When: Fri. Nov 25; 3:30p.m. ET
Where: Iowa City, Iowa; Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 29-14-3
Nothing says the day after Thanksgiving in Big Ten country like a matchup for the Heroes Trophy. At least that is what the Big Ten has tried to sell us all since the inception of the annual game between Nebraska and Iowa upon Nebraska’s entrance in to the conference in 2011.
Luckily for the conference, this game has meaning and that means destination TV viewing for the day after Thanksgiving. I mean, all that is at stake is a berth in the Big Ten championship game — at least for the Huskers.
Sure, Iowa has a shot at making it to the title game but the scenario in play is so unrealistic we’re not going to give it the time of day here. That said, both teams are playing for more than pride and that means a hard-hitting football rivalry is going to be turned up a notch or two.
1 Burning Question: Is Armstrong Up to the Task?
Iowa vs. Nebraska on Black Friday is the Big Ten’s newest tradition, and it is a game that has had major divisional implications throughout its brief history. Whether it was Legends or the West division crown at stake, the Heroes Game has determined who goes to the Big Ten championship game on a few occasions.
That could be in play on Friday, as the Huskers have legitimate hopes of making another trip to Indianapolis. Of course, a win on Friday isn’t enough as the Huskers will also need a loss by the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday.
Still, this is territory that Nebraska has been in before since arriving in the Big Ten. It is also the last chance for Tommy Armstrong to produce what every player dreams about in Lincoln these days — a conference championship.
With a 1-2 record against Iowa staring him in the face, Armstrong would love to erase a bad history against the Hawkeyes as one of his final acts on a football field.
Armstrong has been unable to deliver that and has only seen, not participated in, the Big Ten championship game before. He’d love nothing more than to go out on top, but that might require less of him and more of the team around him.
That’s what happens when you’re dealing with a nagging ankle injury and missed last week. Can Armstrong be physically what the Huskers need to win this game?
2 Key Stats
—100: Iowa hasn’t lost a game in which it has rushed for 100 yards or more as a team in 2016. Isn’t that a fun fact? The Hawkeyes’ four loses this season have come while the team rushed for totals of 34, 79, 83 and 30 yards. Iowa hasn’t rushed for fewer than 164 yards in a victory all season long and is going up against a Huskers defense that is 5th in the B1G against the run (129.8 yards per game).
— 4: Each of the last four games in this series have been won by the visiting team. Yes, you’re seeing this correctly. Iowa has won three of the five meetings overall since the Huskers joined the Big Ten, with two of those coming at the venerable Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Can Nebraska even the series in the B1G era between these two schools?
3 Key Players
Akrum Wadley, Iowa RB: If there is one thing the Huskers defense has been brutal on it has been giving up the big play. If there is one running back in Iowa’s backfield that screams big play, it is Wadley, who comes in with a team-high 861 yards. He’s got six plays of 15 or more yards and three runs of 25 or more on the season.
Combined with LeShaun Daniels’ 800-plus yards, the two are just the third running back duo to both rush for over 800 yards in the same season. Let’s see if this group can combine to upset the Huskers and save a rather disappointing season from complete failure.
Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska QB: Simply put, the Huskers need him as close to 100 percent or there could be major trouble ahead. With backup Ryker Fyfe having a broken bone in his non-throwing wrist and Zach Darlington never taking a collegiate snap, Armstrong’s ability to play is never more important than it is this week. That goes without mentioning just how incredibly productive he’s been all season and throughout his career. The numbers are simply staggering, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have one more incredible performance saved up for the biggest game of his career.
Nate Gerry, Nebraska S: As much as we’ve talked about the importance of running the football for the Hawkeyes, C.J. Beathard may be called upon to hit some big plays to extend drives. That won’t be so easy with guys like Gerry in the Huskers secondary. He comes in to the game with four interceptions, which is third in the Big Ten behind both Malik Hooker (Ohio State) and teammate Kieron Williams. Gerry also happens to have just 68 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss to go with eight pass breakups too.
4 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Nebraska 24-17
Dave: Iowa 23-14
Phil H.: Iowa 24-20
Philip R-R.: Iowa 21-20
Zach: Nebraska 21-17