We are fortunate today to welcome in Chad Leistikow for our Friday Q&A in advance of North Texas' game at Iowa on Saturday. Chad is the Iowa columnist for the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen.
Here is what Chad had to say about Saturday's UNT-Iowa game. The Mean Green are 1-1 after falling to SMU 54-32 last week, while the Hawkeyes are 2-0 after beating Iowa State 44-41 in overtime in their last game:
1. Iowa had such a huge win over rival Iowa State last week. What is the team's mindset heading into this week's game against UNT?
For 19 years, Kirk Ferentz's Iowa teams have relied on a steady, businesslike, one-week-at-a-time mentality. But make no mistake, Saturday was an emotional win, and it'll be near impossible to match that intensity this week, especially with a night game against Penn State looming. The Hawkeyes are a little banged-up, too, with third-year starting right tackle Ike Boettger (Achilles) likely done for the season. They'll certainly look to get healthy and return to a ground-game approach after airing it out for an uncharacteristic 333 yards against the Cyclones.
2. UNT depends largely on its star running back Jeffery Wilson and will face a stout Iowa defense that has allowed only 89.5 yards on the ground per game. What makes Iowa so good against the run?
Sound fundamentals and three senior linebackers help limit big plays. That's the approach Iowa tries to take with its opponents — stop the run and make the quarterback repeatedly convert difficult throws. The leader in the middle is preseason AP all-American Josey Jewell, a Butkus Award finalist last year. But he turned his ankle against Iowa State, so he might not be 100 percent. Phil Parker has said this is the best front seven he's had in six years as Iowa's defensive coordinator.
3. Nate Stanley has been terrific early in his career. Talk about what he brings to the table.
The sample size remains small. In Week 1, he had trouble protecting the football (one interception and three fumbles, two of them lost) but still threw for three touchdowns and wound up with a higher QB rating than Josh Allen in a 24-3 win against Wyoming. Stanley is still young, a true sophomore making his third career start. But he has uncommon poise for his age, and at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, is the second-largest quarterback of the Ferentz era. He has a strong arm, and he showed it off in spreading the ball to nine different receivers and making clutch throws down the stretch, including his fifth TD to win it in overtime, against Iowa State.
4. What is Iowa's weakness as a team?
The secondary is young and inconsistent, with three first-year starters. Iowa State showed that if you send enough good receivers into the defensive backfield, Iowa is not immune to making some mistakes. The Cyclones hit two long TD passes on busted coverages in that game. Offensively, most of the wide receivers are extremely unproven. The top four consist of senior Matt VandeBerg, walk-on Nick Easley and true freshmen Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
Iowa's offensive line is the team's annual strength, so look for the Hawkeyes to try to establish the running game early and often. After carrying 52 times in Iowa's first two games, top playmaker Akrum Wadley probably needs a lightened workload. The Hawkeyes might lean on Nevada grad transfer James Butler and maybe redshirt freshman Toren Young to help shoulder the workload with Big Ten play opening next week. It wouldn't be surprise if Iowa comes out sluggish, but the defense has something to prove after giving up 41 points last week. The Hawkeyes' physical style should be able to wear down North Texas in the second half. Iowa is favored by three touchdowns; that sounds about right.
Featured photo: Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg celebrates in front of Iowa State defensive back Brian Peavy (10) after catching a 17-yard touchdown pass during the Hawkeyes' 44-41 overtime win last week.