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North Texas Mean Green vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction

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The North Texas Mean Green arrive in Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday in a matchup of former Iowa line coordinators. Before being named head coach at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz spent eight years as offensive line coach for the Hawkeyes, serving opposite then Hawkeye defensive line coach Dan McCarney.

The game will also see a homecoming for another Mean Green player, as North Texas senior QB Andrew McNulty makes his first visit to his hometown Hawkeyes as an opposing player.

This will be the first meeting of Iowa and North Texas in the history of the schools. Overall Iowa is 4-1 all-time against members of Conference USA.

North Texas at Iowa

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Iowa –24.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Who controls the clock?

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Dan McCarney's tenure has seen the Mean Green time of possession lead to a consistent staple of success. But after two games in 2015, North Texas is holding the ball for just 21:10 on average, which is last in FBS football at 127th. Iowa is averaging 32:51 in time of possession this season, which is 22nd in the nation. When Iowa controls the ball, its big and physical play will quickly wear down the North Texas players and create a major concern for McCarney and his staff.

2. What impact will special teams make?

Iowa’s Dillon Kidd is averaging 49.8 yards a punt, which would be the third-highest total in the nation, but Kidd is one punt away from qualifying for the statistics. Five of Kidd’s punts have been for 50 yards or more in 2015. On the other side of the field Eric Keena for North Texas is averaging 43.6 yards a punt, which is 30th in the nation. In addition Iowa's Marshall Koehn kicked a 57-yard field goal as time expired to defeat Pitt last weekend. The game-winning field goal was the second longest in school history and tied the Kinnick Stadium record. But don't look for this game to come down to a final field goal, unless Iowa once again allows turnovers, or another blocked punt like the one that was returned for a score by Pitt in the final quarter.

3. Can McCarney continue his success inside Kinnick?

North Texas is looking to end a seven-game road losing streak and avoid their first 0-3 start to a year since 2011. The Mean Green hasn’t won a non-conference road game since winning at Ball State in 2009 and is an atrocious 1-37 on the road in non-conference games since 2001. But McCarney, a Hawkeye assistant from 1977-89 and Iowa State Head Coach from 1995-2006, will make his seventh appearance on the opposing sideline at Kinnick. While at Iowa State, he more than held his own, finishing his Cyclone tenure 3-3 inside Kinnick against Ferentz-coached teams.

Final Analysis

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Iowa's coaching staff will undoubtedly remind their players to focus on this game, and not be looking past North Texas to the Big Ten opener. With that in mind, don't expect much of the “new Kirk Ferentz” razzle-dazzle he's shown opposing teams in the first three games of the season. It'll be more of the good old fashioned, conservative, "old Kirk Ferentz" football as Iowa looks to keep every player healthy and ready to go in Madison next week. But don't be surprised to see some new wrinkles in the offense in the process, as the Hawkeyes try out some new material in preparation for what's possibly the biggest of their Big Ten openers in recent years at Wisconsin on Oct. 3.

Prediction: Iowa 27, North Texas 10

— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. A University of Iowa graduate, Boleyn is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.