There’s a sure type of soccer that defines the Big Ten.
After a number of weeks of weak, tense, and bodily video games, Nebraska expects one other one on Friday.
“This aspect of the convention is analogous; They’re going to see huge linemen, they are going to run the ball and handle the clock and play good protection,” interim Nebraska head coach Mickey Joseph said Tuesday.
But Nebraska’s next opponent takes that Big Ten blueprint to the extreme — Iowa’s 7-4 record is despite an offense more suited to a team with a win or two than a division leader.
In fact, only one team nationwide has gained fewer offensive yards this season than Iowa. The Hawkeyes are averaging 253.7 yards per game, just ahead of a New Mexico team who are 2-9 this year. The other teams at the bottom of the offensive rankings are also in the midst of really painful seasons — UMass is 1-10, while Colorado State and Nevada are 2-9, and New Mexico State is stellar at 4-6.
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But as Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz proved this season, yardage is not all the pieces.
“If the bottom two teams are playing (for a national title), that revenue gain will probably be more important than mileage unless you can get a few hundred yards over your opponent on the board,” Ferentz mentioned. “At the end of the day, it’s about finding a way to win the game.”
To be truthful, Iowa’s scoring offense ranks barely increased at 17.5 factors per recreation at 123 within the nation. But that displays a protection that produces high-level punts and turnovers, and a devoted workforce unit that helps, too.
Iowa has produced 20 turnovers this season and has had touchdowns in 4 of these video games, which is only one fewer touchdowns than Spencer Petras has thrown this yr. The Hawkeyes are unlikely to throw a lot of the ball on Friday as their finest passing goal, senior tight finish Sam LaPorta, will miss the sport with a leg damage.
While Iowa’s offensive ceiling is low, Nebraska is at the moment in a scoring stoop of its personal. After a 37-point breakout towards Purdue on October 15, Nebraska went on to 39 factors of their subsequent 4 straight video games. While a lot of that stretch was with out beginning quarterback Casey Thompson, Nebraska continually struggled to guide the ball and string collectively first downs towards the elite Big Ten protection.
So this Black Friday duel is all about protection – and two good items are on show.
Few defenses are higher than Iowa relating to capping factors, because the Hawkeyes rank 4th nationally with 13.5 factors allowed per recreation. The gamers on the Iowa protection might change all year long, however their traits stay the identical — bodily defensive traces, clever linebackers, and ball-hawking defenders who excel in cover-2 schemes.
“Just from watching, they’re very physical, they’re doing a good job, they’re really involved in the running game and doing a good job in tackles,” Thompson mentioned of the Iowa protection.
While Nebraska’s season has successfully taken a breather after shedding 5 video games, the Huskers’ offensive struggles have coincided with a defensive resurgence. Aside from the 34 factors she gave as much as Michigan, the Nebraska protection has continued to put up low scores in current weeks.
Nebraska, particularly, shut out Minnesota and Wisconsin within the first half of each competitions. However, the interval of possession struggles stored the Husker protection on the sector for a lot of the sport, and Nebraska opponents took benefit of that.
Defenseman Colton Feist is aware of Iowa will look to keep up possession and put on it down, and is aware of the Huskers want to enhance their defensive performances to keep away from the identical destiny.
“They have a really good defense and we’re going to do our best to maybe score and put our offense in the best possible position,” Feist mentioned. “I think we’ll be proud of that this week knowing their defense is really good and doing everything we can with our defense.”
Indeed, there’s a certain quantity of pleasure that Nebraska can play for. In-state merchandise like Feist have felt the load of Iowa’s seven-game profitable streak towards its border rivals, a streak that features game-winning subject targets in 2018 and 2019.
And for a workforce chief like Thompson, this remaining recreation provides one other likelihood merely to play as a workforce for the final time forward of an offseason stuffed with transfers and potential personnel modifications.
“Regardless of what happens after this game, this will be the last time this actual team and locker room are together,” Thompson mentioned. “Every year there are new faces in the dressing room and in the building, whether it’s new players or new coaches, so I’m really trying to soak up the last few weeks with my team.”
Given the low rating forecast, is one other shut end imminent? While Nebraska failed to interrupt by towards Iowa, the final 4 video games have been one-score contests, with the Huskers enjoying a lot of the recreation.
Given what Iowa has to play for, Ferentz expects one other battle towards Nebraska.
“Most of them went to the end, so that’s to be expected,” Ferentz mentioned.
With his future with the Nebraska program and any low season transfers at stake, Joseph feels the workforce and employees are absolutely centered on the problem forward. Neither Mike Riley nor Scott Frost might get Nebraska to defeat Iowa; might Joseph be the one to interrupt by?
“I know it’s a rivalry game, so they’re going to be ready and they’re going to come out and play that game full force,” Joseph mentioned.