Iowa-Northern Iowa: The Advantage Goes to...

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Iowa-Northern Iowa: The Advantage Goes to...
(Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)

College football season is almost here which means it's time for my first preview of the Iowa Hawkeye's season: Iowa vs. Northern Iowa.

Who has the advantage when:

Iowa throws the ball: After a heated quarterback competition last season, Ricky Stanzi finally won the starting job over Jake Christensen. He improved steadily throughout the season and proved his maturity by leading Iowa on a last second drive to beat Penn State. Stanzi will grow on that improvement this season and also has a good group of receivers around him. Quarterback transfer Marvin McNutt is very athletic, and he, along with Trey Stross and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, will lead a very talented group of receivers.

Advantage: Iowa

Iowa runs the ball: The Hawkeyes running game took a major hit this week when Kirk Ferentz announced that projected starter Jewel Hampton would miss the season with an injury. His projected back-up, Jeff Brinson, will also miss some time at the start of the season due to an injury that kept him out much of camp. That leaves the starting job to former walk-on Paki O'Meara. He's no Shonn Greene, but he should fair well behind a huge offensive line, which many rank among the top five nationally.

Advantage: Iowa

Northern Iowa throws the ball: Iowa has the best secondary in the Big Ten. Northern Iowa is an FCS program. This is a pretty obvious choice. Amari Spievey, ranked the Big Ten's best corner by ESPN, will lead a very solid group which returns three out of four starters, including the Big Ten interception leader, sophomore safety Tyler Sash. The linebackers are also very solid and rank only behind Penn State as the Big Ten's best. Although Northern Iowa is a good program, I don't see them being able to do much against that pass defense.

Advantage: Iowa

Northern Iowa runs the ball: Even though Iowa lost defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, they will still be very solid on the defensive line. Adrian Clayborn will be a leader on the end and the linebackers, including All-Big Ten candidate Pat Angerer, will step up and make a huge contribution. Once again, although UNI is a good team, I don't see them being able to overcome this run defense.

Advantage: Iowa

Special Teams: The Iowa special teams looks like they are finally back on the right foot. After a year of uncertainty at kicker, that position looks fairly solid, with Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker sharing kicks. The return game takes a hit with the loss of Andy Brodell, but Paki O'Meara looks like a suitable replacement.

Advantage: Iowa

Coaching: Kirk Ferentz just has a way of turning nobodies into stars, and that's why I'm not going to be too quick to judge Paki O'Meara. Ferentz is one of the best coaches in the business and has a great supporting staff around him, including defensive coordinator Norm Parker and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe.

Advantage: Iowa

Intangibles: Kinnick Stadium will be rowdy as ever and fans will be pumped up for the first game of the season. Northern Iowa isn't used to playing in front of 70,000 fans, and that may shake them up a little bit. The one thing that may help Northern Iowa is the fact that they are playing on an artificial surface, like they do on their home field. But the transition to field turf shouldn't be a problem for the Hawkeyes, as they have been practicing on it for a while, and home-field advantage will be the main intangible in the game.

Advantage: Iowa

Prediction: Iowa 41, Northern Iowa 6

Ricky Stanzi will have a huge game, throwing for over 350 yards and four touchdowns. Paki O'Meara will also fair well and surprise a lot of people, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown. The defense will be outstanding and prove why they are the best in the Big Ten. Pat Angerer will record a forced fumble and an interception, while Amari Spievey will also intercept one. Adrian Clayborn will have the best game of his career and record two sacks, helping the Hawkeyes roll into week two against in-state rival Iowa State.

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