A week after a thrilling win at Iowa State, and a week before Iowa-Penn State on national TV, is Iowa vs. North Texas. While the Mean Green made their second bowl game since 2013 last season, despite finishing the regular season 5-7, they're considered Iowa's easiest non-conference opponent this season. Even though these two teams played a couple of years ago, these 10 numbers will give you a better idea of what to expect from North Texas on Saturday.
No one is picking Iowa to lose this game. However, this is the definition of a "trap" game. Iowa is coming off an emotional win over in-state rival Iowa State and it was announced that Iowa - Penn State will play in primetime on ABC next week. North Texas might not leave Iowa City with a win, but it would be disappointing if it kept the game close late into the second half, forcing Iowa to keep its starters in. That said, Iowa is 12-5 (.706 winning percentage) when playing an unranked team the week before playing a ranked team since 2010. All five losses came against Big Ten foes, and Iowa's average margin of victory is 20.2. While Iowa - Penn State is already on everyone's mind, hopefully Iowa can put away North Texas early and have a stress-free win.
One of the most impressive aspects of Stanley's early-season success is him completing a pass to nine different receivers in Ames. He's not afraid to throw to anyone, as shown by three Hawkeyes scoring at least two receiving touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. Iowa is the only Big Ten team to have three or more players with multiple receiving touchdowns this season -- Noah Fant, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Nick Easley -- which is something no one saw coming just a couple of weeks ago. Matt VandeBerg and Akrum Wadley, who each have one receiving touchdown, could join the club this week, too.
If history tells us anything, it's that Iowa will win if it scores at least 30 points on Saturday. North Texas is on a five game winning streak when holding opponents under 30 points, including an 18-5 record since 2013. However, North Texas is a dismal 2-27 since 2013 when the opponent scores more than 30 points. If Iowa scores 30 points, it would be the third-straight year it reaches that feat in two of its first three games of the season.
If Iowa is able to stop North Texas' pass game, the Mean Green will likely rely on running back Jeffery Wilson. This season, Wilson is averaging 8.5 yards per carry, which is 36th in the nation and seventh among players with at least 20 carries. That said, his 8.5 yards per carry were inflated by his 176-yard game against Lamar in week one when he averaged 14.7 yards per carry. Wilson only rushed for 36 yards on 13 carries against SMU a week ago but did score his fourth touchdown of the season. If Wilson struggles against the Hawkeyes, Nick Smith could get more touches. He has 23 carries, only two fewer than Wilson, and 132 yards this season, a solid 5.7 yards per carry.
Iowa committed 10 penalties against Iowa State and now has 109 penalty yards through two games. It's rare for a Kirk Ferentz-coached team to be penalized so often. It was only the 16th time since 2000 Iowa had double-digit penalties in a game and the third time since 2006. It happened last season, as well, as the Hawkeyes committed 12 penalties against Purdue before finishing the season while being penalized five or more times in just one of its final six games. That said, Iowa has only averaged more than 5.5 penalties per game once since 2005. Therefore, I wouldn't be too worried.
Since 2010, North Texas is 1-11 against P5 teams. The Mean Green's only P5 win was against Indiana, 24-21, in 2011. Going hand-in-hand with the lack of wins against P5 teams, North Texas' offense has become stagnant in these games. It averages 14.8 points per game, including being shutout three times. Even for an offense that historically averages fewer than 25 points per game, that's a very poor average.
Despite North Texas' lack of offensive success against P5 teams, the Mean Green bring an offense averaging 45.5 points per game this season to Kinnick Stadium. Sure, it's only been two games and one was against an FCS opponent, but North Texas' scoring offense is still 16th in the nation. It's unlikely North Texas continues to be a top-20 offense the rest of the season, but it seems its offense has improved since last time these two teams played. If North Texas can maintain this offensive success, it would be the second time since 1996 it averaged at least 30 points per game -- 2013, averaging 31.8 PPG. This game probably won't be another 44-41 shootout, but North Texas did score 32 points against SMU last week, showing that they're at least bringing a competent offense to Iowa City.
The last time Iowa and North Texas played, the Hawkeyes cruised to a 46-point victory, 62-16. C.J. Beathard threw two touchdowns, Jordan Canzeri and Wadley combined for five touchdowns on the ground, and Josey Jewell and Bo Bower each had a pick-six. It was a rare offensive explosion from Iowa's offense, as the Hawkeyes have only scored at least 60 points one other time under Kirk Ferentz -- 62-10 win over Northwestern in 2002. In fact, Iowa has only scored 46 or more points twice since 2014, and their only larger margin of victory since 2010 came against Western Michigan in 2013, 59-3. Considering how explosive Iowa's offense has looked through the first couple of weeks, another 60-point game isn't out of the question.
North Texas' sophomore quarterback, Mason Fine, has completed 69.1 percent of passes this season. He completed 71.4 percent of passes against Lamar and still a stellar 68.1 percent against SMU in week two. He's a young quarterback but has shown solid accuracy early in his career. During his 10 starts in 2016, Fine completed at least 60 percent of passes in five games. Iowa's secondary needs to play better this week, but the pass rush has to put pressure on Fine. The defense often allowed Jacob Park to sit in the pocket with little to no pressure last Saturday, which led to Park's success. Getting pressure on Fine and forcing him to make quick decisions should be enough to ruin his rhythm. In his only start against a P5 team last season, Fine completed 6-of-22 passes for 66 yards and an interception at Florida.
There are a lot of stats that show how great Nate Stanley has been through his first two starts, but none more so than his 174.8 quarterback rating. David Blough and Conor Rhoda are the only Big Ten quarterbacks with a better QBR, but neither have attempted as many passes as Stanley. Out of the 15 quarterbacks in the nation with a better QBR than Stanley, only seven have attempted at least 50 passes this season, including six that haven't attempted even 40 passes. He's even ahead of Heisman-contenders such as Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Trace McSorley.