IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s common to hear that records can be thrown out when assessing rivalry games. The phrase is repeated all across the country. Most of the time it doesn’t apply, but it does with recent Iowa-Iowa State football games.
Six of the last nine CyHawk showdowns were decided by 12 points or less. The Hawkeyes, who won five of those games, appeared to be the stronger team in most of those games. Will this be another close one or will it be the rare one-sided affair in this rivalry game? Let’s investigate.
When Iowa has the ball
The Hawkeyes started the year in midseason form, churning out 404 total yards and scoring 45 points against Miami (Ohio).
The running game was especially strong as Iowa gained 212 rushing yards, averaging an absurd 7.3 yards per carry. RBs LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley wore down the Redhawks. The Iowa State run defense, meanwhile, was a mess last week, allowing 232 rushing yards to Northern Iowa. Last season, Iowa rushed for 260 yards in a 31-17 win over Iowa State. This could be another game where the Hawkeyes rely on the ground game.
Iowa put together a balanced offensive output last week when quarterback C.J. Beathard threw for 192 yards. The strength of Iowa State’s defense is the secondary. Pro Football Focus rates cornerback Brian Peavy one of the top defenders in the Big 12, and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is a playmaker in the backfield. Beathard and the Hawkeyes aerial attack vs. the Cyclones pass defense should be an intriguing matchup.
When Iowa State has the ball
The most interesting matchup is Iowa cornerback Desmond King vs. Iowa State wide receiver Allen azard. Both figure to be playing on Sundays in the future. Lazard is the Cyclones’ big-play passing option. King is expected to shadow Lazard all over the field. The winner of this battle could go a long way in deciding if the Iowa defense or Iowa State offense finds success.
Iowa’s run defense was a problem in the opener when it allowed 158 rushing yards. The Hawkeyes sorely missed linebacker Josey Jewell for most of the game after he had been ejected for targeting.
Iowa State will look to replicate the ground success Miami (Ohio) found. Iowa State running back Mike Warren is a preseason All-Big 12 selection and can turn any carry into a big play. The Cyclones’ rushing attack struggled in the opener. They gained only 51 yards while breaking in five new starters on the offensive line.
Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning is a dual-threat option. The 6-foot-5, 226-pound signal caller plays a lot like former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. There is more power than finesse in his rushing attack while he can make a big play through the air.
Both teams bring dynamic returners. King averaged 24.4 kickoff return yards and 14.2 punt return yards last year. Iowa State wide receiver Trever Ryen averaged 15.4 punt return yards, including one touchdown, last season. The return game could be another key factor.
Iowa is breaking in a new punter and kicker this season. Iowa State returns punter Colin Downing, a Ray Guy Award nominee, and kicker Cole Netten, who hit a game-winning field goal over Iowa in 2014.
Edge: Iowa State
Iowa signed coach Kirk Ferentz to an extension through the 2025 season on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 12-win season. Ferentz, in his 18th season, is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the country. He has 128 career victories. That’s 15 wins behind Hayden Frey for most in program history.
Campbell is a rising coach in the profession. He led Toledo to a 35-15 record in four-plus seasons (he took over the team for the 2011 Military Bowl). He is old-school because he expects his players to follow his blueprint for what it takes to win (process, attitude and effort are his favorite words), but he is willing to alter his schemes to fit his personnel.
The Hawkeyes are the better team on the line of scrimmage, which is where this rivalry game is always won. It may be hard for Iowa State to find an answer to stopping the Iowa rushing attack.
There is a chance for an upset. Iowa State brings several difference makers, such as Lazard and Warren, who can make enough plays to single-handedly win a game. Slowing them down is Iowa’s biggest key.
History says this should be a close game. The rosters show otherwise.
Bobby La Gesse’s prediction: Iowa 34, Iowa State 17
Scott Dochterman’s prediction: Iowa 34, Iowa State 20