IOWA CITY — It would be easy for the Iowa football team to overlook today’s game against North Texas.
On the heels of an overtime victory at Iowa State and a week before fifth-rated Penn State arrives at Kinnick Stadium to kickoff the Big Ten season, the 2:30 p.m. matchup with the Mean Green has all the makings of a trap game for the Hawkeyes.
Players who have been down this path before have a message for people who might think that.
Not. So. Fast.
“We’re only guaranteed the chance to play 12 games and we’re not in a position where we can overlook anybody,’’ Iowa linebacker Bo Bower said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do this week.’’
That need to improve, along with the memory of last season’s 23-21 loss to Football Championship Subdivision power North Dakota State at the same point in the schedule, guide the Hawkeyes this week.
“We can’t take anything for granted,’’ offensive lineman Boone Myers said. “There are a lot of areas where we need to get better and taking a step in that direction is what this week is all about. We need to be a better football team this Saturday than we were last week at Iowa State.’’
North Texas has the Hawkeyes’ attention.
For the first time this season, quarterback Nate Stanley will line up against a 3-4 defense, working behind an offensive line that is adjusting to the season-ending loss of starting right tackle Ike Boettger because of an Anchilles injury suffered in the Iowa State game.
On the other side of the ball, Iowa’s defense is preparing for an air raid.
Second-year North Texas coach Seth Littrell’s offensive philosophy has its roots in the attack he worked with while spending four years on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech.
Frequently putting four receivers on the field, the Mean Green want to control the ball and the clock with a short passing game and sophomore quarterback Mason Fine runs an offense which has averaged 580.5 yards in a 1-1 start to the season.
He connected with receivers on six plays which gained 20 yards or more last week while connecting with nine receivers overall as part of a career-high 424-yard passing performance in a 54-32 loss to SMU.
North Texas likes to force tempo as well, seldom huddling.
“It’s an explosive offense, with plenty of speed,’’ Bower said. “They can throw it, they can run it. It’s a good game to play before playing Penn State. They will test us a lot of ways and this should get us ready for the Big Ten.’’
Littrell has spent the week talking to players in his Conference USA program about embracing the role of being the spoiler as it steps onto the Big Ten stage.
“If we play disciplined football, we will give ourselves a chance to compete,’’ Littrell said. “You see it every year in college football, the first three, four weeks there are upsets. They happen because teams are prepared, ready to make that happen.’’
The Hawkeyes are guarding against that, working to be on the top of their game as they work to enter Big Ten play with an unblemished record for just the third time in the last 11 seasons.
“I know that (North Texas) will come in here ready,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Our job is to make sure that we’re ready for that challenge.’’