Iowa CITY, Ia. - You're likely to hear a lot of Northern Iowa talk in Iowa football discussions this week. The Hawkeyes' season-opener from two years ago serves as a warning for taking underdogs lightly, or so it would seem.
Fine. GIve the Panthers credit for forcing Iowa to block two field goal attempts late in the contest to preserve victory. Let's not get crazy, though.
For the most part, these games provide nice paydays for the small schools going to BCS stadiums across the country each September. And the result, most often, is a beat-down handed out by the home team. Appalachian State winning in the Big House is an aberation.
You can respect the desire and drive of Tennessee Tech, who travels to Iowa Saturday for this week's 2011 season opener for both teams. The Golden Eagles likely practice hard and believe they can upset the Big Ten team.
Iowa last lost to a non-BCS level opponent at home in the 2007 finale against Western Michigan. It was one of those games, during one of those years.
Tech was picked to finish fifth in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference this preseason. The Eagles have not won in 26 games against FBS opponents dating back to 1984, including losses at TCU and Arkansas last season by a combined score of 110-10.
TELEVISION: BTN (HD) will televise the contest with kickoff set for 11:01 am central. Tom Werme, former Hawkeye Danan Hughes and Stacy Paetz will call the action.
RECORDS, RANKINGS: It's the season opener for both teams. They're listed among the teams receiving votes in polls for their respective levels.
HISTORY: This is the first meeting between the two teams. Iowa is 1-0 against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference, opening the 2010 season with a 37-7 win over Eastern Illinois. Tennessee Tech is playing its first opponent from the Big Ten Conference.
THE LINE: The game is off of the board at my site of choice, covers.com. 5Dimes.com puts it at Iowa minus 40.
If you really need action, throw you're money at some U.S. Open tennis matches. Stay the heck away from this one.
Kirk Ferentz is a class act. I can't remember the last time he ran up a score. Iowa could cover the number, but the Hawkeyes might sit on a lead that falls short of them covering. That's too risky.
Here are a couple of interesting trends:
-Tennessee Tech is 0-5 Straight Up in its last 5 games
-Tennessee Tech is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games on the road
-Iowa is 1-3-1 Against the Spread in its last 5 games
-Iowa is 5-1-1 ATS in its last 7 games at home
-Iowa is 15-3 SU in its last 18 games at home
Tech WR Tim Benford vs. Iowa CB Shaun Prater - Benford comes into his senior season having been named first-team, all-OVC following the last two campaigns. Prater returns after a first-team, all-Big Ten campaign in '10.
Benford caught 50 passes last season, including 10 for touchdowns. He's collected 22 scoring receptions in his career.
Prater picked off four passes last season and broke up another six. He ranked second second in the Big Ten in interceptions.
Iowa WR Keenan Davis vs. Tech CB Richmond Tooley - The shorter of the Eagles two corners, Tooley gives up four inches and 30 pounds to the Hawkeye true junior. This could be an excellent opportunity for Davis to get off on the right foot as a first-year starter.
Enter Daniel, who has been waiting for this moment. The fifth-year senior sat behind Clayborn and others during his college career with the exception of spot reps here and there.
Normad is a 6-foot-2, 290-pound sophomore, who started the last two games at LT last season after being a backup center and guard for most of his freshman campaign.
Iowa LG Matt Tobin/Brandon Scherff vs. Tech DT (Rock) Travis Adkins - Left guard was where the Iowa coaches expected to plug in Nolan MacMillan. A sports hernia injury has put his return up in the air.
Scherff pulled away with the spot in the spring. After an injury in camp, he was passed by Tobin. They were even on the most recent depth chart.
Whichever guy ends up being in there (maybe it's both), they'll go against a very seasoned player in Adkins. At 6-5, 275, he's got decent size for a FCS lineman and he begins his third season as a starter.
Hunter spent his first year and a half out of high school attending Tech and working in sports information at the school. He then served three and a half years in the Army. He worked with the scout team last year.
Hunter is expected to see plenty of action Saturday and likely will get Nielsen when he's running routes. Nielsen will be playing in a game for the first time since surgery at the end of last season.
INJURIES: Nick White (questionable, knee), Taylor Hennigan (questionable, back), Jerry King (out for season), Cy Ables (out for season), Zach Ziegler (questionable), Marty Jones (questionable).
Tennessee Tech -
-Tech Head Coach Watson Brown's brother, Mack, is the head coach at Texas.
-The Eagles return 21 starters from '10, plus three specialists. They have all 11 starters back on offense.
-Tech won four of its last six games a year ago. -Tech assistant Steven Brown is the son of the head coach.
-There are no players on the Tech roster from Iowa.
-Ferentz will be coaching in his 150th game.
-Iowa is 21-1 in its last 22 non-conference home games.
-This is the second season in a row the Hawkeyes open with an Ohio Valley Conference opponent (Eastern Illinois last year). This is the fourth year in a row the Iowa opens against an FCS opponent.
-There are no players on the Iowa roster from Tennessee.
THE PREDICTION: The Eagles bring a lot of experience and an approach Coach Brown refers to as the "fastest 60 minutes in football." The idea is to take advantage of their depth and to make the games longer. While that might work in the OVC, I'm not sure that's a good idea against the big boys.
If Brown and the Eagles find success in Kinnick on Saturday, it likely will be the result of their experience. Small schools on the road in Big Ten Stadiums often must stay in the game early to offset the raucous home crowd.
As we mentioned, Tech did not do that last year at TCU and Arkansas. It's not been easy for most Davids playing Goliaths in college football.
The good FCS schools usually boast a group of good skill players. The challenge comes in matching up in the trenches from a physical standpoint.
The Eagles average 297 pounds across their projected offensive line. They're at 259 on the defensive front.
I just can't see Tech generating much of a pass rush against an experienced Iowa offensive line. The visitors probably will have to blitz to get at James Vandenberg, and that's a dangerous proposition if fails.
The Eagles return nine starters on defense, but that unit allowed nearly 380 yards a game, including almost 200 on the ground. That's not a good formula against an Iowa team that likes to run the ball.
I think Iowa scores early and often in this one, paving the way for an inexperienced defense to pin its ears back and get after it.
IOWA 42 , Tennessee Tech 7