PROVO, Utah (AP) -BYU is guaranteed to have a hard time winning in at least one category on Saturday.
Even if the No. 16 Cougars soundly defeat Northern Iowa in the season opener, BYU will face the public perception that it was against an overmatched a team from a lower division. But that's a lot better than what the Cougars will hear if they lose at home for the first time in almost three years.
``This first one, most people look at it kind of as a lose-lose situation for us. However, we know it's another game. Northern Iowa is just as capable as any of the other teams in our conference or any other opponents we play this year,'' linebacker David Nixon said. ``We're not going to take them lightly at all.''
Good idea. Appalachian State's 34-32 win at Michigan a year ago was an alert to all the Bowl Subdivision teams that host teams from the Championship Subdivision.
BYU was originally supposed to open the season at home against Nevada, but the Wolf Pack pulled out of the game last year in order to avoid playing more road games than at home. Nevada rescheduled its trip to Provo for 2010, but BYU was still left looking for a team to play in this year's opener and had few options.
Northern Iowa was available and willing. The Panthers could also give the Cougars a bit of a challenge.
UNI is an FCS playoff regular and went unbeaten during the 2007 regular season, including a 24-13 win at Iowa State.
The Panthers are ranked No. 3 in the FCS preseason poll behind only No. 2 North Dakota State and top-ranked Appalachian State - the team that bolstered the entire division a year ago with the win at Michigan.
``A lot of people who have mentioned playing a I-AA team or whatever, but they're a great team,'' BYU offensive lineman Travis Bright said. ``They come to win, so I don't view their division or anything as a weakness. They're a good team.''
UNI didn't lose last year until Delaware ended the Panthers' season with a 39-27 win in the second round of the FCS playoffs. The Panthers spent the last six weeks of the season as the No. 1 team in the FCS polls before getting upset at home on Dec. 1 by the Blue Hens.
With 13 starters back, the Panthers are hoping to make another run at a national title this season. And starting the year with a win against a ranked team from the higher division would set a nice tone.
``We don't need a lot of people to believe we can win, quite frankly,'' offensive lineman Bob Swift said. ``We just need the people who are on the field to believe we can win.''
BYU has gone unbeaten the last two seasons in Provo and is 3-0 against teams from the FCS, most recently beating Eastern Washington 42-7 last October.
UNI will have a new quarterback in Pat Grace, who replaces four-year starter Eric Sanders. The Panthers will also have four new starters on the offensive line.
BYU has 10 starters back on offense from last year's team that finished 11-2, but only three back on defense.
``How far along they are and how far along we are, I'm not sure either team knows right now. We'll find out soon enough,'' BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
UNI is 0-3 against FBS ranked teams, losing the last meeting to then-No. 22 Iowa 45-21 in 2005.
Coach Mark Farley dismissed the history going into the opener for both teams.
``They're fighting the same battles and having the same questions I'm sure that we have about them,'' Farley said.

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