Sep 01, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes running back Damon Bullock (32) dives for a first down against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE
One down, five to go! Our first game against a team from the "key opponent" list went, depending on your perspective, better than many anticipated. Some teams on the list turned in weaker performances this week, which gives me a little hope for snagging a victory or two against this group, but it's going to be a tough road ahead of us.
Northern Illinois (2-1) - September 22
Last Week: NIU went into the fourth quarter against Army down 34-28. The Huskies did just enough in the end to take out a week Army squad 41-40.
Notes: Northern Illinois had turned in two solid defensive performances in their first two games. We've seen what this team can do offensively in recent years, so the possible turnaround on D had me a bit concerned. That went away this week as NIU gave up nearly 500 yards to a military academy that attempted just three passes. Even with a +3 turnover margin, the Huskies barely eeked out the one point win by stopping Army in NIU territory with under three minutes left. The offense was certainly clicking though, putting up 515 yards. Quarterback Jordan Lynch continues to scare me, adding an 88 yard TD run to his resume in a 125 rushing yard performance, that also featured 342 yards and four touchdowns through the air. If we want to win this one, we'll likely have to prove we can get it done in a shootout-style game.
This Week: Northern Illinois hosts the Jayhawks, who scored a last minute touchdown to take out the Huskies in Lawrence last year. The line opened up with NIU favored by 10.
Kansas State (3-0) - October 6
Last Week: Kansas State was a bit sluggish, pulling away from North Texas in the fourth quarter to notch a 35-21 victory.
Notes: This was probably to be expected after a huge performance against Miami the week before. KSU fans held their breath in the first quarter when star linebacker Arthur Brown hurt his ankle and had to be helped off the field, but Brown was back in the game shortly after. Touchdown machine Collin Klein added two more through the air as well as one on the ground, racking up 315 total yards. K-State only outgained North Texas by 20 yards, and gave up 2 TOs compared to taking just one, but I'll chalk this up to some overconfidence after their big win the week before. I fully expect Snyder to have this team looking better this week.
This Week: We'll find out Saturday just how much the Miami win meant, as the Wildcats must head down to Norman to face the Sooners. After a shaky first game against UTEP, OU obliterated Florida A&M last week, leaving us wondering exactly how good this team is. Saturday may actually prove to be a good measuring stick for both teams.
Baylor (2-0) - November 3
Last Week: Baylor struggled early against Sam Houston State, falling down 20-10 at halftime. The Bears returned to form in the second half, outscoring SHSU 38-3 and cruising to victory.
Notes: The Bears moved the ball well in the first half, but simply weren't able to capitalize. Baylor ended up with 544 yards, but also notable are the 411 yards they gave up. Given that they allowed over 500 to SMU in week one, it's probably safe to say that Baylor's defensive struggles from last year have carried over. Still, the offense continues to click behind QB Nick Florence (who added a 60 yard run to his 312 passing yards Saturday) and emerging star receiver Terrence Williams (13 catches, 269 yards and 2 TDs through 2 games). Baylor doesn't look as tough as they did last year, but shouldn't be looked at as an easy out for anybody.
This Week: Baylor plays the same Louisiana-Monroe team that knocked off Arkansas and took Auburn to OT. It doesn't sound like much, but this may be a game to watch.
Texas Tech (3-0) - November 10
Last Week: Tech easily beat an outmanned New Mexico team 49-14.
Notes: My focus with this Tech team continues to be their outstanding defense. As always, we'll note the quality of the opposition, but the Red Raiders allowed just 127 yards, and pitched a shutout in the second half, despite playing a number of second teamers. Tech has allowed just 123 yards per game across their first three. Factor in their 702 yards of offense, and this looks like a team that may acheive more than people thought at the beginning of the year. I'm pretty high on Tech unless their defense reverts to last year's form.
Next Week: Tech gets the week off to prepare for Iowa State in two weeks.
Iowa State (3-0) - November 17
Last Week: The Cyclones took care of business against FCS opponent, Western Illinois, winning 37-3.
Notes: As always, ISU wins no style points but gets the job done. An interesting note here is that Iowa State seems to be the complete opposite of KU in one regard: turnovers. Despite their undefeated record, ISU is -5 in the turnover department over the last two weeks. They managed to cough it up 3 times in this one, and won easily despite forcing no turnovers of their own. ISU used a balanced attack to amass 504 yards of total offense, while allowing under 200. Stingy defense seems to be a common factor among their first three, and I would expect that continue behind senior linebackers AJ Klein and Jake Knott.
Next Week: Like Tech, ISU gets a week off before their September 29 game against the Red Raiders in Ames.