Iowa Football: Key Matchups When the Hawkeyes Play Northern Illinois

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Iowa Football: Key Matchups When the Hawkeyes Play Northern Illinois
Photo via Rodney White of the Des Moines Register

Iowa will begin the 2012 season outside of the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium.

The Hawks will meet the Northern Illinois Huskies at Soldier Field in Chicago. Considerably more black and gold will occupy the stands than the red and black of the Huskies. Nevertheless, it is officially an "away" game and it certainly isn't at Kinnick Stadium.

Normally, the first game of the year is something of a glorified scrimmage for the Hawkeyes. There is no real threat of a loss, and typically, the bench is emptied by the end of the third quarter.

However, this matchup against NIU will mark Iowa's toughest opening game—on paper—since its 2003 meeting against Ben Roethlisberger's Miami (OH) RedHawks, a game Iowa won 21-3.

To put the competitiveness of the game into perspective, Iowa has opened its season with a FCS foe five of the last six years. The one exception was 2007, when the Hawks also played NIU in Chicago. That team, which finished 2-10, was nowhere near as good as this bunch, which many predict will win the MAC's Western Division for the third year in a row.

In effect, this game is a decidedly real contest against a team that has a very real opportunity to beat the Hawkeyes.

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