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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Maybe the gamblers think Nebraska is due. That's a plausible explanation for the 3-8 Huskers opening as a betting favorite against a ranked, 9-2 Iowa team Friday in Lincoln. 

Still, it seems like a fool's errand choosing Big Red here. The Hawkeyes are winners of six in a row against it. Its last win against a ranked opponent came in 2016 (No. 22 Oregon). 

The betting line did move from Nebraska +1.0 points Tuesday morning after the Huskers were bet up to a 3.5-point favorite Monday morning. That shift occurred after it was announced that Husker starting quarterback Adrian Martinez would miss the game with a shoulder injury. 

"I feel terrible for him but appreciate him," Nebraska coach Scott Frost said of his four-year starter. 

It should be noted that Nebraska's seven one-score losses this fall tie a single-season FBS record. Its last three setbacks against Iowa are by one score. 

"One thing you can say about this team, we're not going to stop fighting," Frost said. "This team won't stop fighting Friday. I can guarantee you that. 

"We're playing a really good team Friday. They've got a lot better record than we do, but we're going to try to give ourselves every opportunity we can to try to be in the game." 

The Huskers gave ranked Wisconsin all it could handle on Saturday. The game was tied at 28-28 with 6:27 left in regulation. But as has happened throughout Frost's four-year tenure, they found a way to lose. 

"I think the team is in good spirits right now," Nebraska freshman offensive tackle Turner Corcoran said. "We're all still playing for one another." 

Nebraska is 15-28 overall and 10-24 in the Big Ten under Frost, who quarterbacked the program to the '97 national championship. He'll likely need to show significant progress next season to save his job. A win against rival Iowa could kick start the cause, while a loss will just be more of the same. 

Friday's matchup might come down to taking care of the football. The Huskers rank 96th nationally  in turnover margin (-.036), while Iowa is tied for second in the country (+1.09). 

The Hawkeyes also hold a decided advantage on special teams. Nebraska is allowing 25.4 yards per opponent kick return, which ranks 116th in the land. Iowa is at 17.3, 16th in the nation. The Hawkeyes give up 3.3 yards per punt return, which is 14th, while Nebraska is 78th (8.6). 

The return games also favor the Hawkeyes, who average 8.3 yards per punt return. Nebraska ranks 127th (2.7). On kick returns, Iowa is 15th (26.7), while the Huskers are 123rd (15.6). 

Hawkeye kicker Caleb Shudak has converted 18 of 21 field goal attempts, while Nebraska's two kickers are 8 of 16 on the season. 

Maybe this contest boils down to "hidden" yards or turnovers. Perhaps the Huskers finally deliver the big play in crunch time. The talent appears to be there. 

"Playing a complete game and playing a clean game matters," Frost said. "I compliment (the Hawkeyes) all the time in that they don't beat themselves. They create turnovers. They play well on special teams. They do a good job in all three phases. You've got to beat them. They're not going to lose the game." 

Unfortunately for Nebraska, Martinez will be sidelined. Redshirt freshman Logan Smothers, who's played in five games this season, is expected to make his first college start. True freshman Heinrich Haarberg also is taking first-team reps this week, and Frost said he could use both guys. 

"I think it would be hard in one week, a short week, to completely change or revamp their offense," Iowa safety Kaevon Merriweather said. "I think we're pretty much going to see what we've been seeing from film on them throughout the past year and previous years. I don't think there will be much change from their offense." 

Said Hawkeye linebacker Seth Benson: "Obviously, (Smothers) fits what their offensive scheme wants to do. They're probably not going to get too far away from that. We'll just trust in our plan and go from there." 

The quarterbacks are surrounded by  talent. Tight end Austin Allen is a big, sure-handed target. Receiver Somari Toure leads the Big Ten with 20.8 yards per catch. 

Linebackers Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich rank among the Top 6 in tackles in the Big Ten. Outside linebacker Garrett Nelson's 11.5 tackles for loss are seventh most in the conference. 

