IOWA CITY - There is only one turkey Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz hopes to see this Thanksgiving week.
It's the one he plans to carve into Saturday after the Hawkeyes conclude their regular season with a Friday road game against new Big Ten rival Nebraska.
"For us, Thanksgiving is on Saturday. It's real simple. That's what we're doing," Ferentz said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.
Ferentz said Iowa eagerly welcomed the chance to begin a new tradition of playing on the day after Thanksgiving after what transpired a year ago when Iowa players were given the chance to spend brief holiday time with their families preceding a 27-24 loss at Minnesota.
"There's no way to document it, but I thought we lost our focus somewhere from the time we left practice on Thursday until game time," Ferentz said.
Last season after an early Thanksgiving Day workout, the Hawkeyes scattered to homes across Iowa and Illinois for the holiday, with teammates hosting teammates who couldn't make it to their own homes for the holiday.
The team returned to campus on Friday for the trip to Minnesota, where the indigestion started as the Golden Gophers opened a 10-0 lead after one quarter.
"I'm not saying it was totally a factor, but I know in '02 we did the same thing before going down to the Orange Bowl, and that was a disaster," Ferentz said. "I don't know if keeping everybody together and playing Friday will help or not, but this is what we're doing."
Iowa and Nebraska are scheduled to meet again on the Friday after Thanksgiving in Iowa City in 2012. Officials will review continuing that arrangement after that game.
For the Cornhuskers, football on the day after Thanksgiving has been as much of a holiday tradition as cranberries and pumpkin pie.
Friday's 11 a.m. game marks the 22nd straight year Nebraska has played on the date, facing Oklahoma in the final six seasons of the Big Eight and Colorado for the past 15 years. All but one of those games has been nationally televised by ABC.
"It seems like it has worked well for them, and after our experience last year, I was of the conclusion, why not play on Friday? Couldn't be any worse than what we did last year on Saturday," Ferentz said.
Ferentz also welcomes the exposure and so do his players.
"We're about the only game on at that time. It's a good chance for us to show what we are all about," Iowa defensive back Micah Hyde said. "They're a good team. We're a good team. It should be a good deal."
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Ferentz hopes that is the case.
As an Iowa assistant and head coach, he has been a part of four games against Nebraska.
His first game as a member of Hayden Fry's staff was a 10-7 win over the Cornhuskers in 1981. Nebraska has won each of the other three meetings, in 1982, 1999 and 2000, by at least 29 points.
Fry surprised the Cornhuskers with a formation called "Big Red" in the 1981 game, a move to an unbalanced line which led to a game-opening touchdown drive in what turned into a defensive battle.
"I'm sure they prepared for something else. It kind of threw them off a bit," Ferentz said. "I think they were ranked sixth. We were probably ranked 156th or something like that. It was a great moment, got things going here. We could use a little of that magic moving forward now."
Ferentz said it will take competitive games for the Iowa-Nebraska series to develop into the rivalry that fans want it to become.
"We haven't done so well in this series," Ferentz said, recalling a turnover-filled 42-13 loss in 2000 in Iowa's most recent visit to Memorial Stadium. "Hopefully we've closed the gap a little bit. We'll see. Time will tell."