Iowa Hawkeyes (11-0 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-6 SU, 6-5 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Friday, November 27, 2015 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IOWA -2/NEB +2
Over/Under Total: Off
In key Big Ten action, the unbeaten Iowa Hawkeyes come into Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Friday. Iowa has already locked up the Big Ten West Division and is penciled in for the title game. But they have their eyes on the CFP and will need to win out to have a spot in the playoff. And they will be facing a Nebraska team that already beat an unbeaten team this season, spoiling the CFP plans for Michigan State a few weeks ago. At 5-6, this is Nebraskas last chance to become bowl eligible, having missed just two bowl seasons since 1968. Beating another unbeaten team would lend some credence to what has been a letdown season.
If things continue to fall their way, Iowa could find themselves in the College Football Playoffsomething that was thought to be unthinkable prior to the season. At the same time, the committee will not go out of their way to include this uncelebrated Iowa squad. Any slip ups and the CFP is no longer in the cards. And Nebraska has shown themselves to be capable of being a spoiler, if anything else.
Both teams won their last game. Nebraska is rested, having played two Saturdays ago in a 31-14 win at Rutgers. It was their second win in a row, as they try to salvage a 3-6 start to the season. Iowa won their 11th in a row to start the season on Saturday, a 40-20 home win over Purdue. The win pushed their Big Ten Conference record to 7-0, though they didnt play the real dangerous teams in the conference, who play in the East division. Their best triumphs on the season are wins over ranked Northwestern and Wisconsingood wins, but not great ones. But they will have their chance to register that big win with whoever they play in the Big Ten title game. But first things firstan improving Nebraska bunch in a road spot that is perhaps trickier than what youd assume at first glance.
The Iowa offense can put up points and have scored 31-40 in each of the last five games, as they average a respectable 34.2 a game. They rely on a pretty balanced offense, but one that relies more on the run. They have four impactful runners in Jordan Canzeri, LeShun Daniels, Jr., Akrum Wadley, and quarterback CJ Beathard. This quartet of runners has combined for 31 touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback CJ Beathard has been useful with his lively legs, while passing efficiently, with 2257 yards with 13 TDs and just three interceptions. They have some sure-handed receivers, but this offense isnt what you would call explosive. They are, however, dependable and steadfast, with just the right element of clutch.
Iowas real lynchpin is their defense, a group that is a playmaking unit. They are especially tough against the run, allowing a little over 100 yards a game, an astounding stat in this conference. Theyre pretty good against the pass too, with Desmond King leading the nation with 8 interceptions. This unit has secured 21 turnovers, while applying a steady pass-rush. This D does a lot of the little things and the few times that theyve been in a pinch this season, they have answered the call.
Offering Nebraska some hope is the fact that other conference teams have managed to hang right in there with Iowa. Minnesota gave them a run for their money a few weeks ago, as did Indiana and Illinois before that. In Iowas last 6 games, they are 2-4 ATS, meaning theyre not exactly dusting off teams and Nebraska fits well into that equation. After two straight wins, they are at least of the right mind to finish the season strongly.
Tommy Armstrong, Jr. has given it his best effort in the new Mike Riley Cornhuskers offense, as he has 21 TD throws and 12 picks on 2560 yards passing. He has 5 picks in the last two games, a pattern that would really hurt in this game against the opportunistic Hawkeyes. Armstrong, Jr. is also useful with his feet, having run in 6 touchdown scores. The run game is in the hands of talented backs like Terrell Newby and Imani Cross. The Huskers have a nice 1-2 punch at receiver with Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly. They put up an average of 33.6 points a gamea respectable figure in what is really a transitional season for Nebraska.
The Nebraska defense has been pretty good against the run, but that might be a result of teams having so much success with what is really a backwards secondary. They give up an average of over 300 yards per game and this area of the team is a big reason why Nebraska will be at home during bowl season if they dont score the win this week. They have shown some fight in the last two games, holding off Michigan State, before allowing only 14 to Rutgers. Well see how they cope with Iowa this week.
Granted, Nebraska has shown they can thrive in the role of spoiler. And make no mistake, there is something about playing in Lincoln that messes up teams. But a worse Iowa team still managed to beat Nebraska last season, albeit in overtime. The point spread almost seems to be imploring you to take Iowa, so thats a concern. The 2-point spread in favor of Iowa seems small at first glance. And maybe even at second glance. But even though I can smell a rat, Im going to be a bit stubborn and just go ahead and figure Nebraska isnt cut out for derailing two undefeated CFP-bound teams this season. Im taking the Hawkeyes.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Iowa Hawkeyes minus 2 points.
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