Four things to position the football teams from Rutgers and Iowa for success in Saturday's 11 a.m. Big Ten opener at Kinnick Stadium:
1. Build on success
The Scarlet Knights ended an 11-game losing streak by opening the season with a 48-21 win over Massachusetts. It took some time for Rutgers to get there -- they trailed 21-7 after the first quarter -- but inside those 41 unanswered points was a chance to gain some confidence.
The Scarlet Knights piled up 554 yards of offense including 348 through the air, a solid start to any season and the defense settled down as the game progressed.
3. Be armed and dangerous
McLane Carter, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech, nudged returning starter Artur Sitkowski out of the starting quarterback's position during fall camp.
Sitkowski started 11 games as a true freshman last season but was intercepted 18 times, most than any other quarterback in the Big Ten.
Carter brings a 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame and starting experience to Piscataway. Rutgers is the fourth stop in the college career for the Gilmer, Texas, native. He began at Incarnate Word and went to Tyler Junior College before finding his way to Texas Tech, where he started last season against Ole Miss and Baylor, and ultimately Rutgers.
He completed 21-of-31 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns last week against Massachusetts and was picked off three times. He'll show up at Kinnick ready to sling it.
3. Playmakers making plays
Among the reasons Rutgers was able to record eight plays of 20 yards or longer in its opener is the collection of skill players it has on its roster.
Starting running back Raheem Blackshear, who is also a threat in the return game, and back-up Isaih Pacheco each ran for more than 500 yards a year ago while combining for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards.
Blackshear recorded a career-high nine receptions for 126 yards against Massachusetts and rushed for another 39 while Pacheco ran for 156 yards and four touchdowns in the opening week of the season.
They're different types of backs. Blackshear is more of a speed guy while Pacheco was described by Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz this week as a player who appears to running like he is "mad'' at somebody, bringing some power to the field.
The Scarlet Knights also have a capable play maker in receiver Bo Melton, who is coming off of a 127-yard effort on six catches against UMass.
4. Celebrate Ash's homecoming
Iowa took Rutgers' best shot in the only previous meeting between the schools.
That came in 2016, Chris Ash's first season as the Scarlet Knights' coach. The Ottumwa, Iowa, native had his team more than ready for the Hawkeyes, pushing Iowa into the fourth quarter before an Akrum Wadley touchdown run lifted the Hawkeyes to a 14-7 road win.
Ash has spent this week downplaying the return to his home state, a place where he was born, a place where he competed in college at Drake, earned a master's at Iowa State and worked as an assistant coach at UNI and Drake.
He says he has only been to Kinnick a handful of times as a spectator, but his fingerprints are all over this state.
Expect an energy-filled game from his players.
1. Establish the run
The Hawkeyes' success on the ground starts up front and it leads to success.
Iowa ran for 213 yards in its season-opening 38-14 win over Miami (Ohio), averaging 5.2 yards on each of its 41 carries. That's a number that will win football games, particularly when the defense is limiting an opponent to 2.5 yards per carry as the Hawkeyes did last week.
Mekhi Sargent helped lay a solid foundation to his work this season, leading Iowa with 91 rushing yards on 14 carries and collecting 65 receiving yards. The authority in which he ran made a difference and will again be the starting point for Iowa.
2. Talk, talk, talk
Rutgers has the skill to test Iowa's secondary, which found itself with plenty to do last week as Miami (Ohio) blanketed end A.J. Epenesa.
There were some breakdowns and Kaevon Merriweather, making his first start at free safety, accepted responsibility for some communication breakdowns.
Most came during the first half as RedHawks quarterback Brett Gabbert got off to a 9-of-12 start and collected more than 100 passing yards.
Merriweather said he needs to be more forceful and bring more volume in his job as the signal caller on the back end of the Iowa defense. Steps in that direction are necessary this week.
3. The 3-man challenge
Rutgers plays a 3-4 defense, bringing a three-man front that will force Iowa to adjust offensively and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Hawkeyes will see more of it down the road. Iowa State has used it at times and Wisconsin has challenged the Big Ten with it.
This week's match-up will provide Iowa offensive linemen with a good early test in identifying who will rush the passer among opposing defenders.
The more experience the Hawkeyes can gain now, the better Iowa should perform later against 3-4 looks.
4. Forget the future
Getting caught looking ahead to next week's game against Iowa State is a no-win situation for the Hawkeyes in their Big Ten opener.
The uniqueness of the situation -- something that will become more common in future seasons as the Big Ten works to increase early-season product for its television partners -- has put a premium on discussion of focus this week among Hawkeye players.
Their ability to keep things centered on Rutgers and the challenges the Scarlet Knights present will be important.
Iowa's ability to jump out quickly -- something the Hawkeyes did not accomplish last week on its way to a 10-7 halftime lead vs Miami (Ohio) -- will indicate just how into this match-up Hawkeye players are as the league season opens.