The Iowa Hawkeyes are playing for more than they usually do this weekend, as a victory could mean the difference between the Alamo Bowl, given to representatives from the Big Ten and Big Twelve, and quite possibly no bowl at all. The same goes for the Cyclones, though Iowa's prospects for an at-large bowl seem better.
The Iowa defense comes in with the 24th-ranked defense in the nation, which qualifies as the second-best in the Big 10. With only 320 yards allowed per game, the Hawkeyes have shown an ability to stay within striking distance of any team they've faced. Furthermore, the only receivers to have a big day against Iowa's vaunted passing attack are superstars Lee Evans, Marquise Walker, and Ron Johnson—all locks for the NFL draft. Mel Kiper Jr. called Evans the best receiver prospect in the college game, regardless of class. Ron Johnson is among his top 25 seniors. Lee Corso referred to Walker as a Heisman candidate, and recently called his one-handed catch against Iowa as one of the best plays of the year. Regardless of ISU QB Seneca Wallace's ability, he does not have anybody to throw to that is talented enough to match these numbers. Lane Danielsen is an accurate route-runner, but that is not the style of play from receivers that really hurts the Hawkeyes. Watch for Iowa to limit the effectiveness of the Cyclone passing game.
The Cyclone rushing game will also face a tough challenge this weekend. Iowa's defense is led by a tough front line of defenders that accounts for 7 of Iowa's top 8 tacklers. Bob Sanders, the lone exception to the rule, is one of the best run-support safeties in the nation, as evidenced by his 25 tackles against Indiana's option offense. The Hawkeye defense has logged over 8 tackles for a loss per game, for a total of 22 yards per game. Only Anthony Davis, who recently set a freshman record for games with over 100 yards, and the high-powered Hoosier tandem of Antwaan Randle-El and Levron Williams have been able to crack 100 yards on the Hawkeyes. This will be the key to the Cyclones' success, as ISU is 12-0 when Haywoods reaches 100 yards on the day. All in all, the Hawkeyes give up just 124 rushing yards per game, which qualifies them for 3rd in the Big Ten.
It'll be very important for the Hawkeyes to establish a running game, something they haven't been able to do the past three years against Iowa State. The Cyclones have held Ladell Betts to 64 ypg in the previous three contests, but with Iowa State's run defense being 11th in Big12 and 98th in nation, giving up 198 ypg, Ladell Betts should be able to gain the 94 yards necessary for him to have a 1000 yard season. This should, also, help open up the passing game as Iowa would like to go downfield to either Kahlill Hill or CJ Jones in this game.
This will be the senior's last chance for redemption against Iowa State, and I expect them to do it in grand ole' fashion. The Hawkeyes should put plenty of jeers into the Iowa State crowd on Saturday.