There are a lot of ways to make a rivalry between two schools. When Nebraska and Iowa started playing each other after the Huskers joined the Big Ten Conference, some felt the rivalry was forced. There was a trophy attached to the game right away. Nebraska fans were slow to embrace the rivalry that now feels pretty heated on both sides. Iowa has won every game in the series since 2015. Under coach Scott Frost, every loss to Iowa has been by one score. That’s a way to create tension in games.
Another way is to have recruiting battles off the field.
Since Frost took over the Nebraska program it has been interesting to watch the team push more into Iowa. The effort is led by Iowa native and Hawkeye alum, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander. His connections within the state have helped get the Huskers’ foot in the door of many high schools in the state. The rivalry means more to Chinander who spoke about the various ways the game is important on Monday.
“This football game, this is one that I think is marked on everyone’s calendar all year just because this is the battle for the border right here,” Chinander said. “We have to start winning some of these before you can take the next step in the program’s rise, if you will, and I think these games are big in recruiting. These games are big for the team. A win in this kind of game can set you up for where you want to go next year. It can set you up as we go off recruiting, so I think this game is super important not only about the rivalry but also the aftermath that a win could mean for the program.”
Defensive end Mosai Newsom inked with Nebraska in the 2019 cycle. Nebraska then signed outside linebacker Blaise Gunnerson in the 2020 class. The Huskers continued the run in the 2021 cycle. Signing Iowa natives Henry Lutovsky, Seth Malcom and Thomas Fidone was a good haul. Of that group, only Malcom did not have an offer from the Hawkeyes. The Huskers have won battles head-to-head on the recruiting trail with Iowa.
Even though Nebraska has won battles the Hawkeyes have come out on top quite a bit, especially on prospects from the state of Iowa. There are six players in last year’s recruiting cycle that the Huskers offered from Iowa who selected the Hawkeyes:
- WR Brody Brecht
- OL Connor Colby
- DE Jeff Bowie
- DE Max Llewellyn
- DT Griffin Liddle
- LB Jaden Harrell
The biggest blows to both sides of this rivalry both came in the 2021 recruiting class. The Huskers landing Fidone, the nation’s top tight end recruit, out of Iowa was big for Nebraska. The Hawkeyes reputation as a tight end producing school did not win out there. That was almost as surprising as Husker legacy Keagan Johnson selecting Iowa over Nebraska. Johnson spurned the home state school for the Hawkeyes. He has played well this season as a true freshman.
There has been increased crossover between the schools in recruiting. As the Huskers look to turn the program aroun,d they are looking for more and more similar recruits to Iowa. That’s probably a good thing for Nebraska’s chances at making noise in the Big Ten. It also sets up some added juice to the matchup. These players get to know the opposite team’s players during the recruiting process.
Chances are you’ll see some familiar names that are playing for the Hawkeyes on Friday. That will continue to be the case as the years go on. The Huskers have offered eight recruits in Iowa for the 2023 cycle. These battles will add an extra layer to the rivalry.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.