Five burning questions heading into Iowa week
After a convincing 54-7 road win at Maryland, Nebraska comes into its annual Black Friday showdown against Iowa with a chance to clinch a bowl berth for the first time since 2016.
Here are five questions still facing the Huskers as they get ready for Iowa week...
1. Nebraska has a chance, but can it finish?
Nebraska spent all of last week operating under the premise that it had to win each of its final two regular-season games to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2016 Music City Bowl.
The Huskers took care of business and got a road victory at Maryland on Saturday, and now only Iowa stands in their path to the postseason.
After earning its first November road win since 2015, momentum will finally be on NU's side going into Friday's finale. Not only is the team feeling good about arguably its best all-around performance of the season, but it will also have the motivations of playing its division rival on national television on Senior Day.
The table is set for Nebraska to make the most of what's left of an otherwise disappointing season. Can the Huskers rally together one more time and finish the job?
2. Can the Huskers get healthy?
Nebraska's performance at Maryland was especially impressive in that several key players either battled through illness or didn't make the trip at all.
A bug went around the NU locker room last week and took a pretty heavy toll on the Huskers. Even some guys who were able to tough it out and play, like running back Dedrick Mills and JD Spielman, barely made it through and had to get IVs during the game.
The Huskers need to be as close to full strength as possible against a formidable opponent like Iowa. How they balance preparing on a short week while also giving those sick players enough time to rest and recover will be key.
3. Will Robinson be able to play?
Nebraska was without one of its top offensive weapons for the second straight game, as true freshman Wan'Dale Robinson did not make the trip to College Park while continuing to deal with an unspecified injury.
The good news was that before the Maryland game, head coach Scott Frost said he was "hopeful" that the do-it-all wide receiver/running back would be able to return before the end of the season.
That at least leaves the door open for Robinson to return to action this week. If he can go, the Huskers would get one of their most productive pieces back when they'd need him the most.
4. How will the offense score?
Before Maryland, at least, Nebraska has had enough issues in putting enough points on the scoreboard this season.
Now the Huskers will face one of the stingiest defenses in all of college football this week.
Iowa comes in ranked second in the Big Ten on behind Ohio State in scoring defense, giving up just 12.2 points per game and only 15 touchdowns on the season.
The Hawkeyes have only given up 21 points or more one time in 11 games, and that came in a 24-21 road loss at Wisconsin.
Opponents have put up some yards on Iowa, which allows an average of 306.1 yards per game and 131.7 on the ground.
But when it comes to bend-but-don't break defense, few have been better than IU. The Hawkeyes have only allowed nine touchdowns in 23 opponent red zone opportunities this year.
5. Did NU turn a corner at Maryland?
Aside from finally getting a victory for the first time since Oct. 5, what Frost liked most about Saturday's game was how his team came together and rose to the occasion with its back against the wall.
Frost said he challenged the Huskers to not only play with the right levels of focus and intensity but also to be more supportive with "hand on a hat" encouragement during the game.
Frost said the spirit and energy were great all week, and it played out exactly how it hoped when the lights turned on for kickoff.
For a team that's struggled to establish the kind of culture Frost and his staff have preached about since taking over in Lincoln, Saturday could be a turning point of sorts in unifying the locker room.
Of course, all of that positivity could quickly be erased if the Huskers don't bring that same fire on Friday. If they do, though, it could be the springboard for the future Frost has been wanting.