IOWA CITY — November has been a good month for Iowa football, with the Hawkeyes going 3-0 so far.
The same cannot be said for Iowa’s next opponent. Nebraska is reeling from three straight losses. All three were one-possession games, and one of the three went into overtime.
Despite the contrasting trends (and the No. 16 ranking next to Iowa’s name), ESPN has Nebraska as a 1.5-point favorite at home against the Hawkeyes.
Here are five Nebraska players to watch when Iowa visits Memorial Stadium:
QB Chubba Purdy
Iowa could be going up against another member of the Purdy family this week.
Chubba Purdy, the younger brother of former Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, made his first career start last week against Wisconsin.
Purdy threw for 169 yards and ran another 105 yards. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes and threw one touchdown and one interception. His athleticism was on display when he scrambled out of pressure and took off for a 55-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter.
“For his first start for us this year, I thought it was really something to build on,” Nebraska Coach Matt Rhule said, via the Omaha World-Herald.
Iowa, of course, fared well against the other Purdy brother. Brock Purdy never beat the Hawkeyes in his four years as Iowa State’s starter.
Nebraska’s other options at quarterback include Heinrich Haarberg and Jeff Sims.
Sims began the season as the Huskers’ starting quarterback before Haarberg took over the QB1 spot. Haarberg then suffered an ankle injury, which opened the door for Purdy to show what he can do against the Badgers.
DB Isaac Gifford
Rhule started a new tradition when he arrived at Nebraska. The single-digit numbers will go to the toughest players on the team.
Isaac Gifford wears No. 2.
The 6-foot-1 safety has a team-high 75 tackles and seven pass breakups this season. (No other Husker has more than 50 tackles.) He also is tied for third on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss.
Gifford arrived at Nebraska in 2020 and has yet to miss a game. He was mostly a special teams contributor in his first two seasons before taking a more active role on the defense in 2022.
He is the younger brother of former Husker and current NFL linebacker Luke Gifford, who is on the Tennessee Titans.
RB Emmett Johnson
Emmett Johnson has been on the rise this season.
Last year, the 5-11 running back from Minneapolis appeared exclusively on special teams in four games while preserving his redshirt year.
Then this year, after only getting 11 carries in Nebraska’s first six games combined, Johnson has had 12-plus carries in each of the Huskers’ last five games.
He has finished all five of those games with 50-plus rushing yards and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season.
Anthony Grant could be another running back to watch. The senior from Buford, Ga., has 409 rushing yards this season while averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He had his best game of the season against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 23, when he racked up 135 yards on 22 carries.
WR Billy Kemp IV
Billy Kemp IV has made an immediate impact on offense and special teams in his first season in Lincoln.
The Virginia transfer leads the Huskers this season with 31 catches for 289 receiving yards.
His production can be hit-or-miss, though.
Kemp had eight receptions last week against Wisconsin, which was more than the rest of the Nebraska receiving corps combined. But two weeks earlier, he only had one catch for minus-three yards against Northwestern.
He also has taken five of the Huskers’ 12 punt returns this season, averaging 3.8 yards per return.
Kemp was college teammates with Iowa linebacker Nick Jackson for four years at Virginia before they both entered the transfer portal last year.
LB Jimari Butler
Jimari Butler has been a near-constant presence on the Nebraska defense over the last two seasons.
Butler played in all 12 games last season and 10 out of 11 games so far this season. His only absence — Nebraska’s Week 0 loss to Minnesota — was due to an injury.
Butler has a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.
The linebacker from Mobile, Ala., was originally a three-star recruit, according to 247Sports, with offers from Tennessee, Ole Miss, TCU, Maryland and other Power Five programs.