LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

It wasn't always shiny, but last week's 13-3 Iowa victory over Iowa State is a thing of beauty when it contributes to a spotless 2-0 start to the 2018 football season.

Fans are hoping for a scoring breakthrough in the first half this week against FCS opponent Northern Iowa — the Hawkeyes have six total first-half points this year. But the Panthers have made Iowa sweat of late, with the teams' last three meetings decided by a total of 20 points.

Here's a little more about the expected starters for the Hawkeyes heading into Saturday's 6:30 p.m. contest:

READ HAWKEYE NEWS FOR FREE: Download the Hawk Central app on iPhone,Android  and follow us on Facebook

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Nate Stanley (6-foot-4, 242 pounds, junior) — Hawkeye fans and coaches alike are hoping the talented junior can have a breakout performance this week. The two-game numbers (27-for-51, 274 yards, TD, INT) are tepid.

FERENTZ: Stanley 'pressing' a bit, and other notes from Week 3 media session

Running back: Toren Young (5-11, 221, Soph.) — Supplanted by Ivory Kelly-Martin in fall camp, expect Young to get another chance to prove his co-No. 1 worth this week. He had a career-high 21 attempts last week against Iowa State.

Fullback: Brady Ross (6-0, 245, Jr.) — During what was the game-clinching touchdown drive, Ross converted on a big third-down carry when it felt like 6-3 could have been the final score.

Tight end: Noah Fant (6-5, 241, Jr.) — Most everybody on offense was quiet last week, but Fant still has eight touchdowns in his past nine Kinnick Stadium games in spite of that.

Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250, Soph.) — That he leads the Hawkeyes with 10 receptions and 97 yards through two games tells you all you need to know about the passing offense's performance so far.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Split end: Brandon Smith (6-3, 219, Soph.) — Where's Brandon Smith? There's Brandon Smith, catching a career-long 30-yard reception in the fourth quarter that finally helped Iowa fans exhale last week.

Wide receiver: Nick Easley (5-11, 205, Sr.) — If the Iowa offense gets a jump-start this week, look to Easley, who was the leading Iowa receiver nine times in 2017.

Left tackle: Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320, Soph.) — He's missed the opener because of the suspension, but if Jackson plays, he starts. Saturday will mark 14 games played, and 14 games atop the depth chart.

LEISTIKOW: Hawkeye fans can't wait for Wisconsin game. Iowa's players must.

Left guard: Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295, Sr.) — He said this week in an interview that the line is pleased with its blocking efforts so far. Maybe the rushing numbers will further support that sentiment this week.

Center: Keegan Render (6-4, 307, Sr.) — Reviews have been fine for Render at center so far. He moved to the position full-time this season.

Right guard: Cole Banwart (6-4, 296, Soph.) — Part of a line that has averaged 3.7 yards per carry and just under 160 yards per game on the ground.

Right tackle: Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320, Soph.) — Wirfs is quietly a veteran on an abnormally young offensive line. Wirfs was the first Kirk Ferentz-era player to start at offensive tackle as a true freshman.

RELATED: Wirfs returns from suspension eager to make a difference for Iowa

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

DEFENSE

Left end: Anthony Nelson (6-7, 271, Jr.) — One of six Hawkeyes to collect a sack in the season's first two games is Nelson. Just two have multiple sacks (more on that later).

Left tackle: Sam Brincks (6-5, 275, Sr.) — Still waiting for the first big statistical breakthrough, Brincks has three tackles on the season. The defensive line as a whole was stellar against Iowa State running back David Montgomery, though.

Right tackle: Matt Nelson (6-8, 295, Sr.) — Got on the sack board as well last week, and this Nelson's starting streak should reach 10 this week.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Right end: Parker Hesse (6-3, 261, Sr.) — Hesse and his superstar protege (A.J. Epenesa) are the two multiple sack-earners so far in 2018. Hesse will make his 26th straight start.

PREVIOUSLY: 'Freak' A.J. Epenesa relentless in Iowa's Cy-Hawk win

Outside linebacker: Nick Niemann (6-4, 232, Soph.) — Another week, another career high in tackles. The number was seven this time, and that total included a sack.

