Ranking Iowa's 2014 football foes: No. 10 Northern Iowa
There are far-easier opening matchups than playing the Panthers
This is a 12-to-1 countdown of Iowa's most-appealing football games this season. No. 1 is the most-appealing. We started with No. 12 Ball State. Purdue was No. 11.
No. 10: Northern Iowa (Aug. 30 in Iowa City)
If there's one thing we know with absolute certainty about this game, it's that Northern Iowa will show up to compete.
Mark Farley's Panthers haven't been the force in FCS that they were earlier in Farley's 13-year tenure, but they're always a team to be taken seriously. Especially, it seems, when they're playing FBS teams.
In case anyone in Ames needed reminding (and they don't), UNI beat Iowa State last season, 28-20. David Johnson rushed 28 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns for the Panthers, and scored his team's other two TDs on catches.
David Johnson. It seems like this guy has been around forever. That's because he has been a serious producer since his freshman season. He has 3,129 career rushing yards, 1,198 receiving yards. He is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and he is good.
As a sophomore in Kinnick Stadium two years ago, he rushed 16 times for 77 yards, and caught six passes for 77 yards. UNI lost that day, 27-16, but it was a one-score game heading into the fourth quarter. The Panthers led 10-7 after the first quarter.
Three years earlier, UNI had perhaps the second most-heartbreaking day in Farley's time there as head coach when it lost to Iowa in Kinnick, 17-16. Not one, but two blocked field goals in the last seven seconds, saved the day for the Hawkeyes, who would go on to win their next eight games and proceed to the Orange Bowl.
The first most-heartbreaking, in my opinion, is UNI's national-championship loss to Appalachian State in 2005. Many believed the Panthers would be back in the title game one day. It hasn't happened, but with Johnson and junior quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, this team has playmakers.
Kollmorgen started at Iowa as a freshman and didn't act like a rookie. He completed 20 of 33 passes for 245 yards, with one interception. He has 20 career starts, with 35 TD passes to just 13 interceptions.
UNI has 63 career starts among its offensive line, and it has a veteran receiving group. It says so near the top of this post, and I'll say it again: There are far easier opening-game foes than the Panthers.
The good thing for Iowa is everyone in the program including the players know UNI is a lot more than some of the FCS cannon fodder that other major-college teams play. It's a prideful program with a coach who gets his guys to firmly believe they're as good as the big boys, and he gets them ready to play the big boys.
It's unlikely UNI will beat Iowa later this month, but you don't want to be the person that suggests that to the Panthers.