Season openers can set the season’s pace and UNI is a formidable first foe

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One season ago, the Big 12 was the only Division 1A conference in the nation that did not lose a football game on the first week of the college season. The good start led to nine teams (an unprecedented 90%) making bowl games.

 Among the first week losers, just 17 went on to accumulate more wins than losses. And, only four of those teams recovered from the opening defeat to claim division or conference championship. That foursome included Tulsa (which lost to Iowa State in the first week), Northern Illinois (Iowa), Boise State (Michigan State) and Arkansas State (Oregon).

 Certainly, it’s crazy to suggest season openers are “must wins”. But, the final records of the schools which lost in the first week of 2012 were nearly 100 games below .500 (238-336).

 Paul Rhoads spoke about how the first week can set the table for a successful season. Rhoads is 4-0 in season openers as head coach at Iowa State. As an assistant, Rhoads was 1-0 at Auburn, 7-1 at Pitt, 2-3 as a Dan McCarney assistant at ISU and 1-2 at Pacific in openers.

 “It’s a huge boost to get the first win,” Rhoads said. “I correlate it to (earning) credibility. You do get heightened credibility with your kids if you come through the first game with a victory.”

 When the Cyclones open with Northern Iowa Saturday, they’ll do so against a school that has put a major scare into several BCS teams in recent years.

 The Panthers lost to #12 Wisconsin 21-26 last fall, dropped a one-point decision to ISU in Ames two seasons ago and suffered a crushing one-point loss to Iowa in 2009.

 Getting off to a good start is important. The Cyclones will need to play an outstanding game to do so this fall.

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