HawkeyeNation.com Iowa v ISU Preview

A good week's worth of smack talk is almost in the books, as it's Iowa v Iowa State week. This is a bittersweet moment for HawkeyeNation.com Publisher Jon Miller. It's always a fun week and the game is great, but we won't get to do this for another year, unless Cyclone fans want to start talking trash regarding their 1-dual meet win streak on the mat. Miller offers up his thoughts on the latest installment of 'The Game' in the state of Iowa.

There is one constant about first games of the season: you gotta play ‘em.

Iowa's offense looked not quite ready for prime time in their 39-7 win over Kent State last week, but the defense looked ready for the Orange Bowl.

The old adage says that your team makes the most improvement from week one to week two, and both Iowa and Iowa State are hoping that is the case this week as the two teams renew acquaintances in Kinnick Stadium.

Would you believe that Iowa has not beaten the Clones at home since 1996? Would you believe Iowa State has the #1 ranked defense in the country?

Would you believe they are starting a freshman quarterback?

All true.

It's time to look at the Iowa-ISU game, HawkeyeNation.com style.

THE QB SHUFFLE

Iowa State coach Dan McCarney played both Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn in last week's 23-0 win over D1-AA opponent Northern Iowa.

Meyer saw the majority of the snaps and went 15 of 24 for 139 yards, including a 22-yard TD pass. Flynn was an efficient two of three for 37 yards and a 23-yard TD pass.

Perhaps Mac chose to play Meyer more to get him ready for the challenge that awaits in Iowa City. Perhaps he feels that Flynn knows what is going on, so he didn't need to play as much. Perhaps he is looking to avoid a controversy right off the bat.

No matter what the case may be, whoever is under center for the Cyclones is going to see a lot of black and gold in this game. Iowa State will have to account for Matt Roth all afternoon, and likely will need to devote two blockers to slow Roth down.

Kent State tried as much, which allowed Jonathon Babineaux and Derreck Robinson to record seven tackles for loss, combined.

If Iowa State has a glaring weakness, its on their still inexperienced offensive line. Based on first hand objective accounts I heard this week, ISU's OL did not move UNI's defensive front down the field. At best, they played to a stalemate at the LOS. Iowa's front four were routinely pushing the Kent State OL a yard or more into the backfield. The Hawks held Kent State to –13 yards rushing…or –30 yards rushing if you don't count the 17-yard gain the Golden Flashes managed after Iowa blocked a punt and the ball fell into the hands of the punter and he ran for his life for the 17 aforementioned yards.

ISU will play both QB's…perhaps by choice, and perhaps due to attrition. Iowa's defense looked nasty good last week, which is what everyone expected. Bret Meyer may have his day against Iowa at some point in the future, but don't look for it to be on Saturday in Iowa City.

WHO LET THE CLONES OUT?

ISU held UNI to 99 total yards of offense. Even though the Panthers are a D1-AA team, they still have some football players and Iowa State's defense was impressive. Clearly, it's the strength of their football team.

Like last year in Ames, expect Iowa State to sell out to try and stop the Iowa running game by putting eight, and sometimes nine players ‘in the box'. Also look for Iowa State to bring every kind of blitz they have in their bag in order to confuse first year Iowa starting QB Drew Tate.

That is the same strategy that most teams employed against Iowa last year when Nathan Chandler was the QB, and there is no reason to believe things will change until Tate proves he is up to the challenge.

In his first Iowa start, he completed 13 of 22 passes for 136 yards, two touchdowns and an INT…in the first half. He did not play in the second stanza because of dehydration.

Eric McCollom came in, and though he looked shaky at first, he settled in and showed his athleticism on some nice runs as well as his rocket right arm.

However, Iowa does not want to see anyone but Tate under center, unless the game is out of hand and the starters are pulled. I just don't see that happening on Saturday.

The Clones are going to do their best to put the heat on Tate. Tate stepped on campus last year and shot up the depth charts to the #2 QB as a true frosh, mainly due to his ability to make quick decisions. (I said this last week, and will probably say it again).

I still don't know if Iowa has the playmakers at receiver to make ISU pay, but Tate could be up to the challenge. However, his throwing into zone coverage near the goal line last week underscores the fact that he will make a few rough calls this year. But then again, Nathan Chandler was picked off 10 times in 2003.

SPECIAL K's

Iowa State kicker/punter Tony Yelk was held out of last week's game with a nagging injury, but ISU insiders expect him back this week.

That would be a good thing for the Clones, as Yelk is their best field goal kicker and a solid punter. He missed last year's game against Iowa in Ames, and reserve punter Troy Blankenship could have told you what flavor of gum that Iowa's Sean Considine was chewing, as Sean blocked two of his punts.

ISU has placed a major emphasis on special teams this off season, and look for those units to be much better.

Since I see this game as a defensive struggle, each team will rely on its punter to bail them out of field position quandaries. Both Yelk and Iowa punter David Bradley are veterans, and Bradley got off to a great start, averaging nearly 50 yards per punt on four kicks against Kent State.

THE HEAT IS ON

Weather forecasts for Saturday's game call for temps in the low to mid 80's, sunny skies and little to no wind. That's the same scenario as last week when Drew Tate, Mike Follett, Albert Young and other Hawkeyes succumbed to dehydration.

Iowa has taken precautions this week by giving players salt tablets as well as loading them up on fluids several days prior to the game.

THE DIGITS

34-17: The number of Wins/Losses Iowa has in this series
10: Number of consecutive losses by ISU to D-1 programs
9/14/2002: Last time ISU won a road game (it was against Iowa)
13:21: The number of minutes and seconds ISU led in B12 play in 2003
6: The number of blocked punts by Iowa in its last 14 games
14th: Iowa's rank in winning percentage nationally since the start of 2001
82nd: Same ranking in same category for Iowa State
8th: Same category national ranking for Iowa since start of 2002
90th: Ditto, for Iowa State
1: Number of bowl wins for Iowa State
7: Number of bowl games played in by Iowa State (1-6)
19: Number of bowl games played in by Iowa (10-8-1)
57: Number of angry emails I will get for this list of numbers

THE HAWKEYENATION.COM ELITIST IOWA SLANT PREDICTION

Hey, I am just playing into the stereotype.

I just don't see Iowa State's offense being able to muster much of an attack this week. Iowa has a Top 10 national defense in earnest, not just in one game's worth of statistics. The proof? Four starters had at least one start on the 2002 Orange Bowl squad, and eight starters did the same on Iowa's 2003 Outback Bowl team. So when looking at what they did last week against Kent State, you don't get the sense that it was a fluke.

Iowa State's defense is improved from a year ago, and if they would have had any type of offense in 2003, the defensive stats would have been more reflective on the unit, so I don't see Iowa's offense marching up and down the field on ISU, either.

So what I see is ISU converting a couple of field goals where Iowa will convert a couple of touchdowns. The rest will be up to defense and special teams, and I give Iowa the edge there to score another 10 points in that area.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

FINAL SCORE: IOWA 24, Iowa State 6

Last week's prediction: Iowa 48, Kent State 10
Jon Miller's Game Week predictions since the start of the 2001 season:
34-5 (losses: 2001: Iowa State & Michigan; 2002: USC; 2003: Michigan State & Ohio State

Listen to Jon Miller and Jim Zabel on ‘Sound Off' 60 to 90 minutes after the Iowa-ISU game, on 1040, WHO. Clone fans are welcome, too.


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