Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 9, 2012

Throughout the seasons, I answer your Big Ten football and basketball questions in my Big Ten Mailbag. While on the BTN summer bus tour, I'm fielding questions from every stop along our 3,000-plus mile trek across Big Ten country. We were at Iowa practice Wednesday, and Hawkeyes fans sent me their questions. Nebraska is up Thursday. Here's what I want to see from the Huskers. If you have a question, send it to me in the box at the bottom of this post or tweet it to me (@BTNTomDienhart).

Do you see Iowa struggling in its season opener vs. Northern Illinois in Chicago? – Kyle

No doubt, NIU is a good foe. In fact, the Huskies have the longest current winning streak among FBS schools. But, second-year coach Dave Doeren has work to do with star quarterback Chandler Harnish gone. Still, the Hawkeyes need to be on upset alert. I always think schools are most vulnerable in the opening game when they still are trying to figure out strengths/weaknesses. And you can bet NIU has been prepping for Iowa here and there for months. The Huskies know the opportunity that awaits if they can topple a Big Ten team. Still, in the end, I think Iowa will find a way to win a close game.

Did you see Nate Meier at Iowa?s practice the other day? He has been working out at running back but may be best suited to play linebacker or defensive end. – Josh Hill

I honestly didn?t notice him, as I was focused on Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill at running back. We all know about Iowa?s depth issues at running back, but I have to think if Garmon and Hill work out and first-team running back Damon Bullock holds up, the staff may be inclined to move Meier to defense. Bottom line: stay tuned. He sounds like a talented kid the coaches would want to get on the field somewhere.

There seems to be a buzz about the Iowa offense. Do you think it really will be much different under Greg Davis than it was under Ken O?Keefe? – Joe Pick

The attack won?t be radically different. Iowa never is going to morph into a team that passes the ball 40-50 times a game as long as Kirk Ferentz is coach. But the offense will be different to a degree. Davis will introduce more of a passing element to the attack-especially a short passing game. There also will be more formations and personnel packages that will at the least dress up the look of the attack and give defenses more to think about and potentially more to deal with. So, look for a more sophisticated passing game that will make liberal use of the tight ends.

What true freshmen impress you the most? – Ted

It?s difficult to tell at this point, as practices only have started across the Big Ten. But several true freshmen are expected to play key roles at schools. The one I am most excited about is Michael Thomas, a receiver at Ohio State who impressed everyone at the spring game. The Buckeyes need playmakers at wideout-and Thomas could help fill that gnawing hole.

Others I will be watching are the running backs at Iowa: Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill; Michigan State receiver Aaron Burbridge (who recently was hurt); Minnesota receiver Andre McDonald; Michigan offensive lineman Kyle Kalis; Purdue tight end Carlos Carvajal; Penn State running back Akeel Lynch; Indiana running back Tevin Coleman; Illinois running back Dami Ayoola. But, it is almost impossible to pick true freshmen who will star. We surely will have some surprise first-year players no one is talking about now. senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at, and you can subscribe to it via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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