Saturday, September 9th 2017, 12.00 PM ET – The yearly meeting between these two in-state rivals for the Cy-Hawk trophy sees the Iowa Hawkeyes aiming for a third straight win in the series, and second-year Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell looking to make his mark with a key win, in this Big Ten versus Big 12 matchup.
Week 1 Recap
Iowa Hawkeyes – It was a superb defensive display by the Hawkeyes that led to a fairly significant opening win over Wyoming. The Cowboys contest was surrounded by the overwhelming preseason hype around Wyoming’s young quarterback Josh Allen, but Iowa’s defense, led by senior star linebacker Josey Jewell, held Wyoming to a single field goal in a 24-3 win. Jewell was everywhere as he racked up 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a pair of sacks and a pass breakup.
They very much needed that strong showing on that side of the ball, as there was some early teething required for the offense, following the departure of CJ Beathard, third round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year. Sophomore Nathan Stanley ended up earning the start, and has potential to breakout this year, but it was an extremely rough start as he failed to establish any rhythm early on. He finished with three touchdown passes but went a modest 8/15 passing (53.3%) for 125 yards, and with a pick.
Iowa State Cyclones – Matt Campbell got off to an inauspicious start to his tenure in charge last season by losing 25-20 to FCS side Northern Iowa to open the 2016 campaign. They improved as the year went on however, and in a re-match to kick off this season, they were more convincing, at least in terms of the final score, in a 42-24 victory. That’s not to say that they were overly impressive. There’s a lot of optimism around Georgia transfer quarterback Jacob Parks in his second season with the Cyclones, and despite also registering an interception, he completed 77.1% of his 35 passes for 271 yards and a pair of touchdown throws.
The defense stepped up early on though, with two first quarter pick sixes, by Willie Harvey and Kamari Cotton-Moya. That helped them toward a 21-10 half time lead, and came out strong in the second half with a long scoring drive and a quick defensive stop to take control. On the defense, Joel Lanning (pictured below) is a fascinating storyline. A former starting quarterback for part of last season, he has converted to linebacker for his redshirt senior season. He made a solid start, with seven tackles, and getting pressure on one of the interceptions. He’s not entirely done on the offense either, showing up for a 4th and one conversion late in the game.
Keys to the Game
Iowa didn’t see a receiver like Lazard last week – High draft prospect Josh Allen may have struggled a bit, but he did not get a great deal of help from his receivers; a group that lost their standout playmaker to the NFL this season in Tanner Gentry. Park executed very efficiently against Northern Iowa, and he has a far superior weapon and mismatch at receiver in another NFL draft prospect in senior Allen Lazard. The 6’4”, 223lb target isn’t the best at generating separation through his athleticism, but is a smart route runner with superb hands, using his body to his advantage. If the Cyclones win this game, it wouldn’t surprise if the Park to Lazard connection proves key.
Iowa’s run attack – Stanley is a work in progress to say the least, and so the Hawkeyes will continue to feature their running game primarily on offense. Akrum Wadley is one of the more impressive running backs around college football right now, and got off to a nice start with 116 yards against Wyoming as he aims for back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Establishing the run against an Iowa State team that allowed 119 rush yards against Northern Iowa, will set the tone of the game for Kirk Ferentz’s team. Such a game plan should insulate Stanley somewhat, especially given that Iowa State collected three interceptions in their opening game, taking two of them back for pick six touchdowns.
The Iowa State pass rush – As good a tactic as any when facing an inexperienced quarterback, as well as one for whom footwork has been a key issue to clean up, is to get early pressure to rush Nate Stanley into mistakes. It’s not really a strength of the Cyclones, including just 19 sacks last season (for 102nd in the nation), but they did total six tackles for loss and two sacks in their first game of the year.
Matchup to Watch
Iowa State RB David Montgomery vs Iowa LB Josey Jewell – The Hawkeyes’ run game has been referenced earlier, but it will be important for the Cyclones also. Junior runner Mike Warren took a step back last season, and didn’t do a great deal in the opener either, with just 33 yards at 2.75 yards per carry.
Sophomore David Montgomery has established himself as the top option, and led the team with 82 rush yards (5.86 per carry) and two touchdowns in the Northern Iowa win. He’s going to see a lot of the active and imposing presence of Jewell, who piled up 124 tackles a season ago. His motor never stops and is a leader with all the intangibles wanted to back up his smart play.
Prediction: Iowa 21, Iowa State 13
With the issues on offense but impressive play on defense, expect Iowa to dictate an overall low-scoring affair. Akrum Wadley should be able to do just enough to make the difference in this one. Don’t count out an improving Cyclones team though, and if the trio of Park, Lazard and Montgomery play at their best, with the home crowd on their side, they can cause what would be considered by many as a bit of an upset result.
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