Nebraska, which beat Iowa 31-7 on Monday night, opens the regular season Friday night against Iowa State in Lincoln, Neb.
The Huskers have lost eight straight games and are 1-6 in conference play.
But Nebraska coach Brian Kelly is optimistic that a strong win over Iowa State on Saturday could help propel the Huskers into the postseason.
“We’ve been a little bit frustrated, but we’ve been able to get through it,” Kelly said.
“And I think if we can play with the energy and with the mental toughness and the character that we’ve shown all year, we’ll be a lot better off for it.”
Iowa has lost eight consecutive games and is 1-3 in conference.
The Cyclones are coming off their second straight loss, and Kelly said the Huskies have to do a better job of keeping their opponents honest.
“Iowa has a very good defense, and they’ve been really good in the run game, and we’ve had to make plays when we’ve got to,” Kelly added.
“They’re one of the better teams in the Big Ten and they have a lot of talent in that group.
They’ve just got to keep it tight, play to their defense and find ways to win the ballgame.”
Iowa’s defensive line struggled in the first half of the season, and the Hawkeyes are trying to avoid giving up more than 20 points a game this season.
Iowa’s offense struggled to move the ball, and Iowa State’s defense struggled to cover a bigger threat in the passing game.
“Our defense, as we’ve said from day one, has been one of our strengths, and it’s a big weakness,” Kelly explained.
“The defense that we play has been so good in this conference, so we have to find ways we can give ourselves a chance to win this game.
That’s going to be the key to our game.
We’ve got a lot to learn from this game, so it’s going have to be our focus moving forward.”
Iowa finished with just 10 sacks, but the Cyclones were just 3 of 21 on third down.
Kelly said Iowa was able to stop the run because of the way the offense has played in the second half.
Iowa finished the game with 1:31 left, but it was just 1:10 in the third quarter when the Hawks had a chance at tying the game at 11.
Iowa State went up 31-10 after three quarters, but Kelly said he was frustrated with the Cyclone’s performance.
“It was just too bad that we had no momentum,” Kelly told reporters after the game.
Kelly is expected to get a full review from the NCAA’s academic integrity unit.
Iowa was ranked first in the country in rushing yards last season, but that number has decreased as the Haws struggled with injuries to key players.
Iowa had 13 sacks last season and now ranks dead last in the league in rushing offense.
Iowa has not been able or willing to use the rushing game, but last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Deshaun Watson threw for 717 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa.
Iowa is 3-4 all-time against the Cyclons.
The Hawkeyes have been without quarterback Dak Prescott, who missed a week with a knee injury.
Prescott, a 6-foot-6 quarterback from Dallas, has thrown three interceptions and four touchdowns against the Hawgs.
Kelly also said he does not expect the Hawkeye offense to be dominant this season, noting that Iowa has been more of a passing attack over the past two seasons.
“That’s the kind of game we’ve done a good job of,” Kelly concluded.
“I think we’re a lot more aggressive, a lot quicker than we were last year.”
Iowa will be looking for a fifth straight win against Iowa this season after dropping four straight.
The only other teams Iowa has beaten since last year are Iowa State and Iowa.