Let's see how they stack up:
ISU: Seneca Wallace, 6-0, 193, is a consummate athlete. He can beat you with his arm or his feet. Could this game provide a highlight reel for Seneca's "Hunt for the Heisman"?
Iowa: Brad Banks is also a marvelously skilled athlete that is equally adept at running and passing. However, he has never been "The Man" until this year.
Advantage: ISU. As Yogi Berra might say, "The only thing that beats experience is if you have done it before."
ISU: Hiawatha Rutland, 6-0, 202, runs like the train of the same name. Michael Wagner, 5-7, 188, adds the outside running and French pastry in this duo of tailbacks for the Clones. Joe Woodley, 5-10, 227, fullback from WDM Valley is a very good blocking fullback.
Iowa: Ames native, Aaron Greving, may get to play for the first time since the Alamo Bowl. However, Iowa's ‘Mighty Mouse' Fred Russell, 5-8, 190, is #2 on NCAA rushing charts this year. Jermelle Lewis adds power to his speed. Fullback, Edgar Cervantes, 6-3, 240, is tough inside.
ISU: Cyclones have a gaggle of sure handed wideouts. Lane Danielson & Jack Whitver are Iowa kids that always play hard. Jamaul Montgomery, Jon Davis and Lance Young bring speed to the party. No Knock on Kyle at TE as he can block and catch.
Iowa: C.J. Jones is elusive. Many thought he was to be Iowa's only deep threat. No ‘Mo as Mo Brown and Clinton Solomon are tall wide receivers that can take it to the house. TE Dallas Clark, 6-4, 244, is simply the best. ‘Nuf said.
ISU: Cyclones have adequately replaced many starters from last year. LT Casey Shelton, WDM Valley is one to watch.
Iowa: This may be Iowa's best front wall ever. Any questions?
Advantage: Iowa. A big edge, if you now what I mean.
ISU: A real strength for the Cyclones. Jordan Carstens, 6-5, 300, is all Big 12 material. DE's Tyson Smith, WDM Dowling, and Beau Coleman are good edge rushers.
Iowa: Senior DT, Colin Cole, is the only returning starter from last year. Jared Clauss, WDM Valley plugs the middle. DE Howard Hodges must be able to hurry Wallace. Matt Roth will spell him in "Searching for Seneca."
Advantage: ISU. Hawkeye defensive line needs to play better than the first two games to put pressure on Wallace. ISU front wall will be tested as the massive Iowa blockers may be the best unit that the Clones will play this year.
ISU: Rising star Brandon Brown, 5-10, 230, is not the last Word at LB for Iowa State as senior Matt stars on the other side.
Iowa: Another team strength for the Hawks. Fred Barr, Grant Steen and Kevin Worthy form an impressive trio. Abdul Hodge, future ruler of Dodge, is also one to watch.
ISU: This is a strength of the Clones. CB Atif Austin and FS Marc Timmons are all-star material.
Iowa: The Erie Assassin, Bob Sanders, was banged up against Miami. Antwan Allen, RS Frosh at corner will be tested. Wild card: Frosh Jovon Johnson, AKA "Batman"
Advantage: ISU. Iowa's corps of big receivers will test the short DB's, while the Hawks have a lot of Clone receivers to cover.
ISU: Clone kicking game is a work in progress. Will Yelk be wide left or wide right?
Iowa: Place Kicker Nate is great and punter Bradley last week was nifty as he averaged fifty.
Advantage: IOWA by two feet.
ISU: Clones have the confidence earned in near miss against FSU and from 4 straight wins in this series.
Iowa: Hawks are motivated by the oldest of instincts: REVENGE
The weather forecast indicates possible showers in the morning, clearing off before the tailgating begins in earnest. The ESPN2 National telecast begins at 5 p.m. Fans from both schools should be well oiled by then. The game should be a classic struggle. I foresee a big time shootout, with both teams making outstanding plays. However, Nate will make a pair of chips, while Yelk still has the yips.
