It's a little bit of an unknown how Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler handles pressure, as he has just been sacked once in the first two starts of his career. The Hawkeyes have been surprising stout up front, after losing a cast of senior offensive linemen and returning left tackle Robert Gallery. What made last year's starting signal-caller – Brad Banks – so strong was time to throw in the pocket, and Iowa has shown the ability to give Chandler the time he needs thus far.
Iowa State, on the other hand, lost top rush end Tyson Smith to a broken leg and he's been replaced by under-sized true freshman Jason Berryman. The youngster will likely get a clinic Saturday at Gallery's expense, so the Cyclones must get pressure with Jordan Carstens and Nick Leaders up the middle, or get a big game from Nik Moser flying in from his SAM linebacking post. Middle linebacker Brandon Brown has a team-leading two sacks on the young season.
If the Cyclones are able to get in Chandler's face it will also be positive for a secondary that was burned on numerous occasions last weekend against Ohio. If not, the Hawkeye first-year starting quarterback could pick them apart.
Special Teams make difference
In a game between two stellar defenses, what Iowa State does in the kicking game – both on kickoffs and in field goals – could make a world of difference. Last fall in Iowa City, Adam Benike played a big role in a five-point victory by nailing field goals of 38 and 36 yards in the fourth quarter. The Hawks counter ISU's All-Big 12 kicker with one of the nation's best in Nate Kaeding.
On kickoffs, the Cyclones figure to be without kickoff specialist and long field goal man Tony Yelk, who injured a knee last weekend against Ohio. Look for Benike to pull double duty this Saturday, which is not his strong suit. If Benike struggles, Dan McCarney could turn to punter Troy Blankenship for help. Either way, ISU may not get the field-position advantage it has enjoyed against Ohio and Northern Iowa.
Continued efficiency from Flynn
McCarney could not ask anything more of a first-year starting quarterback, and a redshirt freshman at that. Austin Flynn has taken the offense by storm and accounted for 555 yards of total offense and four touchdowns to just one interception on a tipped pass. Flynn's ability to make the occasional big play without making a crucial mistake has made him.
Flynn will face his toughest challenge to date in an Iowa front seven that, quite possibly, is better than the one that carried to the Orange Bowl. Behind an O-line lacking the services of Bob Montgomery again this week, Flynn could face immense pressure up front and be forced to use his quick feet and speed. Thus, he'll need to keep his poise and make good decisions on the run.