Week 1 of the 2013 college football season features numerous mismatches with power conference schools scheduling “cupcakes” in their openers to pad their record and ensure thy have an extra “W” come bowl selection time. Saturday afternoon (3:30pm ET) at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, IA there is a much more intriguing matchup with the Northern Illinois Huskies of the Mid-American Conference traveling to face the host Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big 10. NIU went 12-2 last season including a trip to the Orange Bowl where they were taken down by 12th ranked Florida St. 31-10. Their only loss during the regular season came in their opener against these Hawkeyes when they lost a 18-17 nail biter at Soldier Field in Chicago. Iowa posted an ugly 4-8 record last season, and dropped their final 6 game of the season all in Big 10 play.
NIU returns dynamic dual-threat signal caller Jordan Lynch (3,138 yards passing and 1,815 yards rushing last season) who is being hyped as a possible Heisman contender this season. Eight starters return on offense, including the entire offensive line and tail back Akeem Daniels (6.6 YPC) , but the Huskies must replace their two top receivers from last season. The Huskies ranked 13th nationally in scoring offense a year ago with 38.6 points per game scored and 21st in total offense with 469.6 yards per game. NIU will also field seven new starters on defense this year.The Husky defense ranked 21st in points allowed in 2012 with 19.9 per game and 40th in total defense with 369.5 YPG allowed.
Iowa will have a new quarterback under center this season in Jake Rudock, the passing game for the Hawkeyes can hardly be much worse than it was a season ago when they ranked 104th nationally in passing yardage and threw for only 7 TDs through the air with James Vandenberg at QB. Their offense ranked a dreadful 113th nationally in scoring offense with 19.3 PPG and 117th in total offense with 310.6 YPG. The defense for Iowa will be led by linebackers James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey. The Hawkeyes allowed 23.9 PPG last season and 4.1 yards per carry on the ground while registering a paltry 13 sacks. They return three starters in the secondary from a team that ranked 44th in the nation against the pass last season. The defense ranked 33rd in the nation in scoring with 22.9 PPG allowed and 50th in total defense with 381.6 YPG allowed.
Northern Illinois vs. Iowa Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Northern Illinois Huskies +3
@Iowa Hawkeyes -3
Over 53.5 (-110)
Under 53.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Northern Illinois vs. Iowa Pick
Iowa leads the all-time series 8-0. NIU is 7-1-2 ATS in their last 10 games on fieldturf, 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games against Big 10 teams and 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 road games. The Huskies are also 7-2-2 ATS in their last 11 games overall. Iowa is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games and 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games overall. The under is 5-1 in the Huskies last 6 non-conference games, 8-3 in their last 11 games against Big 10 teams and 11-5 in their last 16 games overall. The under is 9-4 in Iowa’s last 13 games overall and 17-8-2 in their last 27 non-conference games.
Iowa was able to hold the Huskies to only 201 yards of total offense last season, but that was in Lynch’s first career start. The Huskies have a very strong favorable trend of covering both overall and on the road, and Iowa has been dreadful against the spread over the last half season or more. NIU has a chip on its shoulder after dropping their opener to Iowa last year and they need to win this game if they are to be taken seriously on the national level. They also have a dynamic and experienced play-maker at the most pivotal position on the field in Lynch, and Iowa is has a player taking his first college snaps under center. Take NIU as a road underdog here.