The Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Northern Illinois (kind of) to take on the Huskies in the Soldier Field Showdown III on Saturday afternoon.
You might technically want to call it a home game for the Huskies, but their campus is about 65 miles away from Soldier Field, somewhat canceling out the advantage they will desire against its Big Ten foe.
Iowa is simply trying to get the bad taste out of its mouth from last year's 31-14 Insight Bowl defeat to Oklahoma, which capped off a frustrating 7-6 campaign.
Northern Illinois' arrow, meanwhile, is pointing straight up as it looks to continue to build its program after two-straight 11-win seasons.
When: Saturday, September 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Listen: Iowa fans can find their radio broadcast here. Northern Illinois fans can tune in to WSCR 670 AM.
Live Streaming: WatchESPN
Betting Line: Iowa (-10), according to Covers
Iowa Injuries (via USA Today)
Barkley Hill, RB, Knee, Out
Ruben Lile, DB, Knee, Out
Jordan Canzeri, RB, Knee, Out
Collin Sleeper, DB, Suspension, Out
Northern Illinois Injuries (via USA Today)
Logan Pegram, OL, Leg, Out
What's at Stake?
The Huskies are trying to notch one in the win column at Soldier Field, where they have yet to win since starting the "Showdown Series."
The first matchup was in 2007, a year in which Northern Illinois won just two games all year. They lost to Iowa, 16-3. The series returned last year with the talented Wisconsin squad rolling to a 49-7 victory.
If Northern Illinois keeps leaving Soldier Field in defeat, they might not want to keep coming back.
As for Iowa, the Hawkeyes are coming off a 7-6 season, which was Kirk Ferentz' worst year in Iowa City since 2007. An upset loss to start this year would be absolutely brutal for this reeling squad.
Iowa Player to Watch: Keenan Davis, WR
With Marcus Coker now beating up on the teams in the vaunted Big South, the focus of the Hawkeyes' offense will shift to the veteran senior duo of James Vandenberg and Keenan Davis.
While Vanderberg was solid at managing the ball for Iowa, he didn't exactly always light up the scoreboard. But when he did, Davis was usually on the other end. The now-senior pulled in 50 balls to the tune of 713 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, all which led the team.
With a less reliable running game, Vandenberg and Davis will have to be even better in 2012. For the 6'3", 215-pound wideout, that should be no problem.
Northern Illinois Player to Watch: Jordan Lynch, QB
It's odd looking at the Northern Illinois depth chart and not seeing Chandler Harnish in the "QB1" spot, as it seems like he's been there for about the past 10 years.
Harnish, who is currently a member of the Indianapolis Colts, was terrific last season for the Huskies, throwing for 3,216 yards, 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions while rushing for another 1,379 and 11 scores.
Talk about big shoes to fill for Jordan Lynch.
The junior has been backing up Harnish for the past two years, but if the way he's played during his limited opportunities is any indication, his feet are plenty big enough.
During his two years with NIU, Lynch has completed 73 percent of his 26 throws for 179 yards, two TDs and zero picks. He's also added 76 rushes for 608 yards and six touchdowns, as he is clearly a dangerous dual threat.
It will be fun to see how Lynch does against a solid Big Ten defense in his first start.
Key Matchup: Iowa Offense vs Northern Illinois Defense
This is going to be an intriguing battle to say the least.
Iowa, like most Big Ten offenses, struggled to move the ball at times last season. They scored just 27 points per game (52nd in the country) and averaged 370.7 yards per contest (72nd). With Coker gone, those struggles could very well continue.
But if they are going to find a way into the endzone, Northern Illinois is probably the defense to do it against. The Huskies return eight starters on defense, but those starters simply weren't very good in 2011, as they gave up over 400 yards and 30 points per game.
Whoever's weakness prevails should push them to victory.
This is the classic battle of two opposite teams. Iowa usually finds its success on the defensive side of the ball while Northern Illinois is there to score points in a hurry.
I think this one is a lot closer than a 10-point spread, but Iowa should escape with some timely defensive plays against the inexperienced Northern Illinois offense.
Hawkeyes win, 21-17.