Iowa Hawkeyes – Friday, November 29th
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (15th season)
2012 Record: 4-8 (2-6)
Best Returning Player: RB Mark Weisman
The Iowa running back situation has dealt with far too many injuries, suspensions and transfers the past few years, but the Hawkeyes are finally in a comfortable position in the backfield. This comes after a breakout season by Mark Weisman, which included 815 yards and eight touchdowns. At 6-foot-1, 236 lbs, Weisman converted to running back three games into the season where he had his first 100-yard game against Northern Iowa. He would go on to hit the 100-yard mark three more times in 2012, including a whopping 217 yards against Central Michigan. He struggled a bit down the stretch in games against Michigan and Nebraska, but he gives Iowa a much-needed power back and a goal-line threat. In the Big Ten, getting those hard yards on 3rd down and goal line opportunities can prove to be the difference between a win or loss.
Best Returning Player: LB James Morris
Although he's not the leading tackler returning in 2013, James Morris still collected 113 tackles while adding 1.5 sacks. Iowa's linebackers were right up there with Penn State last season, as both Morris and Anthony Hitchens ranked within the top four in tackles in the conference. Patrolling the middle, Morris is run of the best run defenders in the nation and has a knack for getting to the ball carrier. The team captain and a 2012 All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media, Morris is poised to sit atop the conference's tackle chart once again as he looks to rejuvenate Iowa after a down year.
Biggest Loss: QB James Vandenberg
After a superb junior season that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns, James Vandenberg took a major step backwards as a senior. As Vandenberg went, so did Iowa. He was just unable to get anything going on what was a rather lackluster receiving corps. At one point, Vandenberg had only three touchdowns through seven games – which was the lowest number for any BCS-conference team. Yet, losing Vandenberg is going to hurt Iowa. Aside from his miserable final season, he was a productive passer and will always be loved in his home state after holding numerous high school records in The Hawkeye State.
Last Meeting vs. Nebraska: November 23, 2012
Despite holding the Cornhuskers to a season-low 13 points, Iowa was unable to hold their lead as Nebraska went on to win by a score of 13-7 in a cold windy afternoon.
The Hawkeyes held Nebraska to just 263 yards and Taylor Martinez to only 63 passing yards. The problem was Vandenberg, who tossed two interceptions and failed to eclipse 100 passing yards. Kirk Ferentz watched his team's lead slip away with a little under four minutes remaining in the game when Rex Burkhead grinded his way to a game-winning three-yard touchdown run.
How They Matchup with Nebraska
Scoring Offense: Iowa (19.3), (Nebraska (34.8)
Scoring Defense: Iowa (22.9), Nebraska (27.6)
Passing Offense: Iowa (187.4), Nebraska (207.4)
Passing Defense: Iowa (219.5), Nebraska (168.1)
Rushing Offense: Iowa (123.0), Nebraska (253.4)
Rushing Defense: Iowa (162.1), Nebraska (192.5)
Total Offense: Iowa (310.4), Nebraska (460.8)
Total Defense: Iowa (381.6), Nebraska (360.6)
Despite holding Nebraska to season lows in 2012, there's plenty of reasons to believe the Cornhuskers will fare much better this time around and have their way. In what will be their final regular season game, Nebraska could very well be preparing for the Big Ten Championship Game the following week and there's no way they would want to go into that game on the down-slide after last year's embarrassing showing against Wisconsin. Taylor Martinez and the rest of the Huskers' offensive weapons will look to get out of the gate early and force Iowa to abandon the run. If all goes according to plan, their secondary will have a lot of balls thrown their way and will be able to jump some routes on whoever is under center for Iowa.
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