September 10, 2015

(STATS) - Northern Iowa fans must have looked at the Panthers' 2015 schedule with delight… followed by anxiety.

"Great, we're playing Iowa State to open the season."

"Great, we're playing Eastern Washington."

"Great, we're playing Cal Poly, too."

"Wait, we're playing all of them?"

The difficulty of UNI's trio of non-conference games is something seen more regularly with FCS national powers than with any school on the FBS level. This year, the 14th-ranked Panthers are a common link to some other FCS contenders also taking on an especially competitive three-game slate outside their league, as No. 7 Eastern Washington and No. 18 Cal Poly put themselves in a similarly tough bind. So did No. 20 Montana, which lost to Cal Poly one week after opening its season with a victory over four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State.

Add in road games against Illinois State and NDSU - the national finalists last season - to open UNI's Missouri Valley Conference schedule and there are no early season breaks for the Panthers.

FCS fans can salivate that some of the national powers are willing to take on all customers and not overindulge on the cupcakes.

OK, maybe UNI fans are sweating a bit. Just three years ago, the Panthers took on too much too soon and opened 1-5 in a rare losing season.

Eastern Washington had a similar September in 2011 when it opened with four straight losses just nine months after winning the FCS national title. This season, the Eagles have sandwiched the UNI game between FBS power Oregon and a home matchup with nationally ranked Montana State.

Cal Poly (at Montana, at Arizona State and UNI) and Montana (NDSU, Cal Poly and at nationally ranked Liberty) also are trying to fight off the how-much-is-too-much prospect.

But enough with the negative talk. Think about what winning enough of those games will do for a team's resume.

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FCS GAME OF THE WEEK=

The Matchup: No. 7 Eastern Washington (0-1) at Northern Iowa (0-1)

The Time: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

The Series: Northern Iowa leads, 5-0 (most recent meeting: UNI won, 41-38, in 2005 FCS playoffs)

The Skinny: All games in the series have been played at the UNI-Dome, including two in the postseason. Both teams were knocked out of last year's FCS playoffs by Illinois State.

EWU held its own offensively in a 61-42 season-opening loss to Oregon, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (15 receptions, 246 yards, three touchdowns) proved again it doesn't matter who is throwing him the ball. He will continue to find rhythm with quarterback Jordan West. Considering the veteran secondary, the Eagles defense has to develop more of a pass rush than the one sack (by defensive end Samson Ebukam) and zero quarterback hurries it totaled a week ago. Northern Iowa must open up its offense more after relying on Aaron Bailey QB keepers and dump-offs to running back Darian Miller in a 31-7 loss to Iowa. The Panthers want to impart their physical will on the more-finesse Eagles and keep the action from being at a frantic pace. Iowa State struggled to run the ball as junior defensive tackle Karter Schult plugged the middle. If the Panthers take the run game away again, the all-senior secondary led by cornerback Deiondre' Hall and strong safety Tim Kilfoy will be opportunistic.

The Prediction: Yikes, somebody is going to be 0-2. Eastern Washington, 35-31.

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WEEK 2 PICKS=

Last Week's Record: 81-9 (.900)

Overall Record: 81-10 (.890)

(All times Eastern, X-Predicted Winner)

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THURSDAY, SEPT. 10=

Maryville College (1-0) at X-East Tennessee State (0-1), 7:30 p.m.

X-Southern (0-1, 0-0 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (0-1, 0-0), 7:30 p.m.

Bethel (0-0) at X-UT Martin (0-1), 7:30 p.m.

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FRIDAY, SEPT. 11=

Bacone (0-1) at X-Texas Southern (0-1), 8 p.m.

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SATURDAY, SEPT. 12=

No. 5 Jacksonville State (1-0) at X-Auburn (1-0), noon - Before winning the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference defensive player of the year award, Gamecocks D-tackle Devaunte Sigler played two seasons at Auburn.

Presbyterian (0-1) at X-Charlotte (1-0), noon

X-No. 22 Richmond (0-1) at Hampton (1-0), noon - This could get tricky for the Spiders. Hampton has a difference-maker in QB David Watford, a graduate transfer from Virginia.

Western Illinois (1-0) at X-Illinois (1-0), noon

X-No. 21 Indiana State (1-0) at Purdue (0-0), noon - The Sycamores only lost by six points when they went upstate to West Lafayette two years ago.

Howard (0-1) at X-Boston College (1-0), noon

Mars Hill (0-1) at X-No. 10 Chattanooga (0-1), 1 p.m. - Having fallen to Western Carolina already, Mars Hill's Southern Conference title bid will end here.

X-Jacksonville (1-0) at Newberry (0-0), 1 p.m.

Morehead State (0-1) at X-VMI (0-1), 1:30 p.m.

X-No. 7 Eastern Washington (0-1) at No. 14 Northern Iowa (0-1), 2 p.m. - The FCS game of the week.

X-Sacred Heart (1-0) at Valparaiso (0-1), 2 p.m.

Sacramento State (1-0) at X-Washington (0-1), 2 p.m.

Monmouth (0-1) at X-Central Michigan (0-1), 3 p.m.

Chadron State (1-0) at X-Missouri State (0-1), 3 p.m.

Florida A&M (0-1) at X-Samford (1-0), 3 p.m.

No. 15 Liberty (1-0) at X-West Virginia (1-0), 3 p.m. - FCS All-America place-kicker John Lunsford's 52-yard field goal against Delaware State made him 9-for-14 in his career from at least 50 yards out.

Rhode Island (0-1, 0-0 CAA) at X-Albany (0-1, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.

