Steven M. Sipple: Battered and bruised, must match NOW with ‘oomph’ that puts Iowa in rivalry | Column

Last week, Ohio State, currently second in the College Playoff Playoff poll, escaped Lincoln with a 26-17 win. The Buckeyes’ point total was 21 less than their season average.

So it’s hard to imagine Iowa battling for first place in the Big Ten West Division, facing Nebraska. In fact, it’s easy to imagine the game being pushed to its limits. Yes, again.

If you’re a Nebraska fan, you naturally worry about injuries on the defense. Nose piece Damion Daniels played sparingly last week and his status for Friday is uncertain. The same goes for linebacker Caleb Tannor, who was injured in the first quarter and never returned to the game. Pheldarius Payne, prominent in the linebacker rotation, did not play at all.

Versatile supporter JoJo Domann, who underwent season-end hand surgery during Nebraska’s second week of retirement, was sorely missed last week when Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson caught eight passes for 92 yards. Domann is adept at covering tight ends. Don’t look now, but Iowa has Sam LaPorta with a team leader of 37 receptions.

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Nebraska fans would feel a measure of comfort as senior safety Deontai Williams returns from this three-game absence due to a knee injury. According to Frost, he was almost done last week.

Of course, all eyes will be on Nebraska quarterback Logan Smothers. Martinez, the four-year starter, had surgery on his throwing shoulder on Wednesday. So the wily 2020 freshman Smothers will make his first collegiate start against a defense that specializes in interceptions — 11 different Hawkeyes picked passes. That’s right, 11.

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