Nebraska heads into the regular season finale against Iowa in need of a win for bowl eligibility. The Hawkeyes enter Friday’s game after back-to-back wins against Minnesota and Illinois and sit at 8-3 on the season.
Here are some Hawkeye players to watch:
Nate Stanley, QB:
This is Nate Stanley’s third year as the Hawkeye starting quarterback and arguably his best season yet. His passing yardage will likely surpass last year’s number as well as his completion percentage as he currently sits at 2,639 passing yards on a 59.8% completion rate. His interceptions have dropped as well, although his touchdown passes have taken a significant dip.
All of this is even more impressive considering he lost his two biggest pass-catching threats last year to the draft in tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant.
Stanley is not a flashy player by any means and serves more as a game manager. He is the prototypical Iowa quarterback who will do enough for the team to win but won’t inspire much more than that. Considering how poor the Husker defense has been at times this season, that could be enough to lead the Hawkeyes to victory.
Tyler Goodson, RB:
Iowa has three good running backs on this roster who have received roughly the same amount of carries this season, but Tyler Goodson has the most potential of the bunch. The true freshman currently is the second leading rusher on the team behind junior Mekhi Sargent, but averages more yards per carry and is more of a threat in the passing game.
Goodson has broken into the rotation similar to the way Wan’Dale Robinson has done at Nebraska, although not to the same extent. He was the workhorse back last week for the Hawkeyes and it appears he will be the lead back of the future. That potential will be on display this week as he could see a similar amount of touches on Friday.
Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson, OT:
Not often are offensive linemen put in my players to watch, but these two certainly belong in this group. Both Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson are potential first round NFL draft picks, especially Wirfs who some consider could go in the first five picks. Jackson’s stock has fallen a little as he missed time this season with a bone bruise on his knee.
Wirfs and Jackson power this Iowa rushing attack and are extremely important to the Hawkeyes’ success on stretch runs. With Iowa running the ball a majority of the time, their run blocking will be on full display. While fans may not watch the offensive line much, this is a game where it is worth paying attention to.
A.J. Epenesa, DE:
Nebraska has faced tons of good pass rushers this season and A.J. Epenesa is one of the best of the bunch. Epenesa’s numbers aren’t as good as one would expect, but he still has registered seven sacks on the year with 31 tackles.
The Huskers will need to make sure they account for where he is on the field at all times and do a better job than they did against Ohio State’s Chase Young earlier in the season. Epenesa is the kind of player who can take over a game and stop an offense in its tracks.
The Husker offensive line has done a better job in recent weeks at both run blocking and pass protection. It will be important for them to keep performing well if they are going to have a chance at slowing down Epenesa and giving quarterback Adrian Martinez time to go through his reads.