This is when Iowa fans are reminded by Cyclone fans about Iowa State's five-year winning steak over the Hawkeyes. Iowa fans counter with the proverbial "let's talk when the streak reaches 15 consecutive wins." ISU stands for I Screwed Up, Hawk fans say.
When I break down this game, I see two teams very similar to each other. Offensively, both started the season with very inexperienced quarterbacks, and in the case of Iowa State's Austin Flynn, a quarterback who had never taken a collegiate snap. Flynn has been steady, not spectacular. He has the ability to tuck the ball under and run, and Iowa State has kept up its practice of rolling out its quarterback on nearly every pass attempt.
For Iowa, Nathan Chandler has performed beyond my expectations thus far. Iowa has watered down the offense to suit Chandler and he has stayed within the confines of the offense, throwing for four touchdowns and zero interceptions in two games this year.
Offensive line play was going to be a question mark for both teams, although Iowa did return all-American left tackle Robert Gallery. Iowa State was handicapped when all-Big 12 guard Bob Montgomery was shelved with a broken ankle.
The Cyclones have not run the ball with much consistency against far weaker opposition. Iowa was initiating four new lineman, and so far so good. The running game has been steady and Chandler has had lots of time to find open receivers.
Iowa State's strongest position on offense is its receivers. Lane Danielson and Jack Whitver look like fill-ins for the movie "The Sandlot," but they are very productive. Danielson is now the leading receiver in Iowa State history. The former walk-on is fast and is a very smart receiver who runs terrific routes and has good hands. Whitver is your prototypical possession receiver who can find soft spots in a zone.
Iowa State's three-headed monster rushing attack is not real strong at this point. They have not had much help up front, but neither possesses the shiftiness of a Fred Russell. Steve Hicks, Michael Wagner and Hiawatha Rutland don't really concern me with their ability.
As for Iowa's running backs, I really like Marcus Schnoor. I don't know how good he would be carrying the ball 20 times a game, but I like how he hits the hole. He doesn't screw around -- just full steam ahead.
The two teams are also very similar defensively, although Iowa is the stronger defensive unit as a whole. Iowa State has a good run stopper in Jordan Carstens, who has pro potential. He's not a tremendously fast tackle, but is very strong and often demands two blockers. This will be a good test for Brian Ferentz playing against a savvy veteran like Carstens.
Iowa State will be playing without pass rush specialist Tyson Smith, who may be wearing jail stripes after this week. Freshman Jason Berryman gets the call on the end against Robert Gallery. Welcome to big time football, freshman. This will be the equivalent of Bluto Blutarkski welcoming "Flounder" into the Delta house.
The defensive secondary for Iowa State was to be the strong point of this defense. But injuries and poor play has plagued this unit. You should never give up two long touchdown passes to Ohio, a triple-option team. Perhaps they were lulled to sleep by the constant running plays, but that is still inexcusable. Iowa opened up the offense a bit last week with some longer throws primarily to Mo Brown, who could have a banner day against the Cyclone secondary.
When I said the defenses were similar, I meant in respect to experience and being a strong point of the team. Iowa's defensive line is clearly better than Iowa State's. The group of Hodges, Babineaux, Clauss and Roth has again been stingy against the run and abusive to opposing quarterbacks. The depth gets even better this week as Derrek Robinson returns from a Kirk Ferentz-imposed two-game suspension. One other name of mention is Matt Neubauer. He has been impressive and recorded a sack against Buffalo. I think Iowa fans are going to enjoy this player in years to come.
Special teams have been special for Iowa all season. Nate Kaeding needs no introduction. Punter David Bradley punted just once last week and he sent a bomb about 60 yards. Bradley's improvement from two years ago is just remarkable. He has gone from a liability to an asset in two years and his ability to pin opponents deep can be huge in a field-position game.
Iowa's kick and punt coverage teams yield very few yards on returns and Ramon Ochoa brought a punt back 70 yards for a touchdown last week. Iowa State, it would appear, will be without punter Tony Yelk, who is very good himself. I give Iowa a huge advantage in the special teams.
So how do I see this game shaping up? Based on my words, you might think I was predicting and Iowa blowout. Quite the opposite. The better team has not always won this game. In Ferentz's first season at Iowa, Iowa State was clearly the better team but a 1-10 Iowa team lost just 17-10.
What must Iowa do to bring the Cy-Hawks trophy back to Iowa City? First and foremost, Iowa must match the intensity that Iowa State seems to bring to this game. At times, it seems to mean more to Iowa State. I'm sure it doesn't, but that's the perception I get. Iowa needs to minimize its mistakes. Last year, Brad Banks fumbled twice deep in Iowa territory setting up touchdowns. Iowa also gave up a momentum-turning safety that started the downward spiral. Iowa has done a terrific job of eliminating turnovers this year (only one thus far), and has greatly reduced its penalties from a year ago. If those two trends continue, Iowa will be very successful.
Iowa needs to get to Flynn early. He has never played in a game of this magnitude and could be rattled. Iowa State will likely have to use Flynn's arm to win because I don't think they will be able to run the ball. If they can confuse Flynn like Iowa confused and tortured Ben Roethlisberger, victory is an almost certainty.
And lastly, I would like to see Iowa go for the jugular if they get ahead early in this game. Put the game out of reach if you have the chance -- don't let the Cyclones hang around and let them think they can win it.
Prediction: I would love to say Iowa in a landslide, but I just don't see it. I see a low-scoring defensive struggle, but in the end Iowa has too much defense than the Cyclones can handle. Iowa 21 Iowa State 14.
Iowa did exactly what it should have done last Saturday against Buffalo: Jumped out to a big lead, played plenty of reserves, and cruised to an easy victory. Iowa scored on the ground, through the air, on a Sean Considine fumble recovery and on a Ramon Ochoa punt return.
Iowa fans got a glimpse of the future. True freshman Champ Davis showed versatility running and catching the ball. A.J. Johnson knocked a Buffalo defender back to the third grade on a touchdown run. Drew Tate became the first true freshman to see playing time since Dan McGwire and looked comfortable completing three of five passes -- and best of all, he didn't make any mistakes.
Redshirt freshman Calvin Davis saw extensive playing time, dropped a pass but the experience is the most important. One thing that surprised me was that Buffalo didn't attempt to throw the ball after falling behind early. I guess they figured their chance of victory was slim so they were better off sticking to their game plan and running the ball instead of putting it in the air. Or, it could be that their quarterbacks suck and there was no reason to make their passing stats worse than they already are.
Overall, Iowa accomplished what it wanted to by playing 66 players, keeping the penalties at a minimum (which, to my recollection, were two false start penalties), and nobody got seriously hurt. Backup defensive tackle Jory Helms sprained an ankle, which will likely keep him out of the Iowa State game but other than that ankles sprains by Champ Davis and Eric Rothwell should not require missed games.
Kramer: Elaine, alright where's the SP2000? Cause I gotta slice.
Elaine: Aah, I forgot it. I gotta get home.
Kramer: Ok, I'll go with you.
Elaine: Umm, I'm not actually going straight to home, I have to first stop at .. eh...Cyclone Stadium, you know with all the...clowns.
Kramer: Oh, well you have fun...oh no clowns...hate clowns...the clowns.