Northern Iowa at Iowa
When I think of why I hate it when Big Ten teams play FCS opponents, it’s games like this that I think of. A state’s most dominant program takes on a school from the same state where you have to imagine a lot of the players grew up dreaming of playing for them, only to find those dreams didn’t pan out. So we have to talk about having a chip on the shoulder, something to prove, yada yada yada.
Kirk Ferentz is not a fantastic game-day coach. Not at all. Where the man excels is at spotting and developing talent. In his 15 seasons at Iowa, 55 of his players have been drafted by NFL teams. During that whole time, the NFL draft has had seven rounds. Fifty-five is two fewer players than Iowa State and Northern Iowa have had drafted in the first seven rounds combined. Not in the last 15 seasons — ever. So even though I feel for the in-state kids Iowa just didn’t want, Ferentz is hardly ever wrong about in-state talent.
That doesn’t mean the Panthers won’t play out of their minds. They probably will. This game could be uncomfortably close for Iowa fans. If it is, take heart: the last time Iowa struggled with UNI, the Hawkeyes finished the season by shutting down Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Pick: Iowa 30, Northern Iowa 20