- Associated Press - Friday, November 5, 2010

AMES, IOWA (AP) - On paper, Nebraska’s final trip to Iowa State as a conference foe looks like the bitter end of a rivalry that dates to 1896.

In reality, it’s never been much of a rivalry at all.

The powerhouse Cornhuskers have pounded the Cyclones since the days of leather helmets and dusty train rides through the Plains, winning an astounding 85 of the 104 meetings between the border rivals. This Saturday’s 105th meeting in Ames isn’t expected to buck that trend.

Iowa State (5-4, 3-2 Big 12) has played three teams that were in the top 10 at kickoff in Iowa, Utah and Oklahoma. The Cyclones lost them all by a combined 155-34.

No. 9 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) is coming off a 31-17 win over previously unbeaten Missouri and is on track to win the Big 12 North before moving to the Big Ten next year.

Iowa State wants nothing more than to stick it to a team that’s stuck it them since before the Big 6 _ let alone the Big 12 _ but pulling it off again seems like a long shot.

“They’re such a storied program,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “To not have that opportunity anymore, I’m sure the people in the league are all savoring this last opportunity.”

The Huskers can see the finish line for the North crown. They control their own destiny after pushing aside the upstart Tigers, and their final four games _ at Iowa State, Kansas, at Texas A&M and Colorado _ all look winnable if Nebraska can play like it did last week.

“Just because we beat Missouri doesn’t mean we won the North. We still have to play Colorado, (Kansas) and Iowa State and we can’t have any more letdowns. Everything we want is still out there,” Nebraska tight end Kyler Reed said.

But after what happened last year, don’t expect the Huskers to look past Iowa State.

The Cyclones forced eight turnovers _ including four inside Iowa State’s 5-yard line _ and escaped from Lincoln with a 9-7 victory. It was a historic win for the Cyclones, who hadn’t beaten Nebraska on the road in 32 years, and a lesson the Huskers haven’t forgotten.

“There were just a couple of freak accidents that will happen but we are doing everything we can on ball security this season,” Nebraska tight end Ben Cotton said.

There’s plenty of reasons why Nebraska is a heavy favorite on Saturday, ranging from the history of the series to the apparent talent gap between the two programs.

The biggest factor is as old as the rivalry itself.

The Huskers run the ball as well as anyone in the country, and the Cyclones haven’t proven they can consistently stop the run.

Nebraska’s electric freshman quarterback, Taylor Martinez, sprained his right ankle in the win over Missouri but is expected to be ready by Saturday. Oh, and Roy Helu Jr. rushed for a school-record 307 yards and three touchdowns.

Facing two dynamic runners at the same time could spell trouble for the Cyclones, who let up 181 yards rushing to Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas and 156 yards to Iowa’s Adam Robinson on just 14 carries.

Iowa State ranks 99th in rushing defense, allowing 194 yards a game.

“Martinez has so much speed. We’ve got to be aware where he’s at all the time. It’s going to be a key for us to stop the run early in the game,” Iowa State defensive end Rashawn Parker said.

Iowa State joins Nebraska as the only North schools that can make it to the final Big 12 title game by winning out. But the Cyclones have never reached the Big 12 title game and they’re not about to start talking about doing so this time around.

Iowa State’s focus is on proving it can play with elite competition and reaching the six-win plateau needed for bowl eligibility. Beating the Huskers on their way out the door would be nice, too.

“We’ve played three Top Ten teams already to this point and all three have beaten us soundly. I want to show up and play,” Rhoads said.

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