Elusive Taylor Martinez: Growth in the passing game has made junior quarterback Taylor Martinez an even more potent part of the Cornhuskers’ offense. He has accounted for 3,212 yards, gaining 792 on the ground with scrambling ability Iowa struggled with last week at Michigan. He also has completed 63.6 percent of his 294 passes, raising his completion percentage seven percent over his 2011 total.
Takeaway tally: One area where the Hawkeyes have a marked advantage over the Cornhuskers is in turnover margin. Iowa leads the Big Ten in turnover margin, forcing opponents to turn the ball over 21 times while losing the football just nine times through 11 games. By comparison, Nebraska is 11th in the league in the category. The Cornhuskers have lost 27 turnovers, while gaining 19.
Ground battle: Martinez isn’t the only weapon Nebraska has on the ground. Sophomore Ameer Abdullah is sixth in the Big Ten with 92.8 yards per game, two spots ahead of expected Iowa starter Mark Weisman, who averages 80.4. Abdullah has emerged as the Cornhuskers’ primary back in the absence of returning all-league pick Rex Burkhead, who is nearing a return from a knee sprain.
Sibling rivalry: Brothers will find themselves on opposite sidelines today. Cole Fisher, a redshirt freshman linebacker from Omaha, Neb., has worked his way into the two-deep roster for Iowa as a backup to Big Ten tackles leader Anthony Hitchens. His brother, fifth-year senior linebacker Sean Fisher, is listed as the probable starter for Nebraska at the buck position.
Blackshirts on Black Friday: Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg’s final college game comes against a Nebraska defense which has shown marked improvement, allowing just 177 yards last week against Minnesota. Seniors Will Compton, Daimion Stafford and Eric Martin lead the unit. Compton and Stafford average 8.5 and 7.2 tackles, respectively, while Martin is second in the Big Ten in sacks.
NEBRASKA WR KENNY BELL VS. IOWA CB MICAH HYDE: The leader of the Hawkeye secondary will again be tested again by an elusive, big-play threat at receiver. The sophomore is third in the Big Ten with an average of 71.7 receiving yards per game. Hyde has intercepted one pass this season, but enters his final game 18th on Iowa’s career list with eight picks.
BY THE NUMBERS
45.5: Opponents have completed a nation-low 45.5 percent of their passes against the Cornhuskers this season, one of two FBS teams to limit foes to less than 50 percent passing
18: First-time starters Iowa has put on the field this season. Only 10 FBS teams have started more.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
“In this game, you can get beat almost any week. Our guys need to understand going to Iowa City that you can get humbled in a heartbeat if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game.” — Nebraska coach Bo Pelini