Know the Foe: Nebraska Football vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Well, here we go. The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ final chance at making a bowl game comes down to their annual showdown with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Unlike the Huskers, the Hawkeyes are 9-2 and have already clinched the Big Ten West division. However, this is a trophy game, and they will be playing to end Nebraska’s chances at a bowl game.

Here is a preview of this year’s Hero’s Game.

Know the Foe: Nebraska Football vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

2023 Thus Far

Iowa has had a successful season despite having one of the worst offenses in the country statistically. Despite only averaging 242.4 yards per game (130th), they find a way to win games. Their success stems from their dominating defense and special teams. Their defense ranks third in the scoring defense (12.36 ppg) and seventh in total defense (281.4 ypg). The Hawkeyes rank No. 1 in net punt yards, averaging 44.88 yards per punt. Senior punter Tory Taylor could realistically be Iowa’s 2023 season MVP. Their punting ability is game-changing. 

Their first loss of the year came to the Penn State Nittany Lions at State College. The Nittany Lions’ defense shut out Iowa 31-0. The Hawkeyes offense finished with only 76 yards, while Penn State gained 397 yards. Their other loss was against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Without going into the questionable call at the end, Iowa was shut down to only 10 points. They fell short against the Gophers, allowing four field goals. 

Individual Stat Leaders

Offense

Sophomore quarterback Deacon Hill leads the Hawkeyes in passing yards with 86/173 passes on 882 yards for 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Iowa’s offense mostly comes from their rushing ability with junior Leshon Williams and sophomore Kaleb Johnson. Williams has 139 carries for 668 yards and 1 touchdown. Johnson has 94 carries for 385 yards and 3 touchdowns. If they do pass the ball, senior tight end Erick All or senior wide receiver Nico Ragaini are the top receiver threats. Ragaini leads the team in receptions with 24 catches and 213 yards. All leads the team in receiving yards with 21 catches for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Defense

Senior linebacker Jay Higgins leads the Hawkeyes defense in tackles with 133 total on the season and one sack. Senior defensive end Joe Evans leads the Iowa defense in sacks with 5.5 on the season. Evans also has 39 total tackles on the season. Senior defensive back Sebastian Castro leads the Hawkeyes in interceptions with three and has seven pass breakups. Castro also has a touchdown on defense this season. 

History Between the Two

The Huskers and the Hawkeyes’ rivalry dates back to 1891 and Nebraska owned the series lead 30-3-20. The Huskers and Iowa rivalry officially became a trophy game in 2011 when Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Despite holding the series lead, the Huskers have only won against the Hawkeyes four times (2011, 2012, 2014, 2022). From 2015-2021, Iowa won seven consecutive times, with the last four games being decided by one score. Nebraska finally won one against the Hawkeyes last season, winning at Kinnick Stadium 24-17. 

The Huskers have lost five straight home games against Iowa but will look to win their second straight against the Hawkeyes. 

Key Things to Watch

To start, junior defensive back Cooper DeJean would be a player to watch on Friday, but Iowa will be without him due to a season-ending injury last week. It will be interesting to watch if Nebraska looks to take advantage. The Huskers can do that with the speed of either freshman receiver Malachi Coleman or freshman Jaylen Lloyd

Special teams will be something to watch on both sides. Senior punter Brian Buschini and freshman kicker Tristan Alvano will both need to be on point, as field goals and field position will be necessary. 

Like most games between these two teams, the game will be won in the trenches, and it will depend on whether the offense can score. Nebraska is entering the final week of the regular season on a three-game losing streak, with a game during the holidays on the line. With a win, they will clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016

The regular season comes to an end for both teams in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday, Nov. 24, at 11 a.m. CDT on CBS. 

Main Image: © Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

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