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Iowa football vs. Northern Illinois: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Hawkeyes host Huskies in season opener

Running back LeShun Daniels #29 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs up the field in front of linebacker Dedrick Young #5 and safety Aaron Williams #24 of the Nebraska Huskers during the second quarter, on November 25, 2016 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz may not see himself as belonging in the same class as Iowa coaching legend Hayden Fry, but he finds himself on the brink of passing his predecessor in the only category that usually matters to coaches. The dean of FBS football coaches attempts to pass Fry for the most wins in school history Saturday when his Hawkeyes host Northern Illinois.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Iowa -10.5

The only active coach in FBS to take over his program before the turn of the century, Ferentz improved to 143-97 at Iowa following his team's 27-20 victory over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl to cap off the program's 14th winning season in 19 years under his direction.

"In a lot of ways, I see myself just like I did in 1981. I just hope I'm more aware now, because I had no clue what was going on back then," Ferentz told ESPN in a recent interview.

The 63-year-old can move into sole possession of fifth place in conference history with his next win - trailing only Amos Alonzo Stagg, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and Joe Paterno - but could have his hands full against the Huskies, who have been a thorn in the side of Big Ten opposition in recent years.

Under sixth-year coach Rod Carey, Northern Illinois is 4-1 in such contests - including a 21-17 victory at Nebraska last season.

ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2017: 8-5)

Predicted to win the West Division of the Mid-American Conference, the Huskies return 17 starters overall, including all five starting offensive lineman and Marcus Childers, who finished with 21 total touchdowns (16 passing) while starting the final eight games of the season.

The 2017 MAC Freshman of the Year will have his top two targets returning in Spencer Tears (44 catches) and D.J. Brown (42), but the team will have to replace tight end Shane Wimann's team-leading seven receiving scores.

Junior defensive end Sutton Smith led the nation with 14 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss in 2017, spearheading a Northern Illinois defense that posted league-best marks by allowing 22 points and 338.5 yards per game.

ABOUT IOWA (2017: 8-5)

Sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin is expected to get the first opportunity to replace last year's leading rusher Akrum Wadley and add some juice to a ground game that ranked 97th nationally with 139.2 yards per game in 2017.

While the rushing attack will remain the focal point of the offense, Iowa returns junior quarterback Nate Stanley and preseason All-American Noah Fant, who set a Big Ten record for tight ends last season with 11 receiving scores. The Hawkeyes will be shorthanded in the opener, however, as two offensive linemen (Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs) and two defensive linemen (Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff) will serve suspensions for violating team rules.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Iowa will open the season without a linebacker with a single career start for the first time under Ferentz.

2. Carey's first victory as a head coach came in a 30-27 upset at Iowa in 2013 - the Hawkeyes' only season-opening loss since 2001.

3. Stanley's 26 passing TDs last year were the second-most in a season in school history.

PREDICTION: Iowa 27, Northern Illinois 24

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