Phil Mitten: Wisconsin 42, Northern Iowa 10
Andy Johnson: Wisconsin 54, Northern Iowa 16
Mike Fiammetta: Wisconsin 41, Northern Iowa 13
Andrew Rosin: Wisconsin 48, Northern Iowa 6
Jake Harris: Wisconsin 49, Northern Iowa 10
Adam Tupitza: Wisconsin 45, Northern Iowa 14
Jack Moore: Wisconsin 44, Northern Iowa 3
Louis Bien: Wisconsin 55, Northern Iowa 17
Sahil Shah: Wisconsin 41, Northern Iowa 10
Nathan Palm: Wisconsin 38, Northern Iowa 6
In an ideal world, big-time college football powers wouldn't play FCS teams at all. But we live in a world run by the BCS and, if Wisconsin must host a lower-division school every year, better it be during the first weekend of the season when we all are starved for anything resembling football.
As FCS teams go, Northern Iowa is at least somewhat intriguing. The name of the school suggests where it is located, which cannot be said for the likes of Austin Peay, Wofford, and the Citadel. On the field, UNI has made the FCS playoffs in seven of head coach Mark Farley's 11 seasons at the helm. The Panthers played in the 2005 FCS title game, falling to Appalachian State.
While Northern Iowa is ranked 7th in the FCS preseason coaches' poll, beating Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium is more than a long shot. A team replacing six members of its front seven on defense will try and slow down Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who scored 39 touchdowns in 14 games last season.
The Panthers are also set to give redshirt freshman Sawyer Kollmorgen his first college start Saturday following the departure of Tirrell Rennie. He will be playing behind an offensive line missing senior right tackle Misha Danilov. The rest of the UNI line is solid, however, and will provide a formidable test for a Wisconsin defensive front that did not generate enough of a pass rush in 2011.
Many figure the Badgers' offense will take a step back this season as heralded quarterback Russell Wilson now dons a Seattle Seahawks jersey and four of the team's offensive coaches from last year are no longer in Madison. While it would not be surprising to see the team get off to a slow start in the season opener, Ball, Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen, Ricky Wagner, Travis Frederick, and others did not forget how to play football during the offseason. This is a talented unit that should run away with this game in the third quarter.
The Panthers do have a decided advantage on special teams, however. They return junior kicker Tyler Sievertsen, who made 18-of-20 field goals last season, and senior punter Kyle Bernard, who did not have a single punt blocked in 2011. Meanwhile, the Badgers will break in Kyle French and Drew Meyer on kicks and punts, respectively. If French struggles with placekicking or kickoff duties, look for Jack Russell to get a chance.
Who has the edge?
Special Teams: Northern Iowa