You probably saw the numbers slide by on the ticker at some point on Saturday, but Iowa straight up smashed Illinois last week 63-0 for its seventh win of the season. The 63-point margin was the largest of the Kirk Ferentz era as the Hawkeyes scored in all three phases against the Illini. That's how a team ends up with 60-plus points on just 400 yards of offense.
Thanks to Thanksgiving, Nebraska and Iowa are working on a condensed time frame this week and you, presumably, are as well as you get where you're going, cook what you're cooking and eventually eat what you're eating. With that in mind, now seemed like the ideal time for a quick primer on the 2018 Hawkeyes. What do you need to know about Nebraska's final opponent of the season?
Based on the stats profile, here's what I see.
1. An Iowa team without much of a run game? It's true. The Hawkeyes rank 124th in rushing S&P+ and 126th in marginal explosiveness. If you prefer something more concise Iowa is averaging 3.97 yards per carry (90th). The offensive line stats, as is typical for this team, are strong in the run game, indicating that the issue might be a group of three sophomore backs who have combined for 1,463 yards but have done it on a pedestrian 4.4 yards per carry.
2. There is a passing game, however. The Hawkeyes rank in the top half nationally in passing S&P+, efficiency and explosiveness. Quarterback Nate Stanley is middle-of-the-pack in terms of completion percentage (58.6), but this passing game can put up some explosive plays. How explosive? Picture Nebraska. The Huskers have 105 passing plays of 10-plus yards, 38 of 20-plus yards and 18 of 30-plus yards. Iowa has 104, 38 and 18 in those same categories. A pair to tight ends lead the way in terms of receiving yards: T.J. Hockensen (663 yards, 6 TDs) and Noah Fant (507 yards, 7 TDs). Fant, if I recall correctly, is from Hawaii or something and definitely not Nebraska's backyard. That would be awkward for Husker fans if he were.
3. Yep, that looks like an Iowa defense. While the offense may be a negative image of the way the Hawkeyes typically move the ball, the defense is still what you'd expect. Most of the defensive numbers here are good, but there are two that are very good and probably key on Friday. Iowa ranks third nationally in marginal explosiveness, meaning the Hawkeyes do a good job of limiting big plays and (when they do happen) the damage those plays inflict, and that's particularly true in the run game (second in marginal explosiveness). There are a few more opportunities for big gains in the passing game –– Iowa ranks 24th in passing marginal explosiveness — but in exchange you get a pass defense that is really good at limiting the short stuff and keeping teams off schedule on passing plays (eighth nationally in marginal efficiency).
While it isn't nearly as stark as last week's Husker Run Game v. Spartan Run Defense setup, this is another matchup that pits the things Nebraska does well against the things Iowa does well. Add in all the motivational angles here on both sides, and it should be a fun one.
Iowa opened as a 7.5-point favorite.
The Grab Bag
- Les Miles was introduced as the next head coach at Kansas on Sunday and wore a (gasp) mostly red tie.
- Meanwhile Colorado pulled the plug on the Mike MacIntyre era.
- The Huskers got back into Georgia again with the commitment of 3-star defensive back Myles Farmer.
- Despite the cold and wind, Nebraska’s visitors (official and unofficial) came away impressed with what’s building in Lincoln.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.