The good news about the Northern Illinois loss is that it was just one loss, just like any other loss on the schedule. Being 0-1 sucks, but it's just one game, and Iowa can crumple that paper up and move on to Missouri State this week.
Iowa's favored in this one by 24 points, and if you're ready to fire Kirk Ferentz over the idea that an FCS school would be an underdog by anything less than 40 points, may we remind you that the FCS went 8-22 against the FBS last week. UNI pushed Iowa State around for 60 minutes and won in Ames, and it didn't even look like an upset. Today's FCS schools can ball, man; it isn't 1993 anymore.
That all said, Iowa's gotta win this game handily. Gotta, gotta, gotta. It doesn't have to be a shutout (but that'd be nice!) or hanging a 70-spot on 'em (but that'd be nice!), but we're talking about a Missouri State team that isn't even good by FCS standards. The Bears have averaged 4.2 wins a season over the last decade, they haven't made the postseason in 23 years, and their Wikipedia page is god-damned sad.
That's the type of opponent that Iowa—or any BCS-level program—should be able to handle with ease. This should be a showcase: Iowa doing what it wants to do against an inferior foe. That doesn't mean 20 yards a carry for Mark Weisman or anything unrealistic, but it does mean that Iowa should be able to keep its playbook closed and still march up and down the field with relative ease.
Put it this way: if Iowa can't demonstrate that its base offense can succeed against Missouri State, it probably needs a new base offense.
After that, what we need to see is Iowa with such a comfortable lead that the starters get to sit for a comfortable portion of the game—especially Jake Rudock. We're not down on Rudock or wanting a change or anything; it's just that if Cody Sokol or C.J. Beathard get to do any passing, it'll be the first time a Hawkeye backup quarterback throws a pass since John Wienke was picked off in the 2011 Insight Bowl—and if one of them actually completes a pass, it'd be the first since AJ Derby went 1-1 for three yards against Arkansas State on September 24, 2011. It's been a little too long without any action for backup QBs, is what we're trying to say here.
We'd also like to see what the backup offensive line can do against real competition. Same goes for LeShun Daniels: is he he ready for beast mode yet? What are we going to see out of Damond Powell that we didn't last week?
The starters don't all have to be out by halftime (but that'd be nice!); Oregon's offense is pretty much unimpeachable, and it still kept starting QB Marcus Mariota in through the third quarter against hapless Nicholls State last week. Nobody's panicking over there—though it bears mentioning that Oregon won by 63 and had built up a 42-point lead by the time Mariota peaced out for the day.
If Missouri State makes this even close to a four-quarter game, though, it'll be clear there are deep problems with the team this year. Heck, there might be regardless of what happens on Saturday. The thing we'd like to see more than anything else, though, is that Iowa's offense at least can function on a high level. Shame that we still need to see that, but here we are.
Oh, and more throws to C.J. Fiedorowicz, please. It's not like Kirk Ferentz is going to trick opposing Big Ten defenses into leaving the Polish Hat open by ignoring him in the non-con. Let the man shine.