"They're very strong up front," Iowa running back Tyler Goodson said. "They have some good linebackers that are leading them in tackles. They have some big guys up front that play very heavy to stop the run and they have good athletes in the secondary. We have to make sure we're paying attention to details." 

Nebraska enters the final game ranked 17th nationally in total offense (458.2 ypg), 23rd in pass offense (272.6 ypg) and 43rd in rushing offense (185.9 ypg). Nebraska is one of only seven FBS teams to rank in the top 45 in both rushing and passing, joining Ohio State, Ole Miss, Coastal Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and BYU.

Defensively, the Huskers have held four Big Ten opponents to 350 or fewer yards. Ohio State managed a season-low 26 points on Nov. 6. The Buckeyes have averaged 52.5 points in their other eight games in their current nine-game win streak.

Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, an Iowa football alum, believes slowing the Hawkeye rushing attack is a key. 

"They're always going to get good on a few run plays," he said. "Those runs plays might not be the same year to year. They tailor that to the personnel they have. It's based on that zone and it's going to stretch you out. 

"The thing that we've noticed as of late is they've added in some gap schemes to the equation, some counter and some power, some pin-and-pull. But this is who they are. They're going to run the ball and they're going to try to run it right at you and then they're going to complement it with the play-action passes."  

The rivalry is special for the former Hawkeye. He also feels its importance in the Nebraska locker room. 

“This rivalry I think means everything. I know our guys want to win. They want to win a game in the last stretch here. They want to win this one," he said. 

"For me, growing up in that state, there is a lot of people that I know that are going to be cheering for Iowa, which obviously adds a little fuel to the fire. There is going to be a lot of people in that state that are going to be cheering for Nebraska, and I know that they are wearing Blackshirt gear to the game and or to the bar or wherever they are watching the game, and they are going to take a lot of heat. I know they are doing that for me and for the Huskers, so that means a lot. 

"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. 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.”

TV ANNOUNCERS: Brandon Gaudin, James Laurinaitis and Rick Pizzo on BTN. 

SERIES: Nebraska holds a 29-19-3 advantage in the series that began with a 22-0 Iowa victory in 1891. 

Iowa has won six straight and seven of the last eight meetings. The Hawkeyes have outscored the Huskers 180-96 in the last five meetings. 

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The 56 points scored by the Hawkeyes in 2017 are the most in the series’ 51-game history. The Hawkeyes have won the last four meetings in Lincoln. Iowa’s 38-17 win in 2013 was its first win at Nebraska since 1943. 

Nebraska holds a 15-6-1 advantage in games played in Lincoln. The first 10 games in the series were played in either Omaha (eight games) or Council Bluff s (two games). The series was even at 4-4-2 in those 10 meetings.

BETTING LINES: The game opened as a pick'em at Vegas Insiders (VI) on Sunday. That number moved to the Hawkeyes +3.5 by Monday morning and the Iowa +1.0 after the Martinez news Monday afternoon. The total was at 44.5, down from a 46.5 open.

TRENDS

-Nebraska is 4-0 Against The Spread (ATS) in its last 4 Friday games.

-Cornhuskers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.

-Iowa is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 road games.

-Hawkeyes are 21-7 ATS in their last 28 games as a road favorite.

NEBRASKA PLAYERS TO WATCH

-Logan Smothers, QB – The second-year freshman from Alabama steps in for the injured Martinez against a team ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense (16.9 points per game) and 12th in total defense (314.6 yards per game). He's played sparingly in five games this season, mostly in mop-up duty. He is a dual-threat.  

-Austin Allen, TE – The junior is enjoying a breakout season with 36 receptions for 547 yards and two touchdowns. In a loss against Wisconsin last week, he had career highs with seven catches for 143 yards against Wisconsin's No. 1 ranked defense. 