Iowa State run offense vs. Iowa run defense
The Cyclones are averaging 210 yards rushing per game, but those numbers are somewhat inflated by the caliber of competition they've faced the past two weeks against Kansas and Tennessee Tech. The offensive line, considered patchwork at best heading into the season, has been steady but unspectacular. This week they should get a sterner test against Iowa's defensive front, which features standout Colin Cole and veteran Jared Clauss. However, ends Jonathan Babineaux and Howard Hodges are still unproven. The Hawkeyes are only allowing 40.5 yards rushing per game, but those numbers are flawed as well because their two opponents were Akron (who didn't have the talent to run the ball) and Miami of Ohio (who wouldn't run the ball). Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa State pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense
In my opinion, this is the biggest personnel mismatch in the game. Seneca Wallace's talents aside, the Iowa State receivers are superior to what we've seen from the Iowa secondary alone. Now, when you factor in a quarterback of Wallace's ability it's easy to see that Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker has his work cut out for him here. Therefore, knowing Parker as I do, look for him to blitz Wallace aggressively since he has shown in some big games the propensity to make one big mistake. Considering the home crowd and emotion of the game any early errors on his part could turn the tide for good in Iowa's favor. However, the Cyclones have already faced a far more athletic defense in Florida State and more than held their own. Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa run offense vs. Iowa State run defense
This is where the Hawkeyes feel the most comfortable. Granted, Iowa State's defense has been stellar going back to last season's Kansas game, with the exception of the first half against FSU. However, this same Iowa offensive line got the better of the Cyclones up front in the running game in last year's game. Considering Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe and his customary tepid play calling and lack of sense of urgency, look for controlling the clock and keeping Wallace and the ISU offense off the field to be his game plan. Iowa's stable of running backs is expected to be bolstered by the return of Aaron Greving, a native of Ames who no doubt will have something to prove come Saturday. Also, linebacker Brandon Brown didn't practice Tuesday or Wednesday and is expected to be somewhat limited against Iowa because of a strained groin. Advantage: Iowa.
Iowa pass offense vs. Iowa State pass defense
Except for the upcoming Michigan and Michigan State games, this will be the most athletic and deepest secondary Iowa will face this season. Iowa State is at least two deep with quality players at each position. Kirk Ferentz was dead-on when he said during fall practice that his wide receivers would be better than previously thought. Maurice Brown, in particular, has emerged as big-play threat with size and speed after spending two years in Ferentz's doghouse. Also, Brad Banks likes to connect on big plays with his cousin C.J. Jones. We haven't even mentioned tight end Dallas Clark yet, and he's a preseason All-American candidate. Talent-wise, this is a dead heat. However, Iowa's outstanding offensive line should give Banks time to throw...if O'Keefe lets him. Advantage: Iowa.
Iowa special teams vs. Iowa State special teams
Both schools have big-play potential on returns, but Iowa has a big advantage in the kicking game. Especially if punter David Bradley – last season's Achilles heel – continues to boom the ball like he did last week. Tony Yelk has a great punting leg, but aside from last year's big kick against Iowa he becomes Tony Yanked when it comes to the place-kicking. When coaches say Adam Benike is very accurate, that means he doesn't have a very strong leg. On the other hand, Iowa's Nate Kaeding is a potential All-American. If the Cyclones are lining up for a game-winning field goal attempt as time expires you'd better say your prayers. Advantage: Iowa.
Kirk Ferentz has steadily upgraded the talent in Iowa City after the late ‘90s decline of Hayden Fry. It's no coincidence that coincided with Dan McCarney's emergence in Ames. Ferentz has also finally put to bed all of the talk about Bob Stoops and has been warmly embraced by the Hawkeye Nation. However, he still trails the larger-than-life McCarney, who is threatening a near clean-sweep in the in-state recruiting battle for 2003 and is the most commanding sports presence in our state right now. That all began in September of 1998 with a 27-9 victory over the Hawkeyes. Ferentz hopes that worm turns his direction come Saturday. Also, McCarney's staff proved its mettle with the adjustments it made during the Florida State game when the Cyclones trailed, 31-7. Norm Parker is a gamer, but the offensive portion of the Iowa staff lacks flair and ingenuity. Advantage: Iowa State.
Redemption and urgency are the two great motivators in college football. The Cyclones may be on a quest for national respect, but there's no question the Hawkeyes are feeling more urgency and are more in need of redemption following four straight losses. That, plus the home-field, gives Iowa a big emotional edge heading into the ball game. Advantage: Iowa.
The two teams are even-Steven (no pun intended) in my mind. Therefore, go with the squad that has the one, true game-breaker. This season, that happens to be Iowa State with Seneca Wallace. Prediction: Iowa State 27, Iowa 21.