#18 Northern Iowa FCS Football 2022 Preview

Northern Iowa Panthers
Overall Rank: #18
#5 Missouri Valley
 UNI Logo
For the sixth time in the last eight years, Coach Mark Farley has led Northern Iowa to the playoffs. Last year was the first time the Panthers failed to make it out of the first round, falling at Eastern Washington 19-9. Despite all of that success, UNI has not won a MVFC regular season title since 2011. They had won a share of the title seven times in the previous 11 seasons. Once again, this is probably not a team that can win a title, but they can certainly make another trip to the playoffs.
2021 Record: 6-6, 4-4
2021 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mark Farley (168-93 at Northern Iowa, 168-93 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ryan Clanton and Bodie Reeder
Defensive Coordinator: Randall McCray
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dom Williams, RB, 723 yards
Passing: Theo Day, QB, 2,316 yards
Receiving: Quan Hampton, WR, 430 yards
Tackles: Spencer Cuvelier, LB, 75
Sacks: Caden Houghtelling, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Benny Sapp III, DB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Vance McShane, RB Sam Schnee, WR Deion McShane, LB Bryce Flater, DB Korby Sander, DL Devin Rice, K Matthew Cook
Key Losses: RB Bradrick Shaw, WR Isaiah Weston, OL Trevor Penning, LB Alfonzo Lambert, LB Riley Van Wyhe, DL Jared Brinkman, DB Austin Evans, DL Tim Butcher, DB Omar Brown
Theo Day came to Northern Iowa from Michigan State and it took him one game before he stepped into a starting role. He threw for 2,316 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. With a year of starting experience under his belt, expect Day to be more efficient in 2022. He will miss wide receiver Isaiah Weston though. Weston was the big play threat and averaged nearly 24 yards per catch on his 37 receptions. Quan Hampton and Deion McShane are a solid receiving duo though, but somebody will occasionally need to be a threat to stretch the field. Dom Williams and Vance McShane are both quality running backs with plenty of experience. With those two, Northern Iowa should have a solid, balanced offense.
The Panthers usually win games with their defense. There were a few games last year when the team allowed 34 points in a loss. The offense usually will not have the firepower to make up that many points, but still Northern Iowa allowed just 18 points per game. You cannot ask for much more than that. Spencer Cuvelier is back after tallying 75 tackles despite missing four games with an injury. The top two tacklers from 2021 are gone though and players like Bryce Flater will need to step up at linebacker. Caden Houghtelling and Devin Rice will provide a solid pass rush from the front line and Benny Sapp III and Korby Sander are good playmakers in the secondary. This is a program that can fill holes on the defensive side of the ball without missing a beat and the story should be the same in 2022.
The Bottom Line:
As usual, the schedule is tough. It starts with a trip to Air Force to begin the season. Next up is a what could turn out to be a huge conference opener at North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks have playoff hopes of their own and will need to defend their home turf if that is going to happen. A week later Sacramento State comes to the UNI-Dome. The Hornets earned the #4 seed in the playoffs last year. And, of course, the rest of the MVFC slate is never easy. However, we have seen Northern Iowa get off to tough starts because of their non-conference schedule many times before and roar back in the MVFC play and reach the playoffs.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2021 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 140.5 (68th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 222.7 (50, 6)
Total Offense: 363.2 (60, 7)
Scoring Offense: 24.9 (63, 6)
Rushing Defense: 87.1 (5, 1)
Pass Defense: 218.2 (59, 5)
Total Defense: 305.3 (13, 2)
Scoring Defense: 18.0 (13, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.33 (36, 5)
Sacks: 2.92 (14, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.92 (106, 8)