IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa wraps up its nonconference schedule Saturday against North Texas at 2:30 p.m. CT at Kinnick Stadium (ESPN2).
The Hawkeyes (2-0) received votes in both the AP and Amway Coaches polls this week after beating Iowa State 44-41 in overtime. North Texas (1-1) lost to SMU 54-32 last week.
Here are three keys for Iowa and game predictions:
Control the ball on offense
It’s going to be hot on Saturday with temperatures perhaps reaching 90-plus degrees. On the artificial surface, that number soars by at least 15 degrees. The last thing Iowa needs is for its defense to run all over tarnation for 30 minutes while the offense stumbles. That’s why the most important aspect for Iowa is to control the ball in physical fashion.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for the Hawkeyes, who possess a dynamic one-two punch with Akrum Wadley and James Butler plus an experienced offensive line. North Texas hasn’t played a power team like Iowa yet. The Mean Green have allowed just 2.76 yards per carry this year, but they’ve played FCS Lamar and SMU. Last year, they gave up 5.3 yards on each attempt.
Get to the quarterback
Of Iowa’s many defensive disappointments in the win against Iowa State, the lack of a pass rush is at or near the top of the list. The Hawkeyes generated just 1 sack and 4 pressures. That can’t happen this week against North Texas quarterback Mason Fine, who passed for 424 yards last week against SMU.
North Texas’ scheme is quick tempo and fast-paced. It’s a true Air Raid style, which can cause problems for a traditional defense such as Iowa’s if there’s no pressure on the quarterback. Should Iowa mount a pass rush, it likely results in multiple turnovers. If not, the secondary will chase rabbits all afternoon in the heat. That’s not productive in the short term or the future.
Should Iowa reach a comfortable point, it would behoove the Hawkeyes to empty the bench as soon as feasible. Perhaps they can do that at running back and wide receiver earlier than at other spots. James Butler should get a lot of handoffs while Toren Young and Kelly Ivory-Martin also need to get multiple carries. New wide receiver Matt Quarells needs to get on the field and freshman Brandon Smith should get a few passes thrown in his direction. Freshman offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs will play and become the 10th freshman not to redshirt this fall.
“I said something the other day I wanted [Young] to make sure that we knew he’s really been practicing really well,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It just hasn’t worked out to get him in there. But we will at some point. This is a good situation right now. If James Butler weren’t on the team right now, he’d be getting a lot more work, but we’ll get there at some point. We’ve got a lot more football in front of us and he’s going to help us.”
Perhaps where depth is most needed is in the defensive front seven. Iowa opens Big Ten play against defending champion Penn State next week and follows with a trip to Michigan State. Getting younger players some reps in the heat will be crucial for the line. It’s even more important is at linebacker. The Hawkeyes have three senior starters and the backups need some experience for 2018 and beyond. To get Jack Hockaday, Aaron Mends, Amani Jones and Kristian Welch as many reps as possible will be beneficial.
Likewise, with Iowa defenders chasing multiple receivers on every down, getting freshmen Matt Hankins and Geno Stone into the secondary Saturday also is important.
SCOTT DOCHTERMAN — Iowa 48, North Texas 24
BOBBY LA GESSE — Iowa 45, North Texas 20