Date: Saturday September 16, 2017
Kickoff Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
Streaming: Watch ESPN
Line: Iowa -22.5, O/U 60.5
Series Record: Iowa leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Back in 2015, Iowa won a nailbiter at the wire, 62-16.
Sarcasm in the above stat line notwithstanding, this is a money game. You know it, I know it, the American people know it. How do we make it fun, and more importantly, what’s the best-case scenario?
Five Reasons Why North Texas will win
5. Mason Fine
After the loss to SMU last week, North Texas will be understandably frustrated. QB Mason Fine, now in his sophomore year, threw the ball all over the Mustangs, outpassing the AAC team 424-394. SMU was a lot better on the ground, stifling Jeffrey Wilson as their own ground game relied on more than just one piece. But if Fine put up that many yards against that team, he’s going to be a threat every week. To everyone.
4. Jeffrey Wilson
It’s fitting that Wilson was stopped at SMU last week, because he no doubt felt the same frustrations the year before when he was stopped at only 75 yards on 15 carries in 2015, against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The second game of a two-game contract, this will be the last time the Mean Green play in Iowa for a while, and we hope Wilson— and the team— will take the lessons they learned last week and make this one worth watching.
3. Stingy Defense
Yes, it’s true, the Mean Green fell 54-32 last week, but that means North Texas scored twice the number of points than they did against Iowa two years ago. Watching tape, learning not to commit the same mistakes, and stopping Iowa here and there could indeed make all the difference. Not, like, a LOT of difference. But some.
2. Seth Littrell
Littrell enters his second year with the Mean Green, which means he was not present at the aforementioned 2015 blowout in Iowa City. How does a new look, air raid offense stack up against an Iowa team that needed OT last week to beat glorified-G5 Iowa State? We eagerly await.
1. Good Old-Fashioned Wishful Thinking
Nobody here is under any illusions. Iowa is a great Big Ten team, and even if they were a just-okay Big Ten team, they would still shut down the Mean Green by, oh, 22.5 points sounds about right. But the week after struggling against the Cyclones, maybe something is terribly off about this Iowa team. Maybe they’ll make mistakes, maybe they come into the game overconfident, and Littrell or DC Troy Reffett find a weakness to exploit. Maybe one of the Hawkeye players goes down with an extremely minor injury that will keep him out of this game, but let him play next week, because we would never wish serious harm to another player. Maybe the sun gets in Stanley’s eyes. MAYBE.
Probably not. But it’s fun to think about.
Five Reasons Why Iowa Will Win
5. They’re the damn Iowa Hawkeyes.
4. They’re the damn Iowa Hawkeyes.
3. They’re the damn Iowa Hawkeyes.
2. They’re the damn Iowa Hawkeyes.
1. They’re the damn Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa Hawkeyes Outlook
Since I don’t seriously believe any Iowa fans are reading this, here’s the rundown for North Texas fans and family— Hawkeye QB Nathan Stanley has, over two games, thrown for 458 yards and eight touchdowns, in an easy win over Wyoming and a more difficult win over Iowa State. Wyoming has recently competed for a Mountain West title, and Iowa State continues to compete for the team everyone forgets in the Big 12.
This is a diverse pairing of teams, but while it’s true Fine has outpassed Stanley over two games this season, Stanley hasn’t played any FCS teams, and this is the game where their stats start to look more like what we’ll see over the course of the season. RB Akrum Wadley comes into the match-up with 52 carries in just two games, totalling 234 yards. In the air, leading WR Nick Easley has 11 catches for 125 yards.
These are more statements on Wyoming, coached by North Dakota State architect Craig Bohl, and Iowa State, coached by former Toledo coach Matt Campbell. These teams are better than the final scores show, and while the same can be true of North Texas, we are not expecting any overtime on Saturday.
North Texas Mean Green Outlook
As stated above, there are more bright spots on the field for UNT than there has been in over a decade. For Iowa this is a speed bump, but for North Texas this is a tune-up, seeing how they take on a serious challenge.
It’s true, SMU had some strong weapons, but with a second strong RB beyond Wilson, the Green are right back in that game. Meanwhile, Iowa stacks up favorably over UNT in all categories. If UNT can make some strong plays, and turn just the final quarter into garbage time, instead of the final three quarters, then bring on the battle for the C-USA crown.
Meanwhile, the SB Nation Hawkeye blog has their own in-depth preview, with a similar conclusion, which you can read here.
Final Score: Iowa 48, UNT 17