August 30, 2016

The last time Iowa faced Miami University was 13 years ago when the RedHawks had a big and talented quarterback behind center. The Hawkeyes won that 2003 season opener 21-3, intercepting RedHawks quarterback Ben Roethlisberger four times and recording four sacks.

Since Roethlisberger moved on to enjoy an elite career in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Miami program has mostly struggled. The RedHawks enter Saturday's opener at Kinnick Stadium against No. 17 Iowa (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET) coming off a 3-9 season.

Of Iowa's three nonconference opponents this year, Miami appears to be the least challenging. The opener should provide an opportunity for the Hawkeyes to get their feet on the ground out of the gate.

The following week the Hawkeyes remain home to face in-state rival Iowa State and then welcome in FCS national champion North Dakota State in Week 3.

A year ago, Iowa was an underdog going into the season without the burden of living up to any lofty expectations and ended up going 12-0 in the regular season before finishing with losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

As one of the favorites in the Big Ten West Division this time around, the outlook has changed considerably. After a top-10 finish last seaosn, the Hawkeyes realize that much is expected by their fans and opponents no longer will underestimate them.

Seven starters return on each side of the ball led by All-American cornerback Desmond King on defense and senior quarterback C.J. Beathard on offense. King passed up the NFL Draft to return for his senior season.

"There is so much more to do," King said. "We didn't win the Big Ten tittle last year. We didn't win a bowl game last year. We can all play better than we did last year."

The two position groups that Iowa will be watching closely against Miami are the receivers and defensive line.

Sophomore wideout Jay Scheel, whose talent has been negated by injuries, is hoping to stay healthy and be an impact contributor on the outside. Sophomore Jerminic Smith picked up experience last year as a part-time player and is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart behind Scheel.

At defensive end, Anthony Nelson and Matt Nelson are battling for one spot and Parker Hesse is perched on the other side as the Hawkeyes try to replace departed seniors Drew Ott and Nate Meier, who were their best pass rushers.

Hesse likes how the defensive front seven has come together in the preseason, but the opener will be more of a true gauge.

"We'll have an opponent coming up and we'll kind of get a clear picture then," Hesse said.

The Hawkeyes will be looking to extend their winning streak at home to eight games and record a fourth win against no losses in the series with the RedHawks.

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