Middle linebacker: Jack Hockaday (6-1, 235, Sr.) — Coaches saw areas of improvement for Hockaday in his first career start, but a personal-best eight tackles left him squarely at his spot in the depth chart after earning the spot against the Cyclones.

Weak-side linebacker: Djimon Colbert (6-1, 234, Fr.) — The first-year player was moved from defensive back to the linebacker spot in spring practice, and the early returns have been stupendous.

HAWKEYE MAILBAG: Have expectations changed after Iowa's 2-0 start?

Left cornerback: Matt Hankins (6-1, 185, Soph.) — Another career-high tackling day for a member of the defensive. Hankins had eight last week.

Strong safety: Amani Hooker (6-0, 210, Jr.) — He's currently second on the team in tackles with 12. Look for the secondary to smell out an interception or two this weekend with Northern Iowa's quarterback situation shaky.

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Free safety: Jake Gervase (6-1, 212, Sr.) — Gervase is finding his groove now in the secondary, with a ninth straight start spanning the past two seasons in the offing this weekend.

Right cornerback: Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 199, Jr.) — He did his part on the tackling front, too, recording a half-dozen (three solo) against Iowa State last weekend.

CLOSE

Sports writers Chad Leistikow and Danny Lawhon take a look ahead at Iowa's game against Northern Iowa Michael Zamora, mzamora@dmreg.com

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Miguel Recinos (6-1, 193, Sr.) — A 50-yard miss in the fourth quarter is forgivable. A 38-yard hook after one of Iowa State's gift-wrapped shank punts last week was less so.

Punter: Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Jr.) — A 42.3-yard average on four boots last week made Rastetter look like Ray Guy when compared with Corey Dunn of the Cyclones last week.

Kickoff and punt returns: Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 175, Soph.) — That 45-yard catch in the second half was the longest play for either team last week in an offensively challenged environment.

NORTHERN IOWA PROJECTED STARTERS

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Eli Dunne (6-5, 238, Sr.)

ANALYSIS: Panthers must stabilize their QB situation

Running back: Marcus Weymiller (5-10, 204, Sr.)

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Wide receiver: Jalen Rima (6-0, 192, Jr.)

Wide receiver: Deion McShane (5-9, 155, Fr.)

Wide receiver: Jaylin James (6-3, 202, Jr.)

Tight end: Elias Nissen (6-4, 243, Sr.) OR Briley Moore (6-3, 242, Jr.)

BIG CHANGES: Briley Moore ready to break through as UNI's hybrid tight end

Left tackle: Cal Twait (6-5, 305, Sr.)

Left guard: Jackson Scott-Brown (6-4, 312, Jr.)

Center: Ezra Szczyrbak (6-4, 299, Sr.)

Right guard: Nick Ellis (6-4, 309, Soph.)

Right tackle: Spencer Brown (6-8, 290, Soph.)

DEFENSE

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Defensive end: Seth Thomas (6-5, 262, Jr.)

Defensive end: Rickey Neal Jr. (6-1, 241, Sr.)

Nose tackle: Hezekiah Applegate (6-2, 285, Jr.)

Defensive tackle: Bryce Douglas (6-0, 304, Sr.)

Outside linebacker: Blake Thomas (6-1, 224, Sr.)

Middle linebacker: Duncan Ferch (6-1, 234, Sr.)

Middle linebacker: Chris Kolarevic (6-0, 223, Fr.)

Safety: Austin Evans (6-0, 189, Soph.)

Safety: Korby Sander (6-0, 212, Soph.)

Cornerback: Roosevelt Lawrence (6-0, 170, Jr.)

Cornerback: Xavior Williams (5-11, 175, Soph.)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Austin Errthum (5-10, 180, Sr.) OR Sam Drysdale (6-4, 180, Jr.)

Punter: Michael Kuntz (5-11, 188, Sr.)

Kick returner: Xavior Williams

Punt returner: Jalen Rima

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE