IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa State struggles to start the season. The Cyclones limp into the Iowa game like a wounded animal ready to be put down.
That's the way the story begins, anyway. Then, in an interesting plot twist, ISU picks its lifeless body up off of the ground and slays the mighty Hawkeyes, who some folks felt would be able to name the score in a mismatch.
The tale first unfolded in 1998. Dan McCarney's Cyclones lost a home game to TCU, which was far from the program it is today, before heading to Kinnick Stadium. Heavy-underdog Iowa State ended a 15-game losing streak in the series with a dominating 27-9 win.
The Cyclones have won 8 of 14 meetings since ending their drought. In the last 13 match-ups with their rivals, Vegas has pegged them as the underdog. They haven't paid attention to it.
The Cyclones squeaked by UNI, 20-19, in their season-opener two years ago before welcoming Iowa to Ames. The Hawkeyes lost, 44-41, in triple overtime despite being favored by 6.5 points.
None of the aforementioned history should serve as gloom for Iowa. It's a new season with many different players on both teams.
However, the axiom that those people who ignore history are doomed to repeat it holds some water here. It tells us not to anticipate the outcome of this game based on early-season results and perception.
Iowa is 1-1 and the Cyclones are 0-1. Neither team is ranked.
Iowa holds a 39-21 advantage in a series that began in 1894.
The Las Vegas Hilton lists Iowa as a 3-point favorite as of Wednesday morning. Several off-shore books had the total at either 48.5 or 49.
-Cyclones are 1-5-1 Against the Spread (ATS) in their last 7 home games.
-Hawkeyes are 3-13 ATS in their last 16 road games.
Iowa DT Carl Davis v. ISU C Jamison Lalk: Lalk, a converted prep TE from Council Bluffs Abe Lincoln, is expected to step in for Tom Farniok (MCL strain), who has started 27 games in a row. Lalk's first career start comes against Carl Davis, who needs to be more disruptive.
Iowa Mark Weisman v. ISU LB Jeremiah George: Weisman comes into this contest ranked ninth nationally in rushing yards (280). He's a north-south runner whose not hard to locate but real difficult to bring down. ISU allowed UNI to runs for 6.9 yards per carry in Week 1. That performance was aided by poor tackling and positioning by the Cyclones. As a veteran of an inexperienced front seven, George needs to lead the way in straightening things out.
POINTS OF INTEREST
-Iowa State will have a different look in Saturday's game. The Cyclones will sport throwback uniforms from the 1920s, similar to what Jack Trice wore 90 years ago in his only season with the Cyclones in 1923.
-Iowa State had 11 first-time starters in the UNI game, including seven on the defensive side, the most of any other school in the Big 12.
-ISU's defense has gone 21 games holding an opponent to under 40 points, the best active streak in the Big 12.
-ISU and Ohio State are the only two teams in the nation to defeat a ranked opponent on the road in each of the last three seasons.
-Since 1999, Iowa State is 5-2 vs. Iowa in games played in Jack Trice Stadium.
-Iowa State is looking for its fourth three-game winning streak vs. Iowa in series history: (3 - 1894-97), (3 - 1980-82) and (5 - 1998-2002).
-Kirby Van Der Kamp has punted 15 times vs. Iowa in his career. Eight of those punts have pinned Iowa inside its 20-yard line.
-In its season-opener vs. UNI, ISU had 11 players make their first career starts, including two players playing in their first game in a Cyclone uniform (Charlie Rogers and Daniel Burton).
-Rogers, a defensive back, and a starting offensive tackle Jacob Gannon, prepped at Iowa City West High.
-For the first time in school history, ISU sold out its season ticket allotment on Aug. 12 (over 43,000) and over 50,000 people have attended a game in Jack Trice Stadium for a school-record 14-straight games.
-Saturday's contest marks just the third time in 61 meetings the schools will kickoff at 5 p.m. or later. Iowa State has won the previous two contests, including a 17-10 win on Sept. 11, 1999 following a 6:05 p.m. start in Ames, and a 36-31 win on Sept. 14, 2002, a 5:05 p.m. start in Iowa City.
-Sophomore QB Jake Rudock connected with nine different receivers in Week 1, and spread the ball to 10 different receivers in Week 2. Rudock has completed 40 pass attempts this season, 24 to wide receivers, nine to tight ends, and seven to running backs.
-Through two games, Iowa's offensive line has yielded just two sacks.
-Senior PK Mike Meyer has made a school-record 88 consecutive PAT attempts, the ninth longest streak in Big Ten Conference history.
-Iowa's 86 plays against Missouri State last week are the most by a Big Ten team this season. The Hawkeyes took 80 snaps in Week one, and 86 in Week two, marking the first time an Iowa team has taken 80-plus snaps in back-to-back games in the same season under Kirk Ferentz.
-Senior LBs Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens rank second and sixth, respectively, among Big Ten leading tacklers.
The Hawkeye Huddle will be held on Friday evening, September 13, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel, 1800 50th Street, in West Des Moines. Admission to the Hawkeye Huddle is free and includes cash refreshments and concessions, door prizes, special guest speakers, Hawkeye DJ, Iowa cheerleaders, dance team, and Herky.
Taking emotion out and viewing it objectively, I understand why Iowa is favored in this game. The Hawkeyes lost by three points to a respected Northern Illinois team coming off a BCS berth and then beat an overmatched Missouri State last week. Meanwhile, the Cyclones fell at home to FCS Northern Iowa in Week 1 before getting a bye.
While that's all the information we have to go on for these two teams, we addressed in the opening that it's unwise to put too much stock in early-season returns when analyzing this game. The emotion present in rivalry games is something very difficult to quantify.
We do know that each team starts a quarterback short on overall experience and Iowa's Jake Rudock and Sam Richardson, of Iowa State, will take their first snaps in this rivalry. Certainly that's something to consider and keep an eye on here.
Iowa runs the ball well with a stable of backs led by Mark Weisman while the Cyclones rush defense is suspect after UNI's David Johnson rumbled for 240 yards and four touchdowns in Week 1. The undisciplined Hawkeyes are committing way too many errors with three turnovers in Game 1 and 10 penalties last weekend.
This game just smells like one where intangibles play a major role in the outcome. Perhaps special teams wins the day. Maybe it comes down to which team is more mentally prepared and emotionally engaged.
In a contest with many unknowns and two teams with plenty to prove and improve, the home field advantage stands out.
SCORE: Iowa State 24, IOWA 20