IOWA CITY, Iowa — Something must give. Iowa has won nine straight home games. North Dakota State has won five straight games against FBS teams. One streak will end on Saturday when the five-time defending FCS national champions come to Kinnick Stadium. North Dakota State is ranked No. 1 in the FCS poll. Iowa is No. 13 in the Associated Press Poll. Who holds the edge here? Let’s investigate.
When Iowa has the ball
The Iowa offense started the year in midseason form. The Hawkeyes are averaging 43.5 points. The offense is balanced. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is making plays (427 passing yards, four touchdowns). The rushing game is averaging 6.3 yards a carry. It all comes together for plays like this 26-yard touchdown catch by running back Akrum Wadley on a play-action pass.
The competition wasn’t the best in the first two Iowa games. North Dakota State should be a step up. The Bison are led by middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, who is the only FCS player on the Butkus Award watch list. Here are a series of his highlights.
The North Dakota State defense is showing some leaks early in the season. The Bison allowed 61 points in two games, including 27 in the fourth quarter.
When North Dakota State has the ball
The Bison will fit right in at Kinnick Stadium. Their offense looks like a Big Ten team with several Iowa defenders saying the North Dakota State rushing attack is similar to Wisconsin. The Bison will look to get the football to running back Lance Dunn, a Waterloo West High School product. Dunn has 178 rushing yards and one touchdown.
This is the first year of Easton Stick being the starting North Dakota State quarterback, but don’t call him inexperienced. He filled in last season while starter Carson Wentz, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was out. He’s 10-0 in his career as a starter and doesn’t tend to make mistakes. He’s thrown five interceptions in 200 career passes. Here are video highlights of a North Dakota State win over Indiana State from last season. It’s full of Stick highlights.
The Hawkeyes defense looked better against Iowa State, holding the Cyclones to only a field goal. Iowa controlled the line of scrimmage against Iowa State. The Hawkeyes will look to do the same against the Bison.
Iowa returner Desmond King has come close to breaking a few big returns this season. He is a weapon and this could be the game he does so. Iowa kicker Keith Duncan is doing everything asked. He’s converted his only field-goal attempt and all 12 of his extra-point attempts.
North Dakota State punter Koonce Jackson has more than a cool first name. He’s limiting opportunities for opponents to return kicks. Six of his 10 punts were fair caught in the first two games. Also, North Dakota State kicker Cam Pedersen is 2 of 3 on field goals and 8 of 9 on extra points.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is 129-87 with the Hawkeyes and is in his 18th season. He is 141-108 in 21 seasons as a head coach.
All North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman has done in three years is win three FCS national titles. He’s gone 30-3 with the Bison. Also, he grew up in Waterloo and still cheers for the Hawkeyes from time to time.
North Dakota State is the best team Iowa will play in September. The Bison are better than a significant number of Power 5 conference programs.
Still, both teams play similar styles of football. When that happens the team with the better talent usually wins as long as it plays something close to a good game. That will most likely be the case here. North Dakota State will put up a challenge, but Iowa, because of its play up front, will bring an end to the FBS winning streak.
Bobby La Gesse’s prediction: Iowa 31, North Dakota State 17
Scott Dochterman’s prediction: Iowa 41, North Dakota State 20