After stopping a three-game losing streak last week with a rout at Illinois, Iowa is focused on beating rival Nebraska for a fourth consecutive year in the regular-season finale on Black Friday.
The Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) pummeled the Fighting Illini 63-0 last Saturday in Champaign, but the win came too late to salvage a season that went south after heartbreaking losses to Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern by a combined 12 points.
A win over Nebraska (4-7, 4-4) doesn't mean much for Iowa other than bragging rights over a border rival and possibly a better bowl game, but the seniors would like to go out with a four-year sweep of the Cornhuskers.
"It would be huge to send these seniors out on a good note," Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley said.
Iowa has outscored Nebraska 124-44 the past three years, but the Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them against the Cornhuskers, who are finishing strong under first-year coach Scott Frost. They're won four of their last five after opening the season 0-6, and the most recent losses have come by five points at Ohio State and in overtime to Big Ten West champion Northwestern.
"We want to put our best foot forward this week," Iowa senior defensive end Parker Hesse said. "We want to walk out of Kinnick knowing we played our best game."
The season has been a frustrating one for Iowa, which started 6-1 but with a loss could finish 7-5.
"7-5 looks a lot worse than 8-4," defensive end Anthony Nelson told reporters Tuesday. "We're just going to do whatever we can to win on Friday and get No. 8. That's enough motivation for us."
Statistically, Iowa's defense ranks among the best in the country. The offense has shown flashes but not enough consistency, especially in tight games.
"It's not what the opponent does, it's what we do to ourselves," said tight end T.J. Hockenson, a finalist for the Mackey Award who has 41 receptions and seven touchdowns this season.
Iowa took out its frustrations on Illinois, posting its biggest winning margin since 1997. The Hawkeyes scored 28 points in the second quarter to put the game away.
The win was Kirk Ferentz's 150th at Iowa in his 20th season, making him just the fifth coach to achieve that milestone as a member of the Big Ten. He'd certainly like to add to that total this week.
"This game is extremely important to us," Ferentz said. "It's got a lot of weight, a lot of value, and we're giving it our utmost intention. Hopefully, we'll have great preparation all week long.
"You look at Nebraska, they're a team that's really riding high right now, playing with really good momentum."