IT’S NOT A TRAP, BUT STILL
Northern Iowa doesn’t have the street cred they used to in the Missouri Valley. From 2005-2011 they won five conference champions, played in the FCS Championship and finished in the top 10 four times. Since then, they’ve finished 3rd or worse every year but 2017 and haven’t made it past the FCS quarterfinals. They opened up the 2018 campaign with a loss to a lower ranked Montana, where they found themselves down 26-0 at the half and are projected to finish 3rd in their conference.
That being said, Iowa should never walk into a UNI game automatically expecting to win. The Panthers have kept a number of games closer than Iowa liked, including 2014, 2009 and 2012. One of those Iowa teams was exceptional, another was above average and another was bad. What they all have in common is that Northern Iowa gave the Hawkeyes a lot more than they bargained for. This isn’t a trap game, but Iowa shouldn’t take the Panthers lightly.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
This is probably a worthless factor, as expecting Brian Ferentz to actually try something new is comical, but you can expect the Panthers to know exactly what Iowa is doing on offense. Mark Farley has been coaching an Iowa school damn near as long as Kirk Ferentz and he knows the ins and outs of Iowa’s offense. Chances are, he’ll be loading the box on early downs and expecting the pass on 3rd down. Matt Campbell did it last week and it stifled Iowa’s offense for a majority of the game.
Ultimately, it won’t matter. Brian Ferentz can run Iowa’s awful offense and it will eventually work because the Panthers simply can't hang with the Hawkeyes offensive line. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try some new wrinkles and see what works. With an offense as bland as Iowa’s, finding 4-5 new plays that work can be the difference between six points or none.
GET THE PASSING GAME GOING
One way or another, Iowa will eventually be able to run on the Panthers, whether UNI likes it or not. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Is there anyone on UNI who can hang with Brandon Smith? Or ISM (assuming he’s able to play)? Why not make it easier on everyone and attempt to establish some sort of groove through the air? Run some high percentage rollout plays. Or even something called “play-action.” This is something that will not only help beat UNI but will also help for conference play.
FINISH THEM AT HALF
Part one of beating UNI is taking them seriously. Part two is breaking their will. The Hawkeyes don’t need to treat UNI like they’re Penn State or anything, but they should play good, clean, Iowa football and make sure that this game is over at the half. This will be good for morale, good for Iowa’s backups and good for the Wisconsin game. After all, the Hawkeyes wouldn’t want to give the Badgers too much tape of their high powered offense…