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Last season Iowa State travelled to Iowa City, and rallied past Iowa to claim the Cy-Hawk Trophy. On Saturday the Hawkeyes come into Ames looking to hand out a little payback.

DATE & TIME: Saturday, Sep 12 @ 5:45 PM CST
WHERE: Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, IA)
FORECAST: Mostly Sunny, NW Wind 4-9 mph, 66°F
TV: Fox
BETTING LINE: Iowa -3.5 (51 o/u)

Iowa Hawkeyes

2014 was something out of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day for the Iowa Hawkeyes. A slow start, highlighted by two Houdini-like escape acts over Northern Iowa and Ball State, followed by a loss to Iowa State. Then the Hawks seemingly got it together, building a 6-2 record. Then, right on schedule, the bottom fell out losing three of their last four including a nationally televised shellacking to the Tennessee Vols in the Gator bowl.

It’s a movie Iowa fans have seen too many times. Out goes current Michigan QB Jake Ruddock, and in comes part-time player CJ Bethard. Will this year be different? Week 1 yielded strong returns for the Hawks. Iowa kicked the door into the 2015 season by beating the 2nd ranked FCS Illinois State Redbirds 31-14.  More than that they were impressive doing it.  The Hawks used a balanced attack and a suffocating defensive line to smother their opponent. It was a sight for sore eyes for a program that is typically slow out of the gates.

Key Players For Iowa

C.J. Bethard – The new starting QB threw for 211 yards on just 24 attempts without an interception.  That’s an average of 8.8 yards per attempt, which is pretty good.  Bethard accounted for three total TDs on the day. Iowa fans are looking for the kind of stability it had while Ricky Stanzi was taking snaps from 2008-10.  If the Hawkeyes can get solid, stable, consistent QB play, they could be in for a very nice season.

LeShun Daniels – A big bodied runner that you typically associate with the bruising Hawkeye attack, Daniels received the bulk of the load against the Redbirds. Daniels rushed for 123 yards on 26 attempts and showed a burst not seen in Iowa City in some time. He and human bowling ball Jordan Canzeri create a substantial 1-2 punch that will cause opposing defensive coordinators to lose sleep.

Drew Ott – To put it bluntly, Ott is a monster. He led the big 10 with eight sacks in 2014. He is off to a great start with two sacks and a forced fumble against Illinois State. He is big, strong, and has an unstoppable motor. Any Iowa opponent should plan to devote a substantial amount of attention to #95. State will be no exception. Ott will hound and harass Sam Richardson if Iowa State does not devote extra resources to slow him down.

Keys To The Game For Iowa

Loosen Up – Iowa seems to be the better team yet they have lost three of the last four in this series. Iowa typically comes out tight, keeps the Cyclones in the game and then loses it at the end.  The Hawks would be wise to come out firing with both barrels.  Take some chances. Try a fake punt, an onside kick, or a trick play.  Anything to loosen up this squad and make them play to their abilities.  If that happens, the Clones are in trouble.

Line Play – Iowa’s strength is their line play on both sides of the ball.  Drew Ott will draw the bulk of Iowa State’s attention but the other members of this unit are more than capable of picking up the slack.  Nate Meier, Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata are each capable of pummeling the opposing offense in their own right. Meanwhile Iowa’s offensive line is likewise stout. Iowa ran for over 200 yards at nearly five yards per carry in their opener. If the offensive line is able to open holes for Daniels and Canzeri to get the ground game going, and Ott and company live in the ISU backfield, Iowa is going to be a great shape.

Pass Defense – In Iowa State’s opener Sam Richardson connected with seven different receivers.  The Hawkeye secondary had better be up to the task of shutting down the Iowa State passing game and making them one-dimensional. That is easier said than done to a group of receivers with some serious size. D’Vario Montgomery and Allen Lazard are both over 6-5.  Desmond King and Gregg Mabin are solid corners but will have their hands full. Factor in returning free safety Jordan Lomax and the potential is there for the secondary to slow down those big targets. ISU’s best chance to put up points is to use the size of their WR’s to create mismatches. It’s up to King, Mabin and Lomax to minimize that advantage.

