The Gazette's Marc Morehouse ranks all 143 wins in Kirk Ferentz's Iowa head coaching tenure as Ferentz approaches the school record this fall.

College Football

5 Things: Iowa football vs. North Texas

Mean Green return to the site of a loss so bad it basically got their coach fired

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz (left) talks with North Texas Mean Green head coach Dan McCarney before their college football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz (left) talks with North Texas Mean Green head coach Dan McCarney before their college football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Saturday’s win against Iowa State certainly was a wake-up call for Iowa, and it pumped the brakes a bit on exactly where the defense is. On the flip side, the offense looked impressive — especially quarterback Nate Stanley who, despite missing on multiple long passes, was very good in the fourth quarter coming back from down 31-21.

All that to say, after two very different wins, two games isn’t enough to know exactly what the Hawkeyes are just yet. The good news is they have an opponent coming to town this week that served as the biggest win of 2015.

Let’s look at 5 Things: Iowa vs. North Texas

1. Last time around

The 2015 edition of this game is the last time the Hawkeyes hung 60 on an opponent, and also the last time Iowa had one of those “stop, stop, he’s already dead” kind of games.

The Mean Green, then led by former Iowa lineman and assistant coach Dan McCarney, were as far outmatched that day as any team Iowa faced in its magical 2015 season, and it was one among five season-opening losses that got McCarney fired. McCarney has gotten a warm reception in his returns to Iowa City — well, save maybe for those years where he came to Kinnick leading Iowa State, three times leaving with victories — most recently last season’s opener against Miami (Ohio), where he was the honorary captain and got a huge ovation.

That day in 2015 was much different for him and his team standing on the field, though.

“I was here 36 years in town, 19 at Iowa. I counted it up and this is the 18th time I’ve coached against Iowa since I’ve left Iowa City,” McCarney said after the 2015 game. “A lot of great memories, a lot of hard ones like (Saturday).”

The remnants of the McCarney era at North Texas are close to being gone, with a class of players he recruited still around. The Mean Green went 5-8 last season and accepted a bid to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they lost to Army — a team they beat earlier in 2016.

North Texas is a different team than what came to Kinnick two years ago.

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2. Green is mean

North Texas’ mascot is the Mean Green. What exactly that is remains unclear, though the athletics department mascot is Scrappy the Eagle, left over from when they were the Eagles in the 1960s. There doesn’t appear to be any green eagles in nature, but that seems not to bother North Texas (or the Philadelphia Eagles, but we digress).

Facing a team with a color in its name prompted a few questions: what a “Mean Green” is, if any other team nicknames are colors (Syracuse Orange, Stanford Cardinal, Cornell Big Red and Dartmouth Big Green) and how common the color green is in college football. Having green as a prominent color in a team’s uniform actually is pretty rare. Fifteen of the 129 FBS teams have green in their uniforms.

Rarer still is Iowa playing a team with green as its color other than Big Ten foe Michigan State. Under Kirk Ferentz, Iowa has played just two teams with green in its color scheme in non-conference play — all the last three years, against North Texas and North Dakota State. The Hawkeyes, of course, are 1-1 against those two teams, with vastly different scores.

Overall, Iowa is 8-8 against green teams under Ferentz, going 7-7 in his era against the Spartans.

The Mean Green haven’t been so mean to Iowa, but perhaps to some others — Lamar, for instance. Does the color of a team’s jersey really matter? Not so much. But North Texas’ nickname is unique and if nothing else, it’ll be a change of pace to see something other than red, blue or yellow as an opposing team’s colors at Kinnick.

3. Iowans in Texas? Nope

Iowa has three players on its roster from Texas — freshman quarterback Peyton Mansell, freshman defensive back Matt Hankins and junior defensive back Josh Jackson. North Texas has zero players on its roster from Iowa.

The two programs haven’t intersected much at all in the last several years, other than the matchups on the field. They did, though, when it came to the recruitment of Mansell. Both programs made offers to Mansell, with the Mean Green being one of the first to extend a scholarship before Mansell ultimately picked the Hawkeyes.

North Texas’ roster is understandably Texas heavy, with just a few players from the Midwest overall. What’s more, Iowa didn’t extend an offer to anyone on the team from a state in the Hawkeyes’ typical recruiting area.

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Not a lot of crossover in talent makes sense, considering the levels on which the two programs compete.

The biggest crossover of the two programs? Hayden Fry, of course. The legendary Hawkeyes coach led the Mean Green for six years, going 40-23-3. He also was athletics director and coached three of his sons while leading North Texas to one Missouri Valley Conference title and essentially saving that football program.

4. Keeping it 500

North Texas sits at 499 wins as a program after winning the opening game of the season against Lamar. The Mean Green had a chance to get No. 500 last week, but, as mentioned, came up short. A win at Kinnick Stadium would be massive for several reasons, but that would add another fun milestone should the improbable happen.

The program has been around since 1913, has 20 conference championships (in five different conferences), nine bowl appearances, three bowl wins and went to the FCS playoffs four times before returning to Division I.

Iowa got its 500th win as a program in Kirk Ferentz’s second season — the Oct. 7, 2000 matchup against No. 25 Michigan State. The Hawkeyes football program has 637 wins overall, which is 65th all-time for NCAA programs (including FCS, Division II and Division III). That’s a lot of wins.

5. Against the spread

This is the first and (very) likely only time this season Iowa will be favored by more than even two scores.

The Hawkeyes being favored by 21.5 (it opened at Iowa by 23) over the Mean Green is the biggest spread in Iowa’s favor since Miami (Ohio) last year, when the Hawkeyes were favored by 27.5 and failed to cover in a 45-21 win. The line for Saturday is slightly lower than the 2015 matchup between the two teams (Iowa by 25.5 then), which, as mentioned above, was emphatically covered at the expense of an alumnus' coaching tenure.

Since that last Iowa-North Texas meeting, the Mean Green have been three-touchdown-or-more underdogs eight times, including Saturday. In that span, North Texas has gone 4-3 against the spread (no outright wins) and all but two were four touchdown spreads.

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In the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa has gone 11-7 in games in which it is favored by three touchdowns or more and has been favored by that margin at least once in all but three seasons (1999, 2000, 2014). Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes covered the first seven spreads of that size (in 2001-05 seasons) and have been 4-7 since.

North Texas lost 54-32 last week to SMU, which is not, on paper, as good at football as Iowa. For what that’s worth and for entertainment purposes only, of course.

Bonus No. 6. Depth Chart

Take a look at this week’s depth chart for Iowa, updated with the absence of Ike Boettger who is likely lost for the season.

2017 Week 3 Depth Chart by Jeremiah Davis on Scribd

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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