DN Score Predictions: Nebraska in Iowa | Sports

Gavin Struve, Senior Sports Editor: Iowa 16, Nebraska 10

As with any of the Huskers’ division games this season, they aren’t outmatched for talent, which means they have a chance. But this game represents an increasingly difficult fight, although the opponent is not too superior.

Iowa looked like the stylistic antithesis of Nebraska early in the season, before the former found a semblance of offensive stance while the latter fell behind in that department. On the other hand, the Husker defense, while improving, falls short of the Hawkeyes’ imposing unit. That means Nebraska could well expect a worse offensive performance than last week’s Wisconsin or losses to Illinois and Minnesota.

Perhaps the Huskers will find just enough spark to fuel Iowa’s mediocre offense. That’s the good news for Nebraska — it doesn’t take much to surpass Iowa. Unless the Huskers allow defensive or special teams, which are hardly excluded. Nebraska desperately needs to turn that around and come out on top in the sales battle, make a big return, or block a punt. Otherwise, junior quarterback Casey Thompson could unleash downfield Heves against a tight-fisted secondary, taking hit after hit in the process.

Wisconsin was the more punchable rival — if both encounters can be called a rivalry — and Nebraska might find it even harder to spot an offensive spark against a seemingly impenetrable defense that thrives this time of year. Perhaps the expected absence of the Hawkeyes’ top offensive player, tight end Sam Laporta, is affecting the result. It’s not more likely.

Nebraska has been resilient all season, usually providing at least one tough game. But Iowa has more to play at home on its senior night with a trip to Indianapolis at stake. Prepare for another one-point loss to end an era full of them for the Huskers.

Joseph Maier, Assistant Sports Editor: Nebraska 17, Iowa 13

Nebraska’s last game, oddly enough, could be the most significant of the last three. Since being eliminated from bowl competition, the Huskers have only hope for pride. But the chance to ruin a rival’s title hopes in the Big Ten West could inspire a team that hasn’t won since early October.

Iowa is kind of in the same position as last year — it takes a win over a 3-8 Nebraska team to win an appearance in the Big Ten championship. In 2021, the Hawkeyes started 6-0, ranked No. 2 and never dropped out of the top 25. This season, Iowa started 3-3 with a historically poor offensive unit and didn’t score once. Still, the stakes are the same for this Black Friday matchup. Don’t let the similar record fool you though, both teams are significantly worse this time.

Iowa is Nebraska’s fifth straight opponent to rate defense highly, but will be the first of those without an elite running back. The Huskers’ defense has dealt with four of the Big Ten’s top six rush attacks in consecutive weeks, but will take a break this week against the only offense in the conference that averages under 100 rushing yards per game.

That should bode well for Nebraska. It hasn’t allowed a 200-yard passer in over a month while hitting mostly on the ground. If Iowa can’t run the ball on Friday, it could be difficult to score. Though the Huskers have conceded 208 rushing yards per game in their last three contests, the Huskers have held the No. 3 spots in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin below their scoring and yardage averages. If Iowa is held at the same level, settle for a low point fight.

Nebraska hasn’t exactly faced Heisman-fighting signal callers lately, but senior Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras still ranks the lowest of the last four starters Nebraska has faced. It’s worth noting that all of these guys finished below their passing yardage averages against the blackshirts.

For these reasons, even considering the pedigree of Iowa’s elite defense, I’m taking Nebraska on an ugly defensive battle. The Huskers have gotten used to these matchups lately, and I don’t think the Hawkeyes have a run game strong enough to do what the rest of the Big Ten West did before them — Nebraska denies to let the ball run into the throat.

The Huskers have nothing to lose. Most of their touchlines won’t be returning in 2023, and junior quarterback Casey Thompson should be healthier than he was against Wisconsin. Last season, Nebraska narrowly lost to a better team from Iowa, largely due to mistakes by a special team while playing a backup quarterback. The Huskers have improved massively on special teams, will have their starting quarterback and will be led by a player-coach who will upset his team ahead of what may be their last game at the helm — Nebraska playing spoilers in an ugly game.

Thomas Codo, Sports Reporter: Iowa 14, Nebraska 9

It’s the final game of the season and for the second year in a row, Nebraska stands between Iowa and a ticket to the Big Ten Championship.

But after a staggering loss to Wisconsin last week, the Huskers’ hopes of crashing the Hawkeyes’ party are all but dashed. Nebraska has only 14 points against the Badgers and now faces an even better defense — one of the best in the nation. Given the Huskers’ offensive struggles, it will come down to which defense can make the most impact.

Iowa’s offense has slowly improved over the past few weeks and is now averaging 17.5 points per game. Petras is coming off one of his most productive games this season and his third 200-yard effort despite not throwing a touchdown. This is partly due to its diversity of recipients. In addition to Sam LaPorta, who leads the team with 653 receiving yards, three other Hawkeye receivers average over 10 yards per catch – senior Nico Ragaini, sophomore Luke Lachey and sophomore Arland Bruce IV, the former of which could become the top pick if LaPorta paused.

That’s not even mentioning freshman running back Kaleb Johnson, who is averaging over five yards per carry, which Nebraska’s defense may be struggling with. This gives Iowa a slight advantage compared to Nebraska’s attacking struggles regardless of quarterback.

Even if the Huskers’ offense finds a way to play better than they did last week, they still face a formidable challenge of completing drives. The Hawkeyes’ consistent defense is also a key factor in the game. Iowa ranks fifth in scoring defense and sixth in total defense with four defensive touchdowns this year.

While Nebraska has avoided turnovers for the most part lately, they have at least one to give to the Hawkeyes. Similar to the Huskers’ loss to Wisconsin, it only takes a mistake or two to make the difference.

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