The 2016 season showed a lot of promise for Iowa State, and they are looking to take the next step forward in 2017. That begins on Saturday against Northern Iowa. An FCS game is ordinarily a nice tune up for a more challenging schedule, but that isn’t so here. Northern Iowa is an FCS traditional power, and has won two of its last three against the Cyclones.
UNI returns 17 starters to the team that defeated Iowa State 25-20 in 2016. They play tough defense and solid offense and are a challenge for any opponent.
DATE & TIME: SAT, SEP 2, 7:00 PM CT
LOCATION: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy, 82
TV / STREAM: Cyclones.tv
BETTING LINE: ISU -9.5
The Iowa State faithful expect a surge in the second year of the Matt Campbell era. Competitive play in the final four games of 2016 and solid recruiting classes have spurred this enthusiasm. However, most media observers are less than optimistic about the Cyclones chances.
Offensively, Iowa State will be keyed by the batter of Jacob Park and Allen Lazard. Park is the unquestioned starter at QB and Lazard is a bona fide All-Conference player with upside. The strong passing attack will be rounded out by the running of David Montgomery and Mike Warren. However, a new offensive line will have to gel quickly as only one starter from a year ago will line up for the Cyclones.
Defensively, Iowa State hopes to improve up front with an infusion of young, inexperienced talent, and the placement of former QB Joel Lanning at middle linebacker. Not exactly a recipe for trust in the front 7. The secondary is experienced and solid, but Iowa State’s hopes rest on the ability of the front 7 to play up to Big 12 standards.
Overall, the talent level at Iowa State is better than it has been in the last 5 years. How quickly that talent manifests in the new season will determine the outcome. Due to a difficult back end of the schedule, Iowa State must get off to a fast start if they hope to improve upon their three win campaign a year ago. There has been an urgency in fall camp and it should be evident on Saturday night.
Keys to the Game
Run The Ball And Stop The Run – Cliché, I know. Last year Iowa State managed a feeble 2.0 yards per carry against UNI. Meanwhile, UNI chalked up nearly 250 yards against the Cyclones and controlled the time of possession. Critical turnovers decided the game, but the script must be flipped in the run game for Iowa State to get the decisive win they need. Likewise, if UNI can maintain their superiority in the ground game, then all bets are off for ISU.
Establish A Passing Attack – the Iowa State passing game must show the talent disparity that allegedly exists between these two teams. Jacob Park must progress from his impressive last four games and Lazard, Deshaunte Jones, Hakeem Butler, and Chase Allen need to use their size and speed to find space. To the extent UNI is vulnerable, it is in matching up with the size and speed of the receiving crew at Iowa State. If Iowa State exploits those matchups, they will be in a good spot to win.
I think the bend but don’t break defense will be in full effect for Iowa State while the running of David Montgomery and throwing of Jacob Park set the stage for what could be an explosive offense in Ames. The Cyclones win this comfortably.