Iowa wasn't sharp at all the first week when they knocked off Miami (Ohio) 45-21. They did respond well and made the necessary adjustments and improvements that lead to the 42-3 onslaught of Iowa State. Having won 14 regular season games in a row, the Hawkeyes now turn their attention to 5-time defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State.
The Bison pose a much more difficult threat than either the RedHawks or Cyclones did. They know how to win, have the intangibles to do so, have an efficient quarterback, experience of knocking off FBS teams on the road, and a sound system in place much like Kirk Ferentz with the Hawkeyes.
Where Iowa has to do their damage is along the line of scrimmage. The biggest difference between these teams (FCS and FBS) should be the offensive and defensive lines. There's more depth at the FBS level in this area, more available recruiting ground, better resources, and it is Iowa's bread and butter. Unlike the other FBS teams the Bison have had success against with, Iowa should prove to be too much, too big, and too strong along the line of scrimmage.
KEYS TO WIN
1) GET OUT EARLY - North Dakota State is a team that you can't let hang around, especially in your own building. Iowa needs to get out to an early lead and just keep that foot on the gas pedal. Let them know they are out of the game from the start. If you don't, that's when they end up beating you.
2) BEATHARD OFTEN -I've ranted and raved about how bad NDSU's pass defense has been so far this season. Iowa is known for pounding the ball quite often, but I think this is a C.J. Beathard game. The Bison are giving up nearly 30 points per game and 272 passing yards per game. Go to C.J. often and let him control the game.
3) KEEP STICK IN THE POCKET - NDSU's QB, Easton Stick, has the ability to hurt you bad on the ground. That is something I've seen Iowa struggle with at times. They need to keep Stick inside the pocket and let him throw the ball. You have one of the best defensive backfields in the conference, so trust that they can make plays.
1) FAST START - Like Dylan, I think a great start is imperative in this one. Not because you can take NDSU out of the game, though. This is a team that knows how to win and is resilient, evidenced by their two overtime victories so far this season. They're well versed in this. They won't quit. They have the intangibles to find ways to win games at the end, even when adversity strikes. It is important for the Hawkeyes to not have this be a close showing near the end so that NDSU does not have the wiggle room to amass a comeback.
2) CONTROL THE BALL - I know NDSU has showed that they have been weak against the pass this year but I think that's a trap. This is the game to control the ball and muddy the game up. It may play into NDSU's hands a bit, but that's where the biggest differences between the two teams lies. Beat them up, physically. They may get some stops but they don't get game-swinging plays that keeps them in games when you run the ball. As vulnerable as they have been against the pass, that is where they can alter the game. Getting pass heavy is a trap. The team that is forced to throw the ball the most will lose.
3) STOP THE RUN - It's much like my previous point. The team that is forced to throw the most loses this game. This game will be won along the line of scrimmage. That is what happens when teams like this face off. Stop the run and force NDSU to get off schedule and throw when they don't really want to or throw when they absolutely have to. They're like Iowa. Get them off schedule, out of their personal preferences, and one-dimensional. What happens on first down will be important. Will they be on schedule or out of the rhythm?
HAWK TO ROCK
DYLAN: Going off the grid here a little bit, but I think it's Jerminic Smith. I think the Bison will be keyed in on Matt Vandeberg and that could allow for Smith to get behind the defense, which could ultimately turn into big time plays for Iowa. I'm guessing Smith catches 5 passes for 105 yards and a TD on Saturday.
DEREK: This game will be won between the hash marks and that sets this up to be a game for LeShun Daniels and the offensive line. Akrum Wadley isn't 100 percent anyways. The Hawk to Rock on this side of the ball will be the entire offensive line. They have to impose their will. Daniels will have some nice numbers and probably get the fame but the offensive line will decide this part. On the defense, it'll be Josey Jewell. He came into his own in the second half against Iowa State when he found himself after the ejection in week one. That carries over into this week and they eliminate the NDSU running game, making them one-dimensional. Special teams, they'll need Ron Coluzzi to continue to impress. Field position will be important so they'll need him to come through as a punter and I expect that he will.
DYLAN: Iowa 42 NDSU 20
DEREK: Iowa 35 NDSU 17