Bouncing Around the Big Ten: Iowa plays Nebraska on Black Friday with a shot at division title

Nov. 24—Iowa's defense stood tall against Purdue, while Minnesota knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln last week. Here's a look at all three teams' upcoming contests, as well as a glimpse at the rest of the conference.

After losing three consecutive conference games, Iowa stands one victory from the Big Ten championship game thanks to a four-game winning streak.

Iowa, at one point, was 3-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Then came victories over Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota, pushing the Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) in position to play either Ohio State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game.

A victory over Nebraska (3-8, 2-6) on Friday at Iowa City, Iowa, will make it happen.

Iowa has won seven straight games against Nebraska, which is likely playing its last game under interim head coach Mickey Joseph. The Cornhuskers lost five consecutive Big Ten games after starting 2-1, including a painful defeat last week.

Nebraska was competitive in the 15-14 home loss to Wisconsin but fell short when the Badgers scored on a touchdown run with 35 seconds left. The Cornhuskers' offense totaled 171 yards, with 106 yards passing and 65 yards on the ground.

Casey Thompson completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Take a hat off to these kids," said Joseph, whose team has lost three of the five games in the losing streak by a touchdown or less. "Just a good character group. A group that's not going to quit."

Iowa limited Minnesota to 87 passing yards in the 13-10 victory last week — the third time this season an opponent has passed for less than 100 yards.

This is the first season since 1929 that the Hawkeyes' defense has allowed 10 or fewer points in eight games. The 1929 team gave up 28 points the entire eight-game season.

Jack Campbell, a linebacker, had a fourth-quarter interception against Minnesota and also tallied 10 tackles — his seventh game of 10 tackles or more this season. Campbell is now 20th in school history with 287 career tackles.

More than Paul Bunyan's Axe will be at stake when Wisconsin hosts arch-rival Minnesota on Saturday in Madison, Wis.

It is the FBS' longest-running football rivalry, covering 131 games dating back to 1890. Wisconsin leads the series 62-61-8 and has won 16 of the last 18. Minnesota brings the Axe to Madison this week after winning last season in Minneapolis, 23-13.

"It's the longest rivalry in college football," interim Wisconsin head coach Jim Leonhard said. "If that doesn't mean anything to you, then it's hard. We've talked at length on what I feel about rivalries in college football. It's what makes the game special."

Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) is coming off a 15-14 road victory at Nebraska, rallying with two touchdowns in the final 11 minutes to become bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season and improve to 4-2 under Leonhard.

Shortly after the Badgers win over Nebraska, Wisconsin publicly posted the job opening for the permanent head coaching position. Leonhard was promoted from defensive coordinator to the interim job after Paul Chryst was fired the day after a 34-10 home loss to Illinois on Oct. 1.

Several Wisconsin players have lobbied on social media for Leonhard to get the permanent job and published reports say he is the front-runner.

Minnesota (7-4, 4-4) lost 13-10 to Iowa on Saturday on a field goal with 28 seconds left to fall a game back of the Hawkeyes and Purdue in the congested Big Ten West.

For Wisconsin, inconsistent quarterback Graham Mertz bounced back from a costly interception to direct the two touchdown drives against Nebraska, throwing for one score and then sneaking in from 1 yard out with 35 seconds left for the game-winner.

Braelon Allen, who leads the Badgers with 1,121 yards rushing, battled through a shoulder issue for 92 yards against Nebraska before leaving in the fourth quarter with an ankle sprain. Chez Mellusi, sidelined for four games after breaking his arm, returned to carry 21 times for 98 yards against the Huskers.

"They're just really athletic at every position," Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said of the Badgers. "Whether they're 325 pounds, or they're 180 pounds, the whole team is athletic. Sometimes they're really strong, big, physical — and they still are that — but very athletic across the board on both sides of the ball and special teams."

Minnesota lost at Iowa despite Mohamed Ibrahim's career-high 263 rushing yards. He has rushed for a Big Ten-leading 1,524 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Athan Kaliakmanis, who made his third start versus Iowa in place of injured Tanner Morgan, has completed just 34 of 73 passes (46.6 percent) for 547 yards with one touchdown and four picks. Morgan's status for Wisconsin has not been announced.

Three FBS games you should tune into this weekend:

No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State — 11 a.m. Saturday — Let's not overthink this section this week. Both teams stand at 11-0, with the Big Ten East and the inside track to the College Football Playoff on the line. Depending on how the loser fares, they could find themselves in the four-team playoff in a week's time as well. Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines got the rivarly flipped in their favor last year but can Michigan keep pace with a talented OSU offense at the Horseshoe?

Florida at No. 16 Florida State — 6:30 p.m. Friday — The Seminoles are quietly putting together a nice bounce-back season for third-year coach Mike Norvell and now they have a sulking Florida squad coming to town after the Gators lost at Vanderbilt last week. It has been a less-than-stellar first season for Billy Napier's squad but Anthony Richardson is the type of player that can help Florida spoil FSU's first try to sweep both Miami and Florida in the same season since 2016.

No. 9 Oregon at No. 21 Oregon State — 2:30 p.m. Saturday — For the 126th time in rivalry history, the Ducks and Beavers meet up and there's major postseason implications on the line. A win assures Oregon of a date with Southern Cal in the Pac-12 Championship game next week and puts a potential trip to the Rose Bowl in play. Oregon State gets their rivals to visit Corvallis, a place they've won 10 of their last 11 games, and the Beavers' only two losses this season were by three points each against USC and Washington. Two more wins would give OSU its first 10-win season in 16 years.

Note: This report was compiled in part through previews from Field Level Media.