UNI Prediction

Iowa plays host to an in-state opponent for a second week in a row when Northern Iowa comes to Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. HI Publisher Rob Howe previews the contest and picks a winner.

When, Where: Kickoff is scheduled for 2:42 p.m. CT Saturday, Sept. 15, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

TV: The Big Ten Network will carry the game for a national audience with Tom Werme, Danan Hughes and Damon Benning calling the action. You can find the game in your area with your provider here.

Point Spread: Five Dimes, an offshore entity, showed Iowa as a 9.5-point favorite earlier this week. It was off the board on Friday on that site and all the other listed at Covers.com.

Telling Trend: Iowa is 0-4 against the spread in its last four games overall.

Prediction: If you're an Iowa fan that believes in your team turning things around on offense, you could probably find quite a few people willing to take the 9.5 points and Northern Iowa in this one. If I were you, I would do it.

I certainly don't see this game as being a 30-point whitewash like many of the FBS-FCS match-ups turn out to be. Northern Iowa is a quality I-AA opponent.

That said, leading up to this game, people are placing too much emphasis on two things - Iowa escaping with a one-point win the last time these teams met and UNI losing a tough 26-21 game at defending Big Ten Champion Wisconsin to start this season.

Give the Panthers credit for taking Iowa to the limit in 2009. The Hawkeyes needed two blocked field goals at the end of the contest to preserve a 17-16 win in Kinnick.

The drama associated with that game's ending creates more doubt in the home team this week than it should. The Hawkeyes pounded UNI, 45-21, in 2005. That Panthers team lost in the FCS national title game, 21-16, against Appalachian State while Iowa finished 7-5 and got pummeled 23-3 by Iowa State.

I'm also not trying to minimize UNI's performance in Madison on Sept. 1. But, please, let's not act like this is a Badgers juggernaut. They currently rank 105 nationally in total offense, seven spots ahead of the Hawkeyes and two positions better than Auburn.

Also, Wisconsin led that game 26-7 with 12:31 to play in the fourth quarter. UNI threw touchdown passes of 55 and 31 yards to get back into it.

I believe that this game sets up very well for Iowa. The Hawkeye coaches should have the full attention of the team considering the circumstances. The players also have to be tired of hearing criticisms about their offensive struggles.

A lot of previously inexperienced Hawkeyes have a few games under their belts now. They'll be better with the ball because they can't be much worse.

SCORE: Iowa 23, UNI 10

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