Nebraska and Iowa football fans lived in the same neighborhood with mild disdain for one another for a century except for a handful of non-conference games.
That all changed when Nebraska bolted from the Big 12 to the Big Ten in 2011. The league stapled the Hawkeyes with the Cornhuskers in the Legends Division and moved their series to the season finale. Big Ten officials allowed Nebraska to keep its Black Friday tradition, and Iowa joined it.
It was a rivalry in the making. Border states. Large, passionate, and proud fan bases. Programs with tradition and success. However, their first conference meeting in Lincoln back in 2011 had all the energy of a failed leaf blower at a state park. Nebraska clinched the Legends title in 2012 with a 13-7 win at Kinnick Stadium, but Iowa was 4-8. Their 2013 and 2014 games were entertaining but both were bronze-medal contests. The results mattered — Nebraska’s Bo Pelini was fired after beating Iowa last year — but it lacked the spice that most wanted or expected back in 2011.
Rivalries largely are organic. They’re built upon games of importance and incidents that rile up fan bases. Nebraska and Iowa nearly played in 2009 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cornhuskers fell one second shy of beating Texas for the Big 12 title, which would have sent them to Phoenix. Iowa finished 11-2 that year and was chosen by the Orange Bowl as an at-large squad. That would have kick-started a rivalry.
In 2010, Iowa’s late-season collapse sent the Hawkeyes to the Insight Bowl. Nebraska appeared all but a lock to go there but somehow Missouri went instead. Some say the Big 12 pulled strings and didn’t want a four-hour infomercial on the Big Ten. Another missed opportunity.
But the schools have a chance to turn their series into a rivalry on Black Friday (2:30 p.m. Nov. 27) this year. Should No. 5 Iowa get past 2-8 Purdue this Saturday, the Hawkeyes have a chance at 12-0. Conversely, a disappointing 5-6 Nebraska team — winners of two straight — have a shot at a bowl game. Both teams have something at stake, and both have something to lose. That’s when a series turns from a simmer into a sizzle.
Nebraska took care of its business Saturday with a 31-14 win at Rutgers. The Cornhuskers scored 28 points or more for the fifth straight game and contained the Scarlet Knights to 259 yards, a season low for Nebraska.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“Now we’re on track and where we should have been,” Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins said. “We got two tough wins the past two weeks and now we get a bye week to regroup and try and get another.”
Nebraska picks up a late-season bye so it has 13 days to prepare for Iowa. Wins in consecutive games after a tortuous season — Nebraska lost five games where it was tied or held a lead in the final quarter — have given the team confidence.
“It feels good and I know the players feel good about that,” Nebraska Coach Mike Riley said. “It certainly sets up this game with Iowa. It’s a big game for a lot of reasons, but for us they are really obvious. It’s a bowl opportunity. It’s playing another top-ranked team. Just lots of stuff out there for us. Now with this win, it sets the table for that.”
Even with a possible loss to Iowa, the Cornhuskers could back into a bowl with a losing record. But that’s with 41 bowls and there might not be enough eligible teams. That’s hardly the way a team wants to earn a postseason nod.
“It sets the tone for the season and how we want to end it,” Collins said. “We want to go out with a bang this year. It’s huge for this program.”
“Each and every week is important for us,” Nebraska quarterback Tommie Armstrong said. “We have a big game coming up. We just want to enjoy the season while it lasts. Whenever we find what we’re doing at the end of the season then we will find out.”
JAKE YOU ARE RUDOCK-ULOUS
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock posted a record-breaking game in the Wolverines’ 48-41 double-overtime win against Indiana. Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, threw for a career-high 440 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. He also rushed for 71 yards.
In two weeks, Rudock has completed 51 of 71 passes for 777 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. He’s the first Michigan quarterback to throw for 300 yards or more in consecutive games since Chad Henne in 2004.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“If Jake doesn’t play the way he does, we don’t have a chance,” Michigan Coach Jm Harbaugh said. “All those attributes — talk about his accuracy, talk about his arm strength, talk about his durability, his toughness, his intelligence. But I still go back to the one that, he is unflappable. He just does not flinch. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. He comes off the field, you talk and he gives feedback. He’s exactly the same all of the time. He’s got ice water in his veins. It’s very impressive.”
Rudock has thrown for 2,220 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions at Michigan. Last year at Iowa he passed for 2,436 yards, 16 TDs and five interceptions.
Iowa needs either one win or one Wisconsin loss in the next two games to clinch the West Division title. Wisconsin needs to win two and hope for Iowa to lose twice.
