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Northern Illinois (0-0) at Iowa (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 31, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kinnick Stadium (70,585) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: NIU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Away Record: NIU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, Iowa 0-0. Series Record: Iowa leads, 8-0.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Illinois Huskies hope to avenge their only regular season loss of the 2012 season as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium to begin the 2013 campaign.
Rod Carey will begin his first season at the helm of the Huskies program after taking over last year just prior to the team's Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. After falling to Iowa, 18-17, in its season opener, NIU won 12 consecutive games to earn a spot in a BCS bowl for the first time in school history. Carey had no head coaching experience prior to the setback to the Seminoles. He was in his first year as the team's offensive coordinator before receiving the promotion. It has won its last eight true road contests entering the 2013 campaign and is also the two-time defending MAC Champion.
Iowa's victory in 2013 over NIU marked its eighth win over the Huskies in as many meetings.
Despite being the only team to defeat NIU in the regular season, Iowa had a poor season overall, finishing with a 4-8 record. The Hawkeyes ended 2012 on a six-game losing streak. Coach Kirk Ferentz has compiled a 100-74 record with the program over 16 seasons and is 112-95 overall. He led Iowa to a bowl game in 10 of the previous 11 seasons before last season's sub .500 finish.
NIU was an unstoppable unit in 2012 due to its tremendous attack, which ranked 20th among 120 FBS programs in total offense with 469.6 yards per game and 13th in scoring offense at 38.6 ppg.
Jordan Lynch was the leader of the team throughout its run. He was named a Second-Team All-American and MAC Player of the Year after he completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns against just six interceptions. The 6-foot junior also placed seventh in the nation in rushing (1,815 yards), averaging 6.5 yards per carry with another 19 touchdowns, which had many thinking he was worthy of an invitation to the Heisman Trophy presentation.
Junior wideout Tommylee Lewis is the leading receiver among returners in receptions (48), yards (539) and touchdowns (five), but his 5-7, 155-pound frame is usually lined up in the slot. Junior tight end Luke Eakes brings big play potential to the table and should see more passes come his way during red zone trips. Da'Ron Brown could be the top candidate to replace Martel Moore as the most targeted wideout.
Senior halfback Akeem Daniels is an asset out of the backfield. He showed he can be an every down back by surpassing the 100-yard mark in the regular season finale and MAC Championship. He scored four of his nine rushing TDs against Kent State in Detroit.
The Huskies were a complete team last season. In addition to their great offensive performance, they also ranked second in the MAC in scoring defense and third in total defense with allowed averages of 19.8 points and 369.3 yards per contest. NIU will have trouble frustrating the opposition as frequently this season with seven new starters on the defensive side of the ball.
The leader of the defense is going to be All-MAC safety Jimmy Ward, who paced the team with 104 total stops in 2012. He also deflected 11 passes and recorded a team-high three interceptions. Senior end Joe Windsor wasn't listed as a starter last year, but he was a part of the rotation and finished third on the squad in sacks with seven and also tied for second in tackles for loss with 10.5.
Iowa did not have as settled a quarterback situation heading into the offseason, but sophomore Jake Ruddock emerged as the team's best option during fall camp. He will replace a two-year starter in James Vandenberg, who led the Hawkeyes to just the 111th best scoring offense (19.3 ppg) and 114th total offense (310.4 ypg) last year. Ruddock has yet to attempt a single pass heading into his first start.
The Hawkeyes' rushing game employs the services of both fullback Mark Weisman and tailback Damon Bullock. Weisman powered his way to a team-best 815 yards on eight touchdowns on 159 rushes last year and Bullock gained 513 yards and scored on three of his 135 carries.
Kevonte Martin-Manley headlines the pass-catching unit after recording a team- high 52 receptions for 571 yards last year as a sophomore. Senior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (45 rec, 433 yds) is also a reliable option for Ruddock.
Iowa's defense returns eight starters from the squad that finished 49th in the nation in total yards allowed per game (381.6) and 33rd in points allowed per contest (22.9).
Senior middle linebacker James Morris (113 tackles, 9.0 TFL), a four-year starter, is the unquestioned leader of the defense after consecutive All-Big Ten seasons. Also back are leading tackler Anthony Hitchens (124 tackles) and Christian Kirksey (95 tackles, 2 INT) on the outside.
Iowa's defense matches up very well against the Lynch-led Huskies, which is why it was one of just two teams to slow down NIU last year. The Hawkeyes have to come up with a few big plays and also need their new quarterback to limit turnovers to keep their undefeated record against NIU intact. Lynch will be out for revenge, but he will need to submit a very strong showing to make up for the Huskies' defense, which could have trouble with the Hawkeyes' thunder and lighting rushing combination.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 28, Iowa 24
08/28 10:41:57 ET