July 2, 2010

An early look at the Big Ten: Iowa

The Iowa Hawkeyes

Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Distance from Lincoln: 301 miles

Best way to get there: Just a five-hour drive from Lincoln, this will be the shortest conference road trip for Husker fans. If you want to fly, Delta and United airlines both offer several daily flights with a connection in Minneapolis. However, most flights end up taking longer than the drive down I-80.


Offensive scheme: Power I
Defensive scheme: 4-3

Rivals.com past recruiting rankings: No. 42 (2010), No. 63 (2009), No. 53 (2008) and No. 28 (2007).

The Hawkeyes have eight commitments for 2011, including one four-star and five three-star recruits.

Iowa's history against Nebraska

Despite being from neighboring states, Nebraska and Iowa have played just five times in the past 20 years, with the last game dating all the way back to the 2000 season. In those five most recent meetings, the Huskers have owned the Hawkeyes, posting a 4-1 record and winning by an average margin of more than 37 points. The two teams last played a two-game home-and-home series in 1999 and 2000, and Nebraska won both handily by scores of 42-7 and 42-13, respectively. The Huskers hold a 26-12-3 advantage all-time over the Hawkeyes.

Why this game could be a potential rivalry

For one, the fact that Iowa will be Nebraska's closest geographic opponent immediately makes them a rival of sorts. When you throw in the fact that both fan bases really don't like each other all that much to begin with, this series has the makings to get nasty in a hurry.

Even though Nebraska and Iowa have hardly crossed paths the past two decades, there's an underlying distaste for one another that will now actually have some tangible justification. Should the Big Ten decide to split into two divisions, it's basically a guarantee that the two teams would also be in the same division, meaning they would have to go through each other to win a conference championship.

Competitively speaking, the programs are almost equally matched, as both teams ended last season ranked in the top-15 and could both be pre-season top-10 this fall. In other words, there are more than enough reasons for this to take over as one of Nebraska's more bitter rivalries.

Stars to watch for in 2011

Though missed all of last season with a knee injury, running back Jewel Hampton is still one of the top power backs in college football when healthy. Assuming he doesn't suffer any more setbacks during his sophomore campaign this season, Hampton should be one of the elite backs in the nation when Nebraska finally sees him.

Behind him are Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher, who combined for 1,475 rushing yards as freshmen in Hampton's absence. That backfield trio will give the Hawkeyes arguably the best rushing attack in the Big Ten, if not the country, in a couple years.

On the other side of the ball, strong safety Tyler Sash will anchor what should once again be one of the better defenses in the nation. Sash hauled in six interceptions as a sophomore last season, and will likely only continue to get better.



 

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