In the East, both Ohio State and Michigan State are in control of their positioning. They play this week. Michigan can win the East if it wins twice and Ohio State beats Michigan State. Penn State must beat both Michigan and Michigan State, and Michigan State must beat Ohio State in order to win a tiebreaker.
Ohio State dropped to second in the USA Today/Coaches poll and remained No. 2 by the Associated Press. Iowa moved up to No. 6 in both polls. Michigan State rose to ninth in both and Michigan jumped to 13th by the coaches and 14th by AP. Wisconsin moved up to 20th by the coaches and 21st by AP. Northwestern jumped to 21st by the coaches and 20th by AP.
Nebraska recorded a season-high 11 tackles for loss. ... Ohio State plowed through Illinois for 287 rushing yards on 50 carries. ... Northwestern ran for 250 yards. ... Indiana rushed for 307 yards. ... Michigan WR Jehu Chesson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and four TDs. ... Iowa improved to 10-0 for the first time in school history.
Rutgers totaled 259 yards and was just 3 of 14 on third down. ... Illinois rushed for 20 yards on 25 attempts. ... Maryland fell to minus-18 in turnover margin after three interceptions. ... Michigan State managed just 262 total yards. ... Purdue rushed for only 73 yards. ... Minnesota gave up 506 total yards to Iowa.
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock threw for 440 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. ... Iowa running back LeShun Daniels rushed for 195 yards and three TDs. ... OSU linebacker RaeKwon McMillan had 14 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. ... Indiana running back Jordan Howard ran for 238 yards and two TDs. ... Northwestern LB Anthony Walker recorded 14 tackles, including two for loss, and forced a fumble.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Nebraska defensive end Greg McMullen recorded four tackles, including three for loss. ... Rutgers linebacker Kaiwan Lewis recorded 13 tackles. ... Illinois WR Desmond Cain caught 10 passes for 102 yards. ... Purdue WR Domonique Young caught five passes for 107 yards and a TD. ... Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner passed for 259 yards, rushed for 32 yards and combined for two TDs. ... Michigan State’s Jake Hartbarger parked four of his seven punts inside the 20 and averaged 42.4 yards. ... Maryland safety Anthony Nixon recorded two interceptions and forced a fumble.
1. Ohio State (1) 10-0 6-0
Preseason is over now for Buckeyes with MSU, Michigan ahead
2. Iowa (2) 10-0 6-0
Best start in school history, still chasing perfection
3. Michigan State (3) 9-1 5-1
Still has goals in the horizon, maybe even a playoff spot
4. Michigan (4) 8-2 5-1
Season’s best free-agent signing in QB Jake Rudock
5. Wisconsin (5) 8-2 5-1
Still harbors slight West Division title hopes
6. Northwestern (6) 8-2 4-2
Gutted out a win against Purdue
7. Penn State (7) 7-3 4-2
Next two weeks determine season’s value
8. Nebraska (11) 5-6 3-4
Sits out for a week then has chance at bowl and ruining Iowa’s season
9. Minnesota (8) 4-6 1-5
Few teams play harder without achieving desired results
10. Illinois (9) 5-5 2-4
Win one more game and it’s a success, lose two and it’s a failure
11. Indiana (10) 4-6 0-6
Despite six straight losses, still has shot at bowl
12. Purdue (12) 2-8 1-5
Played hard but too inconsistent to beat good teams
13. Rutgers (13) 3-7 1-6
Team appears in “Dead Coach Walking” mode
14. Maryland (14) 2-8 0-6
Could ruin Indiana’s season next week
Iowa 10-0 6-0
Wisconsin 8-2 5-1
Northwestern 8-2 4-2
Nebraska 5-6 3-4
Illinois 5-5 2-4
Minnesota 4-6 1-5
Purdue 2-8 1-5
Ohio State 10-0 6-0
Michigan State 9-1 5-1
Michigan 8-2 5-1
Penn State 7-3 4-2
Rutgers 3-7 1-6
Indiana 4-6 0-6
Maryland 2-8 0-6
Ohio State 28, Illinois 3
Michigan State 24, Maryland 7
Northwestern 21, Purdue 14
Michigan 48, Indiana 41 2OT
Nebraska 31, Rutgers 14
Iowa 40, Minnesota 35
Idle: Penn State, Wisconsin
Purdue at Iowa, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Michigan at Penn State, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Illinois at Minnesota, 11 a.m. (ESPNNews)
Indiana at Maryland, 11 a.m. (BTN)
Rutgers at Army, 11 a.m. (CBSSN)
Northwestern at Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m. (BTN)
Michigan State at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
l Comments: (319) 339-3169; email@example.com