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Northern Illinois at Iowa Hawkeyes Free Pick - 8/31/13

Northern Illinois Huskies (12-2) at Iowa Hawkeyes (4-8)

NCAAF Football: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm (Kinnick Stadium)

The Line: Iowa Hawkeyes -3 -- Over/Under: 51 See the Latest Odds

TV: Big Ten

The Northern Illinois Huskies travel to Kinnick Stadium to open the 2013 campaign with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Jordan Lynch show returns for one more season, much to the chagrin of the other MAC schools who have the Huskies on their schedule. Opponents have good reason to worry, especially from a defensive standpoint, with Lynch among eight starters back from an offense that piled up 470 yards and nearly 39 points per contest. Lynch was as comfortable in the pocket throwing the ball as he was running, with over 3,100 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, while running for 1,815 yards on 294 carries with 19 trips to the end zone. The run-heavy Huskies did lose second leading rusher Leighton Settle and two of their top receivers, leaving Tommy Lee Lewis (48-539) as the top guy back. The offense lost a few top skill players, but the defensive side of the ball might be a worry, with four back from a unit that allowed 369 yards and less then 20 points.

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Northern Illinois at Iowa Hawkeyes Free Pick - 8/31/13

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa finished at the bottom of the standings in the Legends Division of the Big Ten and struggled to a 4-8 record overall, as the offense struggled to move the chains and find the end zone, which squandered some solid performances on the defensive side of the football. The Hawkeyes return six on the offense with Jake Rudock taking over for the departed James Vandenberg (2,249 yards) at quarterback. The good news is whoever is under center has a veteran back field to lean on, with Mark Weisman and Damon Buck combining for over 1,300 yards on 294 totes. Two of the Hawkeyes top receivers also return, with Kevonte Martin-Manley (52-571) and CJ Fiedorowicz (45-433) back as reliable targets. The problem was consistency and big play potential, with neither being a strength. The defense held opponents to 382 yards and 23 points and hope to be just as stingy with seven returning.

Iowa won this match up 18-17 in 2012 and are probably the more physical and stronger squad, with Northern Illinois the quicker and faster team. If this is a slow, drawn out slugfest, NIU could be in trouble, but if they can make a few plays in the open field they could win this, which is how I see it...

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