What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Adam and Anthony from Underdog Dynasty, SB Nation's fine blog for all things mid-major.
1) The Mean Green unfortunately rank near the bottom of the NCAA in a great many categories, on both offense and defense. What should Iowa fans know about North Texas' offense? Who are the key faces on defense?
ADAM: This is a tough one, as I find it hard to believe Iowa sees this as anything other than a bodybag game. Be aware of Andrew McNulty, but also transfer Damarcus Smith, a heavily touted JUCO QB who has yet to play a snap this season. If all Iowa's tape is of McNulty, there could be surprises in store.
ANTHONY: Realistically, Iowa fans should not have a large amount of worries about the North Texas offense. Starting running back Jeffery Wilson should be returning from injury for this game. However, that should not be a problem for a fifth-ranked rushing defense. The main concern should be the chemistry between WR Carlos Harris and QB Andrew McNulty. If they can stay on the same page then it is possible for Harris to be a large difference maker. On defense I'm going to go with a very under the radar player to watch for. Defensive end Jarrian Roberts had 2.5 sacks last game and 4 tackles. He may be a key factor this week in any big sacks or QB mistakes.
2) North Texas went 9-4 just two season ago, but has hit rough waters since then. What's happened? Is the future of this team trending up or are more lean years on the horizon?
ADAM: I know Anthony disagrees with me on this, but the team is decidedly trending down. A number of graduations have hurt since 2013, but the incoming talent has yet to play at that level. McNulty being the second best QB last year and this years starter shows the recruiting could be a bit stronger. I predict head coach (and former Iowa State HBC) Dan McCarney may not last too much longer. Other opinions may vary.
ANTHONY: I'm somewhat neutral on this topic. In my opinion, a lot of the key pieces are in place on the roster for the team to at least compete in conference. The only thing that needs to be done is actually executing during game time. Damarcus Smith should certainly be a strong quarterback next year and have some good young receivers to compliment him. On defense, Kishawn McClain, who leads the team in tackles, is only in his sophomore year and should develop into a strong secondary threat. The program seems like it may be going through an extended rebuilding period after losing so many seniors in 2013 so we'll have to see if the younger guys improve as much as the fan base hopes.
3) Dan McCarney is 22-29 at North Texas, which isn't great but is a lot better than Todd Dodge managed at North Texas (6-37). In fact, McCarney has the best winning percentage at North Texas (.431) of any coach since Corky Nelson in the '80s (.480). What's the perception of the job McCarney has done there? Is he on any sort of a hot seat?
ADAM: This is a better question for Anthony, as he is currently enrolled and I'm an alum. From the outside, a higher-profile conference means higher expectations, and McCarney has not delivered. Darrell Dickey went to FOUR bowl games, 2001-04, but two down seasons is all it took. McCarney is in the midst of that same two-year slide, and this season is looking far more tragic than 2006.
ANTHONY: My personal opinion aside, most of Denton and the UNT fan base aren't exactly calling for McCarney's removal just yet. After having to suffer through the Dodge era, I think a lot of fans are still just happy the team managed to get to a bowl in the recent past. That being said, if this season doesn't turn around pretty quickly then I could definitely see a good amount of fans asking for a change in coaching personnel by the end of the season.
4) North Texas is a big underdog in this game -- what are 1-2 things they need to do to pull off the upset?
1) Tear up the playbook. Show the Hawkeyes something they haven't seen, be it an untested player or new offensive plays. Catch Iowa napping as they look past UNT to Wisconsin next week.
2) Start Brandon Weeden at QB.
1) Utilize TE Marcus Smith more than they have in the past two games. There's been too many times that the team has settled for a field goal when they should just throw it to their big man in the end zone.
2) This will without a doubt come back to haunt me, but UNT just needs to air the ball out and take some chances Saturday. There's little to no chance of an upset if they come out playing conservative and making 2 yard runs until they force McNulty to try and convert on 3rd down while in an away stadium.
5) Iowa and North Texas somewhat improbably share one big link: Hayden Fry. Is he as beloved down there as he is up in Iowa? And when are y'all gonna get around to naming the stadium after him?
ADAM: I went to school there a number of years ago, and no, rarely heard the name. The current football climate being what it is, most any stadium is named after a corporation these days, but we did name out practice center after Darrell Dickey, so let's remain optimistic.
Alternatively, you guys have dibs on Fry. I doubt Bowling Green will ever name anything after Urban Meyer, so that's another thing to consider.
ANTHONY: Well, our bar scene in Denton is on Fry Street, and everyone loves Fry Street. But no, not much love for Hayden Fry.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
ADAM: Prediction up on Underdogdynasty.com, and while I believe in my alma mater and wish for great things, we do not have a high success rate against the Big Ten. Just make sure that check clears, eh?
ANTHONY: I'll be rooting for my Mean Green from kickoff until the last whistle blows, but I can see Iowa easily taking this one. Although it may not be as large of a margin as some may assume. Maybe somewhere in the ballpark of 34-20.
Thanks for being good sports, guys, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped today. You can check out the Underdog Dynasty crew at Underdog Dynasty. You can also follow UD on Twitter at @underdogdynasty. The Iowa-North Texas game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, September 26, and is scheduled to start at approximately 2:30 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPNU.