IOWA CITY, Iowa - There's always a lot on the line when in-state rivals Iowa and Iowa State. Saturday, the stakes seem clear. Aside from bragging rights, which honestly mean more to fans thnt the teams, their seasons could be greatly impacted by what happens in the Cy-Hawk game.
Iowa hopes to climb to 3-0 in a season where its believed to be a contender for the Big Ten West Division title. The Hawkeyes are searching for consistency with a tough road contest at Pittsburgh looming next week.
The Cyclones limp into Kinnick at 0-2 and in serious need of a victory if they hope to return to the postseason. After a bye week, high-scoring Baylor comes to Ames followed by a trip to Oklahoma State. A loss at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday makes 0-5 a distinct possibility.
"I'm really pleased with the improvement that we made from Game 1 to Game 2 and understand that we've got to keep making that improvement if we're going improve overall as a football team and have an opportunity to win football games," Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said.
FCS Champion North Dakota State steamrolled the Cyclones, 34-14, in Week 1. Last Saturday, No. 20 Kansas State needed a late touchdown to escape Ames with a 32-28 win.
Iowa State must now take a positive step against a familiar foe from within its boarders.
"Rivalry games are special. The fact that I'm an in-state guy along with a lot of our players probably makes it even more important to them but it doesn't take a long time to become a part of the program or the culture to understand the importance of this game," Rhoads said.
Rhoads, who is known for his excitable personality, hears a lot about how much this game means to his program every year. He tries to keep it in perspective.
"I don't pay attention to the hype in years past or currently. It's our next game and it happens to be against our in-state rival. They're a very good football team that's undefeated and on the brink of being rated in the nation's Top 25. We played poorly Week 1, played a lot better Week 2 and are going to have to play a lot better in Week 3 to have a chance to compete. That's where my focus is," he said.
Time, TV, Announcers: 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN with Sean McDonough, Chris Speilman and Todd McShay.
The Series: Iowa leads 40-21 but the Cyclones have won nine of the last 16 meetings.
Betting Line: Iowa stood as a 10.5-point favorite at the Mirage in Las Vegas as of Tuesday. The total at off-short sports books was 49.
-Iowa State is 1-5 Against The Spread in its last 6 non-conference games.
-Iowa is 2-5 ATS in its last 7 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
Match-up to Watch: Much will be made of Iowa's ability to contain dynamic Cyclone return man/receiver Jarvis West and rightfully so. Iowa's linebackers and defensive backs are susceptible to the big play and West is one waiting to happen.
That said, ISU Quarterback Sam Richardson holds the key for his team. The junior is the kind of dual-threat signal caller that has given the Hawkeyes fits in the past. Even though an injury kept him in the pocket during last year's meeting, he burned Iowa with his arm (22 for 39, 260 yards, 3 TDs).
If Richardson can avoid Iowa's improved pass rush by being a moving target, he could deliver some off-schedule plays. We might get a chance to see how much growth, if any, the Hawkeye linebackers and secondary have made since Week 1.
Take Note: Iowa has won five straight non-conference regular season games and six of its last seven regular season games, dating back to last season.
Take Note, Take Two: The Iowa defense ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 10 nationally with 17 tackles for loss (61 yards). DT Louis Trinca-Pasat shares the Big Ten lead with four TFL. DE Drew Ott ranks No. 3 with 3.5 TFL. Iowa's defensive line has accounted for 11 TFL (31 yards). The Hawkeyes also rank No. 2 in the Big Ten with seven sacks for 43 yards. The defensive line has four of the seven sacks (Ott, 2; Trinca-Pasat, 1.5; Jaleel Johnson, 0.5).
Non-Sports Related: Former US President Ronald Reagan was once the Grand Marshal of the VEISHEA parade at Iowa State.
Did You Know?: When Story County was chosen as the location for what is now Iowa State University, it was selected ahead of, among others, Johnson County.
Did You Also Know?: Between the two teams, 20 players (11 ISU, 9 Iowa) have started their first college games through the first two weeks of the season.
ISU Wins If… if it can neutralize the Hawkeyes' defensive line.
Iowa Wins If… finish drives on offense.
Overview: I've had Iowa winning the first two games but my predicted scores have been out to lunch. So, I won't hurt myself patting my back.
As usual, the Hawkeyes are a tough team to figure out early in the season. Perhaps this is the week they clean up their mistakes and shortcomings and roll over their rival. Maybe the issues continue to become epidemics and they continue to give their fans gray hair.
Two of the most consistent aspects of the team through Kirk Ferentz's previous 15 years as Iowa head coach are mysteries at the moment. A running back will be trying to lead the team in rushing during a game for the first time this season. The Hawkeye kickers are 2 of 6 on field goals with all of the misses coming from inside of 40 yards.
It's hard to be confident in the rushing attack taking a big step forward with star left tackle Brandon Scherff listed as questionable this week. He'd likely be replaced by redshirt freshman Ike Boettger.
Before we get too depressed, it's not like the Hawkeyes are facing the '85 Bears. To say the Cyclones have issues would an understatement.
ISU has allowed six sacks through two games, which feeds right into the Hawkeyes strength on their defensive front. The Cyclones defense is allowing 6.3 yards per carry and opponents to covert 52 percent of their third downs.
Iowa State travels away from Ames for the first time this season with young players in quite a few spots, including right tackle, receiver and punter.
You never want to get too comfortable with what Cyclones look like on paper if you're an Iowa fan. Strange things happen too often in this series that defy pre-game expectations.
Iowa just needs to play a clean game with controlled emotion. Make the Cyclones deliver enough plays on the road to win their first game of the season. Don't help them.
Prediction: IOWA 24, Iowa State 20