Battered Nebraska a Three Point Favorite Hosting Iowa
If there's an argument for keeping a head coach after a few disappointing seasons, this year's Iowa team could be it. Back in September, head coach Kirk Ferentz seemed to be leading a program in decline. He'd gone three straight seasons without a winning conference record, each worse than the last. His 4-8 record in 2012 had people openly wondering if the money could be raised to buy out his long and pricey contract. Now he's got his team sitting at 7-4 with a chance to go 5-3 in the Big Ten. The four losses have been to teams with a combined 41-3 record. If those results were produced by a new hire, Hawkeye fans would be over the moon.
One Man's Treasure
Contrast that with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, whose "disappointments" have been a winning conference record in every season and three conference championship game appearances. Despite his 8-3 overall record this season and 5-2 conference mark, people openly wonder about his longevity at Nebraska. Clearly, it's much easier to coach in the shadow of Hayden Fry than Tom Osborne.
Brick by Brick
The rebuilding job at Iowa has been nothing fancy. Ferentz has built a sound team that wins with physical football. The offensive line is a strength as the Hawkeyes don't give up sacks nor commit many penalties. They've also helped Iowa become on of the better rushing teams in the conference. The offense features a straight ahead running attack using big plowhorse back Mark Weisman. Their top receiving threat, Kevonte Martin-Manley, has done much of his damage in the punt return game returning two punts for scores. Six foot seven tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has been something of a favorite target in the red zone.
Not Great, But Effective
Quarterback Jake Rudock has been fairly accurate, completing 60% of his passes. But his 16-12 touchdown to interception ratio has made him one of the weaker starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten for pass efficiency. He manages to compensate for that at least somewhat with his running ability. He's managed to move the chains and be a threat to score in the red zone with his legs.
Iowa has one of the better defenses in the country, and does well both against the run and pass. Another low-scoring contest against Nebraska, as we've seen the last two years, should probably be the expectation.
Rested and Ready
Perhaps the most frightening element of this Iowa team is that they are rested and healthy after a bye week just two weekends ago. The Huskers will be playing their sixth straight game without a break after a short week. Nebraska has had to rely on a third-string walk-on at quarterback and a largely second-string offensive line. Speedy wideout Jamal Turners has been out for much of the season and defensive tackle Thad Randle missed time versus Penn State.
The Huskers will have to dig deep one more time to get a win on Senior day. This should be another hard hitting game. The betting public seems to think that the Huskers will do just enough to prevail. Let's hope they're right.