NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS (0-0) vs. IOWA STATE CYCLONES (0-0)
Two-minute drill: Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa Rush Offense vs. Iowa State Rush Defense
David Johnson topped the 1,000-yard plateau last season and nearly beat the Cyclones by himself in 2011 with a late 80-yard touchdown catch and run. So he has ISU’s attention. He’ll attack a front seven long on talent but woefully short on experience. Among that group, only linebacker Jeremiah George and defensive end Willie Scott have started games. And only Scott (13 straight starts) has started an entire season. Advantage: Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa Pass Offense vs. Iowa State Pass Defense
Sawyer Kollmorgen garnered glowing pre-game praise from Cyclone coaches and players alike. He’s big, strong and smart, but his options shrank when explosive wideout Brett LeMaster went down late in camp. ISU’s most experienced in its secondary, especially at safety where captain Jacques Washington resides. Deon Broomfield provides a heady and play-making bookend and Jansen Watson’s a lockdown-type corner. Charlie Rogers is a big, but untested, hitter. Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa State Rush Offense vs. Northern Iowa Rush Defense
It will be scathingly hot, but thanks to enviable depth the Cyclones should stay fresh. James White has led ISU in rushing the past two seasons and again tops the depth chart. Injury rehab veteran Shontrelle Johnson, along with newcomer Aaron Wimberly will push for carries, as will DeVondrick Nealy. Jeff Woody’s your short yardage back. The Cyclones aim for 180 or more yards on the ground per game and should get there if the line’s on top of things. Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa State Pass Offense vs. Northern Iowa Pass Defense
The Cyclones will face an all-new Panther secondary riddled with transfers. That’s good and bad from an ISU perspective. Cyclone offensive coordinator (and former UNI quarterback) Courtney Messingham said film is of little help in this regard. But new means inexperienced at this level. If the run game clicks as expected, plenty of play-action options should emerge and Quenton Bundrage is poised for a breakout game as a No. 1 wide receiver. Advantage: Iowa State
ISU’s kicking battle has yet to be decided. Incumbent Edwin Arceo drilled 12 of 18 field goals last season — with half those attempts coming from 49 yards out or more. He’s being pushed by Cole Netten. Cyclone punter Kirby Van Der Kamp is among the nation’s best at his craft, thus a weapon. The Panthers have a proven kicker in Tyler Sievertsen and a new punter in Logan Bieghler. Watch out for big returns from ISU’s Bundrage and/or Jarvis West and Aaron Wimberly. (Slight) Advantage: Iowa State.
The Panthers know they can win this game and past results back up their upstart attitude. UNI dominated ISU 24-13 in 2007 before the largest crowd (56,795) in Jack Trice Stadium history. It was one of many low points for the Cyclones in the brief Gene Chizik era. Six games in the series have been decided by three points or fewer, including the most recent matchup, which feature two late ISU comebacks leading to a razor-thin 20-19 triumph. UNI nearly beat Wisconsin in last season’s Mark Farley vs. Goliath season opener, so it’s laughable to suggest there’s any intimidation factor. The Cyclones’ many unknowns can be turned into a strength. Farley says they look the part of “Big 12 team” more than ever before. Another sellout crowd will fill the stadium, which always boosts the Cyclones. Depth and scholarships make a difference, especially in stifling heat. (Slight) Advantage: Iowa State.
Northern Iowa will win if … A David Johnson-led running game can be swiftly established, thus allowing play-action opportunities for quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen. The Panthers’ inexperienced defensive backs must excel in coverage and against ISU’s talented stable of backs. Must be plus-two or better in turnovers.
Iowa State will win if … Clean football’s the key and also the rub. With so many fresh-faced players, errors will happen. If they’re minor, even an unspectacular effort will be good enough to lead to Rhoads’ fifth 1-0 start. Kirby Van Der Kamp needs to ride the pine. That means extending and finishing offensive drives — a bugaboo in 2012.
Prediction: Iowa State 31, Northern Iowa 17
Three Things to Watch
ISU’s Quenton Bundrage. The Palmetto, Fla., native is poised for a big play. A really big play. Last season, he notched two receptions that spanned 35 yards. Bundrage is big, strong and fast (6-2, 189), which is one reason he also rose to the No. 1 kick returner spot. He’s a one cut and go type, which bodes well in the downhill pistol offense.
UNI’s David Johnson. An accomplished back, Johnson will hit an ISU defensive line teeming with youth and/or inexperience. His combination of size and speed could pose problems. Laughs at arm tackles. Once he gets to the edge, he’s tough to corral and fun to watch. Has moves, but mostly hits the hole and goes.
The Cyclones’ sideline. Rotations a-plenty should be coming on the offensive and defensive lines. There’s experience on the O-line, but some of it (banged up veteran Ethan Tuftee) is slated to start out on the bench. Several running backs will likely get carries. There won’t be hockey-esque line changes, but it could be similar at times.
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