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10 @ 10: This week Hawks are Gopher fans
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10 @ 10: This week Hawks are Gopher fans

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The Hawkeyes strike a nerve with a Nebraska lineman, Seth Benson on maintaining focus and Sam LaPorta and Kaevon Merriweather want to be in a spot to cheer on a Big Ten rival are all part of the Thanksgiving Day edition of the Hawkeye 10@10.

Before carving into the bird, cut into the daily dose of Iowa football news and notes delivered each weekday at 10 a.m. during game week at hawkmania.com, your home for all things Iowa.

Here is today’s Hawkeye 10@10:

1. The first priority for Iowa football players is taking care of business on Friday at Nebraska.

If that happens, the Hawkeyes will find themselves in an unusual position of being interested spectators on Saturday when Wisconsin visits Minnesota.

If the Hawkeyes defeat the Cornhuskers for a seventh straight year, Iowa is assured of no worse than a tie for first in the Big Ten West. If the Golden Gophers are able to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s axe from the Badgers, Iowa would represent the West in next week’s Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.

“Go Gophers,’’ Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta said, a sentiment echoed by safety Kaevon Merriweather.

“I might have to go out and buy some gear to watch the game,’’ Merriweather said.

2. Linebacker Seth Benson isn’t thinking too far down the road. He said Iowa’s focus this week has to be on Iowa and not on what could happen the following day when Wisconsin and Minnesota meet in Minneapolis.

“If we don’t take care of business on Friday, none of that other stuff matters,’’ Benson said. “That’s what we control, how we prepare this week and how we play our next game. This is one last chance in the regular season to play football. We need to make the most of it.’’

3. Iowa has rolled to six consecutive wins over the Cornhuskers, adding a little something extra to the Heroes Game rivalry.

Nebraska defensive lineman Ben Stille expects that to be noticeable on Friday especially.

“There is a little more that goes into it,’’ Stille said. “The preparation is similar as far as you prepare like any other opponent but then obviously on game day there is a little extra juice. You can just feel it. You are lying if you do not feel it.’’

With Iowa involved, Stille said that juice is magnified.

“There is a little more hatred that goes toward each other on both sides of the ball, so there is just a little extra that goes into the game for sure,’’ he said.

4. Hawkeye offensive guard Connor Colby is preparing for his first Heroes Game match-up, but the true freshman has a pretty good idea of what he is preparing for this week.

“Up front, they’re big, physical guys that really get after it,’’ Colby said. “This is a game that’s always important to us and it’s important now because it’s the next game in front of us.’’

5. When the current season ends, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will have just four years remaining on his current 10-year contract.

Director of athletics Gary Barta said Saturday that he plans to visit with Ferentz once the current season ends about the possibility of extending Ferentz’s current deal.

The idea in part is to help protect Iowa’s ability to recruit.

“I have made it very clear that I want to provide everything that Kirk needs to finish his career here,’’ Barta said. “Once the season’s over, we’ll talk about that.’’

6. Freshman Logan Smothers is expected to get the start at quarterback for Nebraska on Friday in place of injured Adrian Martinez.

Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost believes that Smothers is ready to make his first career start in the 12:30 p.m. game against Iowa.

“I think he’s looking forward to this moment. He’s done really well when he’s gone into game and operated well,’’ Frost said.

“This is a good defense we are playing obviously. It’s going to be a big challenge, but he’s really sharp. He’s not the fresh-faced kid that’s going to get surprised by a bunch of things or pressures or different looks. He is really smart and knows our offense and can operate it.’’

7. With a chance to win at least a share of the Big Ten West Division title on the line Friday at Nebraska, running back Tyler Goodson credits Iowa’s character with helping the team keep things together this season.

Through the injuries and inconsistencies the Hawkeyes have dealt with on the offensive line and at quarterback during a 9-2 season, he’s proud of the effort of his teammates.

“It just shows the type of guys we have on the team. We talk about character and we have guys with good character that love the game of football,’’ Goodson said. “When there are times they can step in and make a play, they’re going to do that. It’s just the love of football and the love they have for this team.’’

8. Charlie Jones became just the third Iowa player to return both a kick and a punt for touchdown during their careers when he ran a kickoff back 100 yards in Saturday’s win over Illinois.

Jones previously ran a punt back 54 yards for a touchdown in a 2020 game against Michigan State.

The other Hawkeyes to accomplish the feat were C.J. Jones, who ran one of each back, and Khalil Hill, who returned two kickoffs and two punts for scores.

9. The skill of Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum impresses Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, a former Hawkeye.

“I think he is an exceptional football player who is very athletic. That’s the first thing you notice about him,’’ Chinander said.

“We will the look we get from Cam Jurgens is very accurate because I find both those guys similar in size and both are very athletic centers. I think the look Cam gives us all year when we do good-on-good periods is going to carry over really well to playing Iowa, but I think (Linderbaum) is very smart. He makes all the calls. He makes all the checks. Very athletic. Finishes plays. He just looks like a Big Ten offensive lineman just on the upper side of athleticism.’’

10. Tyler Goodson’s 132-yard rushing performance against Illinois marked not only his eighth career 100-yard game, but also the 14th consecutive game Goodson has led Iowa in rushing.

That is the longest streak since Goodson’s first-year position coach, Ladell Betts, was the Hawkeyes’ rushing leader in 37 consecutive games from 1998-2001.

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