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Nonconference preview: Iowa State

We're continuing our look across the Big 12 at each team's nonconference slate. Everybody's got three games on the docket, but not all are created equal.

IOWA STATE CYCLONES

Northern Iowa, Aug. 31

  • Coach: Mark Farley (104-46), 13th year

  • 2012 record: 5-6, 4-4 Missouri Valley

  • Offensive headliner: Running back David Johnson rushed for 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 178 carries a year ago.

  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Jake Farley started just five games a season ago, but managed to lead the Panthers with 85 tackles.

  • The skinny: Northern Iowa is a good FCS program that failed to make the playoffs a season ago after six consecutive finishes in the FCS top 20. Mark Farley actually coached linebackers at Kansas from 1997-2000, but found a home in Cedar Falls. Iowa State is 20-4-3 all time against Northern Iowa.

Iowa, Sept. 14

  • Coach: Kirk Ferentz (100-74), 14th year

  • 2012 record: 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten (T-5th Legends)

  • Returning starters: Seven offense, seven defense

  • Offensive headliner: Former walk-on Mark Weisman was one of the best stories in college football last year. After injuries provided him opportunity, he led the Hawkeyes with 815 yards and eight touchdowns on 159 carries.

  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Anthony Hitchens led the Big Ten with 124 tackles last season.

  • The skinny: After losing three consecutive games to the rival Hawkeyes, Iowa State has won two consecutive games by three points and earned their first win in Iowa City since 2002 last season. All of a sudden, Iowa State is 4-4 in the past eight meetings against Iowa. Since 1998, the Cyclones are 9-5 against Iowa.

at Tulsa, Sept. 26

  • Coach: Bill Blankenship (19-8), third year

  • 2012 record: 11-3, 7-1 Conference USA (No. 1, West)

  • Returning starters: Seven offense, three defense

  • Offensive headliner: Running back Trey Watts rushed for 1,108 yards and three scores on 186 carries, averaging almost six yards per carry. That included a 149-yard game in the Liberty Bowl win over Iowa State.

  • Defensive headliner: Tulsa loses its top two tackles and top four players in tackles for loss, but linebacker Shawn Jackson had 87 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. He forced three fumbles and had five sacks.

  • The skinny: This will be the third time these two teams have met in the past 13 months, and split the first two meetings. The story of the past two was second-half dominance. Iowa State did it in September. Tulsa did it in the Liberty Bowl. The Golden Hurricane are a strong program that should be able to go toe-to-toe with the Cyclones. This game is largely a toss-up.

Chances of going 3-0: 32 percent

Wrapping up: Iowa State's playing a pretty solid nonconference slate. The Northern Iowa series is an in-state rivalry, but the Iowa series is obviously the highlight of the nonconference slate. The last two games between the two biggest programs in Iowa have been great entertainment, but there's a wide variance of possibilities out there for the Cyclones. ISU is off twice in the first five weeks of the season, so it'll have almost two weeks to prepare for both Iowa and Tulsa (the Tulsa game is on a Thursday), which could be an advantage. Going 3-0 is probably just as likely as Iowa State going 1-2.