-Cam Taylor-Britt, Jr., CB A junior from Alabama, Taylor-Britt earned second-team all-Big Ten honors last season. Taylor-Britt has 46 tackles and a team-high 10 pass breakups in 2021.

KEYS TO VICTORY

Nebraska: Win the turnover battle and don't get smoked on special teams. 

Iowa: Rattle the young quarterback and run the football effectively. 

GAME NOTES

-Nebraska has played on the Friday after Thanksgiving for each of the past 32 seasons. The Huskers have played Iowa each of the last 11 years on Black Friday. Before joining the Big Ten, Nebraska played Colorado 15 times on that day and Oklahoma six times on Black Friday since 1990.

-Iowa will mark Nebraska's sixth ranked opponent in 2021, joining Oklahoma, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Nebraska played at No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 18, at No. 20 Michigan State on Sept. 25, vs. No. 9 Michigan on Oct. 9, and against No. 6 Ohio State on Nov. 6, and at No. 19 Wisconsin last week.

-Nebraska has had four different players top 100 yards receiving in 2021 (Toure, Martin, Johnson, Allen). It is the first time four players have recorded 100-yard receiving games in the same season since 2007.

-Nebraska allowed 169.5 rushing yards and 386.5 total yards per game in 2020. Those totals marked the fewest rushing and total yards allowed per game by a Husker defense since the 2016 season. The Huskers are pacing ahead of those numbers in 2021, allowing 143.4 rushing yards and 366.2 total yards per contest.

-A total of 20 Huskers are playing this season as college graduates. The group of graduates includes all eight seniors and 12 juniors. Fourteen players earned their degree from Nebraska, while the remaining six players were graduate transfers into the Husker program.  Nebraska is one of only 14 FBS programs - including just two Big Ten teams (Illinois - 29) - with at least 20 college graduates on their 2021 roster.

-Iowa has won eight straight games played on a Friday. Iowa defeated Maryland on Oct. 1 in its first of two Friday games in 2021. Iowa and Nebraska meet on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, for the 11th consecutive season. The schools have played on Black Friday every year since Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference in 2011. Iowa is 7-3 in the previous 10 Black Friday meetings.

-Iowa leads the country in interceptions (21) and ranks fourth nationally in takeaways (26). The Hawkeyes have 85 interception since 2017, more than any team in the country. Eleven different Hawkeyes have at least one interception this season. Iowa is plus-18 in turnover margin in its nine wins and minus-six in its two losses.

-Hawkeye LB/DB Dane Belton ties for the NCAA lead with five interceptions. DB Riley Moss has four interceptions and DB Matt Hankins has three interceptions. All three players have recorded two interceptions in a single game this season.

-Iowa ranks fourth in the Big Ten and ninth in the country in scoring defense (16.9). Iowa’s total defense (314.8) ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 13th in the country.

-Hawkeye RB Tyler Goodson leads Iowa’s rushing attack with 945 yards on 215 attempts, both single-season career highs. Goodson is 55 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards this season. The last time a Hawkeye rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season was 2017 (Akrum Wadley, 1,109).

NOTABLE ALUMNI

Nebraska – Karen Blessen

Iowa - Michael J. Budds

HOWE I SEE IT: Despite enjoying much more success than their rival to the West the last three seasons, the Hawkeyes have won that trio of meetings with Nebraska by an average of 4.0 points. 

That gives me pause when analyzing this game. I don't pause for long, however. 

The Huskers will be rolling out an inexperienced quarterback against one of the top defenses in the country, one that preys on the opposition with turnovers. That's a recipe for disaster. 

Credit to Nebraska for staying together during another disappointing season. It's admirable. That's not going to be enough on Friday. 

PREDICTION: IOWA 27, Nebraska 20.

Rob Howe is in his 25th year covering University of Iowa Athletics. He's worked for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Hawkeye Nation, Hawk Fanatic, Hawkeye Insider and more. Please follow @RobHoweHN on Twitter.