A day before finishing the regular season at Nebraska, Iowa is spending its Thanksgiving preparing to deal with the Big Ten’s rushing leader and looking for ways win its fourth road game of the season.
That entrée and all the trimmings are a part of today’s Hawkeye 10@10, your daily dose of Iowa news and notes.
Wishing you an enjoyable holiday, here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:
1. Iowa finds itself dealing with a Big Ten rushing leader for the second time this season Friday.
Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah currently leads in the conference in rushing and the 1,483 yards he has collected this season are the most for a Cornhuskers’ back since Ahman Green ran for 1,877 yards in 1997.
The Hawkeyes dealt effectively with the other top back they faced, giving Abdullah a chance to move to the top spot on the Big Ten charts when they limited Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon to 62 yards on 17 carries, well below his season average of 144 entering the game.
2. Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose can’t think of any place he’d rather be on Black Friday than on a football with his teammates trying to win a ninth game this season.
“I don’t think any of us on our side of the ball are the type that would be out shopping at 5 o’clock in the morning,’’ Rose said. “We’ve got a job to take care of and we’ll be focused for this game, ready to make the most of the chance to play.’’
3. Quarterback Jake Rudock said while road experiences at Iowa State, Minnesota and Ohio State have tested Iowa, the Hawkeyes need to be prepared for a different challenge at Nebraska.
“We have played pretty well away from home, but every game is different,’’ Rudock said. “There will be a lot of energy in the stadium at Nebraska and the fans there are crazy. They’ll get after us and be loud. We have to understand that going in and be ready to handle it. I think we’ll be prepared.’’
Rudock said communication has led Iowa to its three road wins this season, the most for the Hawkeyes since winning four away from Kinnick Stadium during the 2009 season.
“We’ve worked pretty well together as an offense, and that is helping no matter where we compete,’’ Rudock said. “That won’t change this week.’’
4. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz praises the season-long work of fullbacks Adam Cox and Macon Plewa, a pair of converted defensive players who have shared time at the position this fall.
“They really worked extremely hard in the spring at making the transition,’’ Ferentz said. “They’re not only doing a good job, they’re doing an outstanding job, probably the best duo we’ve had at that position.’’
Cox delivered a critical block on Mark Weisman’s game-tying touchdown run last week, while Plewa was sidelined by injury and his trying to work his way back for Friday’s game with Nebraska.
“They go pretty much unnoticed, but they don’t go unnoticed by us as coaches and certainly their teammates. They are guys who have earned a lot of respect,’’ Ferentz said.
5. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah will challenge the Hawkeyes with a strong perimeter running game Friday.
“We’ve got to block and stay true to our fundamentals,’’ Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We were successful last week because we all did our job, all 11 of us, and it is going to be that way again.’’
6. After giving up an average of 410.4 yards in its first seven games, a young Nebraska defense has allowed just 312.3 yards on average to its last four opponents.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz sees that improvement as a sign of a maturing unit.
“They got hit with graduation a little bit, especially at the linebacker position, and they played a mix of people in the first part of the year. I think they’ve settled into who they are, what they are,’’ Ferentz said.
“If you look at their last four or five games, they’ve really found where home base is. They’ve made some adjustments. Their defensive end (Big Ten sacks leader Randy Gregory) is doing a really good job, their guys inside are stout, tough to block. I think they’ve got the linebacker thing settled and their secondary is good.’’
7. Nebraska has a goal of its own to play for Friday.
The Cornhuskers head into their game with Iowa at 8-3, positioning Nebraska one victory away from their sixth straight nine-win season under Bo Pelini.
Only three other programs at the FBS level have accomplished that. Nebraska joins Alabama, Boise State and Oregon in reaching that plateau the past five years. Alabama and Oregon have already reached that level this season.
8. What transpires in Iowa’s final regular season game and elsewhere will determine the Hawkeyes’ bowl destination this season.
Here’s a breakdown of this year’s selection order for Big Ten representatives:
Rose Bowl/BCS, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, Texas Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
9. Playing on the day after Thanksgiving is a Nebraska tradition.
This will be the 24th straight year that the Cornhuskers have taken the field for a Black Friday game. Nebraska played Oklahoma in the final six seasons of Big Eight play from 1990-95, then played Colorado during its 15 seasons in the Big 12 before meeting Iowa in each of the last three seasons.
The current set-up with an Iowa-Nebraska game on the day after Thanksgiving is part of the Big Ten schedule through at least the 2019 season..
The Cornhuskers are currently 18-5 in Black Friday games and the game has traditionally garnered significant national attention. ABC has televised the game to a national audience in each of the last 23 years, including this season.
10. The Iowa Alumni Association and National I-Club will host a Hawkeye Huddle for fans traveling to Friday’s Iowa-Nebraska game.
The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Embassy Suites Lincoln, 1040 P Street, from 8:30-10 a.m. Friday. Cash beverages and complimentary snacks are available and the event will include appearances by the Iowa spirit squad and mascot Herky.