Following a dramatic comeback victory over the Iowa State Cyclones this past Saturday, the Hawkeyes now have their sights set on the North Texas Mean Green, as they look to improve their overall record to 3-0 on the season.
Last Saturday, the Cy-Hawk game proved to be — surprisingly to some — the Hawkeyes’ first real test of the season, and although there were many positives things to take away, there are also a lot of questions that still need to be answered and a lot of things that still need to be ironed out before conference play starts in week four.
So, without any more hesitation, let’s take a look at the Mean Green and what they’re bringing to the table this weekend.
New and Improved
As Hawkeye fans get ready for this Saturday’s contest, I’m sure many of them recall the 62-16 smackdown that the Hawkeyes laid on the Mean Green back in 2015. With that said, this Mean Green team has come a very long way since their embarrassing 1-11 campaign a couple season ago, as they have introduced a new head coach in Seth Littrell and even reached a bowl game last season finishing with five wins.
The North Texas football program is trending upward right now and the optimism surrounding this team and coaching staff is very high.
Something that needs to be acknowledged is that this team isn’t the same one that got lit up on the scoreboard two seasons ago at Kinnick, as they’ve made some serious strides on both sides of the ball and it shouldn’t go unnoticed.
From an overall talent standpoint, the Mean Green are still not where they want to be. However, the tides are turning and this program has been given new life.
If one thing’s for sure, the Mean Green will certainly be looking to sling the rock downfield quite a bit this weekend, as taking high risk, high reward shots is a large part of the Mean Green’s gameplan on offense.
In regards to their skill position players, the Mean Green don’t have many guys who could produce big numbers at the Power-5 level. However, schematically, the Mean Green do a great job at getting their best athletes in space by presenting a lot of moving parts both pre and post-snap, like: receivers coming across the formation to receive or fake an end-around, offensive lineman pulling and working towards the second level, or utilizing the read option to keep defenders from over committing and crashing down immediately.
It’s clear heading into this Saturday that the Mean Green are vastly outmatched from a skillset standpoint. However, with a scheme like that where the ball is getting out quick and the defense is forced to be patient and not immediately crash on the ball it gives them something that most teams who are put in a similar situation don’t often have — time to execute a play.
As far as individual playmakers are concerned, the Mean Green’s most talented player on offense has to be senior be running back Jeffery Wilson. Coming in at 6’0”, 194-pounds, Wilson is a guy that the Mean Green rely on in a number of different situations: running the offense out of the wildcat, receiving an option handoff in space, or just toting the rock on a standard run play.
When you watch Wilson play, there’s definitely some impressive things to take away. For starters, Wilson displays some really nice burst with the ball in his hands and his ability to be patient and make sharp cuts can lead to some big plays being made out of nothing.
In addition to Wilson, the Mean Green have some athletes to use out in space and they showed up last week in their conference matchup against the SMU Mustangs. The space on offense will be much tighter for the Mean Green this weekend but don’t be surprised if they’re able to break one or two plays for a big gain this Saturday.
Expectations For This Saturday
As I’ve already mentioned, this North Texas team isn’t the same one that got ripped to shreds two seasons ago by the Hawkeyes. However, from an overall talent standpoint, they still lack the players to compete against a team like Iowa.
This Saturday, the Hawkeyes should go out, take care of business on both sides of the ball, and win this game very handily; view this as essentially a “get right” game before the Hawkeyes welcome Penn State into Iowa City on the 23rd.