Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Northern Illinois Huskies will kick off their 2012 seasons against one another at Chicago's Soldier Field. Iowa, who finished 7-6 last year with a 4-4 record in the Big Ten and a loss to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl, are favored by 10 points over the Huskies, who finished 11-3 last season with a MAC Championship and a victory over the Sun Belt Championship-winning Arkansas State Red Wolves in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
The Hawkeyes are led by senior quarterback James Vandenberg, who last year passed for just more than 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His target of choice, fellow senior and All-B1G wide receiver Keenan Davis, looks to have another big season for the hawkeyes. Davis had 713 yards receiving last year on 14.3 yards per reception with four touchdowns.
Iowa's biggest concerns lie at halfback, where the squad recently took a blow to the depth chart, losing freshman Barkley Hill for the season with a torn ACL.
Northern Illinois looks to rely on senior wide receivers Martel Moore and Perez Ashford to drive the Huskies' offensive output. Last season, the duo combined for 1,277 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. All-MAC defensive end Sean Progar will be the centerpiece of the experienced Huskies defense.
Expectations are high in DeKalb, as they have been pegged as a likely repeat MAC champion for the 2012-13 NCAA football season. As SB Nation NIU blog Red and Black Attack has pointed out, NIU is the only MAC program receiving votes in any preseason polls.
Game time, TV channel: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Point spread: Iowa favored by 10
For news, discussion and more: For more on Hawkeyes football, visit Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants, plus Big Ten blog Off Tackle Empire. For more on NIU football, visit Northern Illinois blog Red And Black Attack, plus MAC blog Hustle Belt.
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