Weber State (0-1) at X-No. 2 North Dakota State (0-1), 3:30 p.m. - NDSU's 23-game home winning streak is the longest in the FCS. Thank you, Weber, for being another departing contestant.

Murray State (1-0) at X-Northern Illinois (1-0), 3:30 p.m.

Austin Peay (0-1) at X-Southern Mississippi (0-1), 3:30 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin (0-1) at X-TCU (1-0), 3:30 p.m.

Furman (0-1) at X-Virginia Tech (0-0), 3:30 p.m.

Lehigh (1-0) at X-No. 13 James Madison (1-0), 4 p.m. - These two teams exploded for 1,110 yards in JMU's 31-28 win last year.

Edward Waters (2-1) at X-Kennesaw State (1-0), 4 p.m.

Eastern Illinois (0-1) at X-Northwestern (1-0), 4 p.m.

X-Duquesne (1-0) at Bucknell (1-0), 6 p.m.

Chowan (0-0) at X-Campbell (1-0), 6 p.m.

X-Western Carolina (1-0, 0-0 Southern) at The Citadel (1-0, 0-0), 6 p.m.

X-No. 12 New Hampshire (0-1) at Colgate (0-1), 6 p.m. - Upset alert.

Lafayette (0-1) at X-Delaware (0-1), 6 p.m.

North Carolina Central (1-0) at X-Duke (1-0), 6 p.m.

X-No. 6 Villanova (0-1) at No. 16 Fordham (1-0), 6 p.m. - The hiccup in Fordham running back Chase Edmonds' great rookie campaign in 2014 came against the Wildcats.

Elon (0-1) at X-Gardner-Webb (0-1), 6 p.m.

Marist (0-1) at X-Georgetown (0-1), 6 p.m.

North Carolina A&T (1-0) at X-North Carolina (0-1), 6 p.m.

No. 19 Eastern Kentucky (1-0) at X-North Carolina State (1-0), 6 p.m. - Instant impact: Ohio State transfer Noah Spence had five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and forced a fumble in his EKU debut.

Drake (1-0) at X-North Dakota (1-0), 6 p.m.

X-No. 3 Coastal Carolina (1-0) at South Carolina State (1-0), 6 p.m. - The Chanticleers, 20-1 all-time against MEAC opponents, are leaving the state of South Carolina only twice, and not until Oct. 24.

Central Connecticut State (0-1) at X-Stony Brook (0-0), 6 p.m.

Saint Francis (1-0) at X-Towson (0-1), 6 p.m.

No. 24 Portland State (1-0, 0-0 Big Sky) at X-No. 23 Idaho State (1-0, 0-0), 6:05 p.m. - If you foresaw this as a Top 25 matchup one year ago today, proceed to the Wonderlic test.

Franklin (0-0) at X-Butler (0-1), 6:30 p.m.

X-Alcorn State (0-1, 0-0 SWAC) at Alabama State (0-1, 0-0), 7 p.m.

X-Morehouse (0-0) at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-1), 7 p.m.

Catawba (0-1) at X-Davidson (0-1), 7 p.m.

Bethune-Cookman (0-1) at X-Grambling State (0-1), 7 p.m.

X-Tennessee State (1-0) vs. Jackson State (0-1) in Memphis, 7 p.m.

Northwestern State (0-1) at X-Louisiana-Lafayette (0-1), 7 p.m.

Nicholls (0-0) at X-Louisiana-Monroe (0-1), 7 p.m.

Incarnate Word (1-0, 0-0 Southland) at X-McNeese State (0-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.

New Mexico Highlands (0-1) at X-Northern Arizona (1-0), 7 p.m.

Norfolk State (0-1) at X-Old Dominion (1-0), 7 p.m.

Southern Utah (0-1) at X-No. 9 South Dakota State (1-0), 7 p.m. - In an effort to raise awareness for Samaritan's Feet, an organization that has provided more than one million pairs of shoes to people around the world in the last two years, John Stiegelmeier (SDSU) and Ed Lamb (SUU) plan to coach their teams through pre-game warmups in bare feet.

X-Southern Illinois (0-1) at Southeast Missouri State (0-1), 7 p.m.

Prairie View A&M (1-0) at X-Texas State (0-1), 7 p.m.

X-Charleston Southern (1-0) at Troy (0-1), 7 p.m.

Tennessee Tech (0-1) at X-Wofford (0-1), 7 p.m.

Robert Morris (0-1) at X-No. 17 Youngstown State (0-1), 7 p.m. - If you can't win in the big city, bring in Robert Morris from the Pittsburgh suburbs.

Lamar (1-0) at X-Baylor (1-0), 7:30 p.m.

Morgan State (0-1) at No. 4 X-Illinois State (0-1), 7:30 p.m. - In a meeting of teams which tied for 2014 conference titles, Illinois State will have no trouble against a MEAC squad which has lost six starters to academic ineligibility.

Central Arkansas (0-1) at X-Oklahoma State (1-0), 7:30 p.m.

X-Northern Colorado (1-0) at Houston Baptist (1-0), 8 p.m.

Florida Tech (0-0) at X-No. 20 Southeastern Louisiana (1-0), 8 p.m. - Southeastern totaled 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in beating Southland Conference foe Northwestern State.

Western New Mexico (1-0) at X-San Diego (0-1), 9 p.m.

South Dakota (0-1) at X-UC Davis (0-1), 9 p.m.

No. 18 Cal Poly (1-0) at X-Arizona State (0-1), 11 p.m. - National interceptions leader B.J. Nard of Cal Poly is on pace for 33 picks this season.

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