell is listed as questionable for this clash with a shoulder injury.
Anderson has 81 tackles to pace the Nebraska defense, which has done a decent job against the pass in particular with 193.2 ypg and only 10 TDs allowed. The unit as a whole has been credited with 24 sacks and 18 takeaways, of which Gerry has five (four INTs, FR).
Despite rolling up 412 yards of total offense, the Hawkeyes couldn’t pull off the upset of the visiting Wisconsin Badgers last weekend. It was the most yards Wisconsin had allowed this season, but Iowa was held pretty much in check, at least as far is scoring goes, until the fourth quarter. Jake Rudock did what he could to keep the Hawkeyes in the game, as he completed 20-of-30 passes for 311 yards and two TDs. Tevaun Smith and Jake Duzey combined to pull down eight balls for 150 yards and a score.
Conversely, the Badgers got another outstanding effort from the nation’s leading rusher, Melvin Gordon, who churned out an even 200 yards and scored two TDs on 31 carries. The Hawkeyes did a nice job against the pass, yielding only 139 yards on 11 completions. John Lowdermilk paced the unit with a dozen stops, while Jordan Lomax was right there with 11.
Iowa is putting up 27.7 ppg while permitting 22.8 ppg, and the team is averaging nearly 70 yards per game more than its opponents, checking in at 400.7 ypg. Rudock is averaging 217.4 passing ypg with 14 TDs and only four INTs. No running back or receiver is ranked in the top-10 in the Big Ten in the major categories charted for both positions, although RB Mark Weisman sits at No. 10 in scoring with 84 points.
The Hawkeyes are a middling defensive group, neither playing exceptionally well or all that poorly against either mode of attack. Iowa is the least penalized team in the conference (39, 326 yards). Lowdermilk ranks 14th in the league in total tackles with 90, while Lomax (76) and Quinton Alston (75) are close behind at No. 20 and 21, respectively.