What Iowa Fans Want To See

Perhaps the strangest scene in college football occurred in Iowa City when the Hawkeyes failed on a fake field goal, and the fans rose to a standing ovation. The Iowa faithful have grown tired of the conservative approach that even a failure was a breath of fresh air. Where does the approach go from here?  Will Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis get bogged down again with mind numbing conservatism? As always, watch that defensive front. Knocking around the Redbirds is great, but how does that good-looking defensive front fare against the Cyclones? Ultimately it comes down to putting it all together for Iowa. Can the Hawks take the Cy-Hawk trophy home to Iowa City for just the 2nd time in five years? Stay tuned…

Iowa State Cyclones

I must admit, I called for Iowa State to lose to the Northern Iowa Panthers in week 1.  The Cyclones went to 1-0 for the first time since 2012 with a solid and somewhat impressive win over their in state foe. This win was food for the soul to ISU fans whose head man, Paul Rhoads, is facing stiff criticism for the teams struggles over the last couple of seasons. Is this win a sign for something of a turnaround in Ames?  In come the hated Iowa Hawkeyes for what will be a sizable test for both squads. The Cy-Hawk trophy series is marked by close games. The last four games have been decided by a combined 15 points. The Clones hope to defeat the Hawks for the 4th time in five years as the two squads once again square off for Hawkeye State bragging rights.

Key Players For Iowa State

Sam Richardson – The point man for this unit, Richardson was quite effective in the victory over the Panthers.  He completed 21-29 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers in that effort. It appears State is going to have a tough time running the ball, which puts more of the load on Richardson. If the Cyclones have plans of being a competitive team in 2015 they will need a big season out of him.

Allen Lazard – Lazard had four catches for 43 yards and a TD on Saturday. Seems pretty decent, but nothing to write home about. Then consider that Lazard had four punt returns for 100 yards, setting his team up with favorable field position. That’s quite a contribution from this receiver. If Iowa State is going to keep the Cy-Hawk trophy for yet another year, Lazard will need to have a similar effort in the return game.

Jarnor Jones – This NC State/JUCO newcomer certainly made his presence known in his Cyclone debut.  Jones notched nine tackles, a sack and two tackles for a loss. That’s a heck of a stat line and a welcome sight for and ISU defense short on playmakers. Jones will be called upon to slow down that physical Iowa run game. He and fellow LB Jordan Harris will be forced for fill in for the often injured Luke Knott and lead the ISU defense.

Keys To The Game For Iowa State

Protect The Passer – Its simple, if the Cyclones can’t keep Sam Richardson upright, they have no shot whatsoever. Drew Ott and company will pose a stiff challenge for the Cyclones offensive line that gave up four sacks on Saturday.  It’s safe to say that the Hawkeye pass rush will be far more imposing. Without a running game, the Clones ran for a meager 77 yards or 2.4 yards per average, the Iowa defensive line can pin their ears back and attack the passer. This will be a tremendous challenge for the Cyclones, one in which they must meet in order to beat the Hawks.

Special Teams – These games have been very, very close.  It could very easily come down to what occurs in that, all important, 3rd phase of the game.  The Cyclones missed two field goals against Northern Iowa, and that’s an area of concern. Missed field goals cost games, particularly close game. Considering how tight these games are, this area must be addressed. On the flip side, a strong punt return game with Allen Lazard and Trever Ryen could be a game changer in a positive way. Special teams is an area that could swing this game one way or the other for the Cyclones.

Turnovers – The Cyclones margin for error is simply far too small for big mistakes like turnovers. Iowa State put the ball on the turf four times against the Panthers, losing two of them. Also, expect tighter passing lanes for Richardson this week as well. The Cyclones, as a whole, must make ball possession a priority. On the defensive side, the Clones could turn the game by forcing a timely turnover from the Hawkeyes.

What Iowa State Fans Want To See

Iowa State fans should be paying attention to their lines, seeing how they match up with their in-state counterparts. If their offensive line can limit Ott and company, that will be a very good sign going forward. Likewise, if the Iowa running game finds running room sparse, that should also be extremely encouraging to an Iowa State program that appears improved from a year ago. Additionally, see how Richardson manages the game. He is the straw that stirs the drink. If he can match the production he created in week one, Iowa State could be hoisting the trophy by days end.

Final Prediction

This game is annually a very tough one to call.  Typically I think Iowa has the better team, and typically they find a way to lose a nail biter.  Again, I feel like Iowa is simply superior up front and should ride that physicality to victory.  You have to wonder if the Cyclones are living in Kirk Ferentz’s head. Losing that many close games to an instate rival has to take its toll doesn’t it? Regardless, I’m going to call for the Hawkeyes to shed whatever mental hurdles might exist, put their nose to the grindstone and pound out a victory over the Cyclones. It may not be pretty, but in the end I just don’t think that Iowa State can withstand the punishment Iowa’s big boys will inflict Saturday.

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