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Four-down territory: Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers

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Iowa Minnesota Football

Iowa tight end Luke Lachey (85) catches a pass as he is tackled by Minnesota defensive back Tyler Nubin (27) during the second half of last Saturday's game in Minneapolis.

Four things the football teams from Iowa and Nebraska can do to put themselves in position for success in Friday's 3 p.m. game at Kinnick Stadium.

Nebraska (3-8, 2-6)

1. Establish the pass

Nebraska's offense has been somewhat balanced this season, averaging 345.5 yards including 129.9 rushing yards per game to complement the 215.6 passing yards per game. Quarterback Casey Thompson, a Texas transfer, has topped 300 passing yards on three occasions while throwing for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns. LSU transfer Trey Palmer has been his primary target. The junior has 62 receptions for 878 yards and seven touchdowns. The Cornhuskers will need a big game through the air they hope to end Iowa's seven-year win streak in the series.

2. Start fast

The Cornhuskers have been a fast-starting team this season, scoring touchdowns on their opening possession of the game five times this season including in four of the last five games. That didn't happen last week against Wisconsin but Nebraska did open a 14-3 lead before the Badgers rallied to hand the Cornhuskers their fifth straight defeat, 15-14.

3. Deliver on defense

The Cornhuskers defense has shown a pulse during the second half of the season, something that wasn't the case early. In its last six games, Nebraska has allowed 136.4 fewer yards than it did in its first five games of the season. The Cornhuskers allowed 35.5 points in their first four games, but have allowed an average of 24.6 points since. Linebacker Luke Reimer continues to lead the Nebraska defense. He has 86 tackles on the season and enters the Iowa game needing 14 to become the first Husker since Lavonte David in 2010-11 to have back-to-back 100-tackle seasons.

4. Play like there's no tomorrow

Beyond the Heroes Trophy, Nebraska has little at stake in their season finale. It will be the last game Mickey Joseph works as the Cornhuskers' interim coach, a role he filled following the Sept. 11 firing of Scott Frost a day after a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern. A Nebraska quarterback from 1987-91, Joseph was in his first season working as Nebraska's passing game coordinator and receivers coach when Frost was fired.

Iowa (7-4, 5-3)

1. Establish the run

Iowa toiled on the ground at Minnesota, rushing for 59 yards on 28 carries. The Hawkeyes' Kaleb Johnson passed Tyler Goodson for the top spot on Iowa's all-time freshman rushing charts. Johnson has a team-leading 653 rushing yards and has led the Hawkeyes  in rushing five times this season. The Hamilton, Ohio native has rushed for five touchdowns this season, the most ever by an Iowa freshman.

2. Return to form

Iowa's defense wasn't itself against Minnesota last week. The Hawkeyes did hold the Golden Gophers to 10 points -- the eighth time in 11 games Iowa has given up 10 points or less -- but Minnesota's 312 rushing yards marked the first time since Wisconsin collected 300 yards on the ground in 2019 that an opponent had rushed for 300 yards against the Hawkeyes. Iowa has allowed an average of 108.9 rushing yards per game this season and has held seven opponents below 100 yards.

3. Adjust

Iowa's offense will need to make some adjustments this week with starting tight end and receiving leader Sam LaPorta and starting fullback and key blocker Monte Pottebaum expected to sit out because of leg injuries suffered in the Minnesota game. LaPorta is Iowa's receiving leader with 53 catches for 601 yards. Sophomore Luke Lachey, tied for the team lead in receptions with 18 catches will likely open in LaPorta's absence while senior Turner Pallissard will likely take over at fullback. Freshman Addison Ostrenga is now the second-team tight end and redshirt freshman Eli Miller will back-up Pallissard.

4. Seize the moment

Iowa can win the Big Ten West Division title with a win against Nebraska. Unlike a year ago when the Hawkeyes claimed their first division title since 2015 after Minnesota defeated Wisconsin one day after Iowa concluded the regular season with a 28-21 win at Nebraska, Iowa currently controls its own fate. With a win, Iowa will return to Indianapolis next week and play in the Big Ten title game. With a loss, Purdue can earn that spot if it beats Indiana on Saturday. Illinois, which visits Northwestern on Saturday, can still advance but needs a win and losses by both the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers to reach the title game.

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