Game Preview, Prediction: Hawkeyes Look to Keep it Rolling Against ISU
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The comments coming from each side of the instate football rivalry this week were those of respect. They cleared the first hurdle by avoiding supplying bulletin board material.
It’s not like there needs to be extra motivation here. But it’s nice to see things are healthy between the two programs.
“Go back to ’81, it was an unhealthy rivalry in my opinion, at least based on what I saw my first trip up there,” Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But the whole world has changed so much in that regard. I think this is really great for the state.”
Iowa comes into Saturday’s game (4 p.m., FOX) having won three in a row in this series. Each team has 10 victories during the last 20 meetings.
“It’s one thing for me that I’ve really got a great deal of respect for, just to be able to be a part of a game like this, where it means so much, not only to the two institutions but to the entire state is certainly rewarding to be a part of,” Cyclone coach Matt Campbell said.
Campbell will be coaching in his third game in this series. Last year in Ames, ISU relinquished a late lead and fell 44-41 in overtime. It was a step forward for the Cyclones, who were blown out, 42-3, in ’16.
“We got handed a lesson of culture and attitude and effort when we went up there two years ago. I thought it was an invaluable lesson for what you want your program to look like and be with great consistency. So, from our end, it was humbling,” Campbell said.
Ferentz called that contest irrelevant in looking at this year’s matchup. ISU is in a much better place than it was during the second game of the Campbell era.
“It was about two weeks after that where they really started to gain traction, and since then they’ve been playing excellent football. You can take that tape, but it’s really worth nothing for anybody in our organization. I know that. And hardly representative of what this series is about and what the rivalry is about,” Ferentz said.
After a 3-9 year one, Campell got the Cyclones to 8-5 last season with a bowl win. The greatest strides were made on the defensive side of the football where they allowed more than 10 fewer points a game than in ’16.
Things start up front with junior nose tackle Ray Lima, a dominating force in the middle of the 3-4, and JaQuan Bailey, a disrupter off the edge. Despite having to replace the productive Joel Lanning at middle linebacker, Marcel Spears leads a potentially strong group on the second level. Cornerback Brian Peavy heads a veteran secondary.
“We play different styles of defense, but I think the commonality is these guys really play good team defense. They play hard, and they’re really sound. They’re really sound. They’re hard to score points against,” Ferentz said.
Offensively, Iowa State features one of the country’s best running backs in David Montgomery. He’ll come into Saturday’s action confident after rushing for 112 yards (5.6 per carry) and adding five receptions for 53 yards against the Hawkeyes last season.
“We’re going to see good players. We always do in our conference. But he’s as good a back as you’re going to face anywhere in the country,” Ferentz said.
If Iowa focuses too much on Montgomery, it risks allowing big plays in the passing game. Senior quarterback Kyle Kempt is accurate and efficient. He throws to a talented group of receivers led by Hakeem Butler, who burned the Hawkeyes for 128 yards and two scores on five catches in ’17.
“He’s a really good football player. If we’re going to have success this week, we’d better account for him in the game plan and try to do the same thing at the running back, as well, and the quarterback. They’ve got a bunch of guys that are pretty capable, but he certainly stands out,” Ferentz said.
Adding intrigue to an already highly-anticipated matchup is the fact that the Cyclones only played about five minutes last week before their game against South Dakota State was canceled due to poor weather. The coaches and the players don’t see either team having an advantage, though. Nobody knows until we see how things shake out.
While the Hawkeyes must go off of last year’s Iowa State film with the lack of much Week 1 game tape, the Cyclones got a look at the ’18 Iowa squad. It shook off a sluggish first half to pull away from Northern Illinois in a 33-7 victory.
The defensive front let loose on NIU quarterback Marcus Childers, sacking him five times and keeping the heat on him consistently.
“I couldn’t be more impressed,” Campbell said. “You go through the last two or three years, when they needed to make a play, when good things had to happen, that defensive line has spearheaded things. I think you’re getting maybe one of the best defensive lines in the country.”
The Hawkeyes leaned on their running game during Week 1. They rushed for 209 yards in the game, 151 of those coming after halftime. It could be down a man, however, if starter Ivory Kelly-Martin hasn’t recovered from an ankle injury that had him questionable for Saturday early this week.
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Iowa’s passing game was not crisp, to say the least. Quarterback Nate Stanley completed just 11 of 23 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown against one interceptions. His pass catchers didn’t help the cause, dropping several easy-to-handle balls.
Campbell sees that performance as an aberration. He’s concerned about talented tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson and believes his defense must do more than just focus on that duo.
“You talk about a veteran quarterback like Nate, you’re talking about a guy that if you just say, hey, I’m going to take those tight ends away, he’s good enough and he’s got good enough weapons around him that he’s going to make you pay,” Campbell said.
The key for the Cyclone defense will be matching up with what Iowa throws at it.
“It’s like going against any talented quarterback. You have to be multiple. You have to do multiple things. If you think you’re just going to do one thing, then obviously they’re going to beat you. I think we’ll have the ability to be multiple in how we’ll attack them in terms of defensive football and certainly situational football,” Campbell said.
TV ANNOUNCERS: Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman, Holly Sonders on FOX.
SERIES: Iowa holds a 43-22 advantage in the series that began with a 16-8 ISU win in 1894. The Hawkeyes are 24-14 all-time in games played in Iowa City. Iowa has won three straight in the series. The last time Iowa won four straight in the series was when it won 15 in a row from 1983-97.
BETTING LINES: Iowa was listed as a 4-point favorite at the Wynn casino in Las Vegas as of Wednesday afternoon. VegasInsider.com set the total at 46.5.
-Iowa State is 6-0-1 Against The Spread in its last 7 road games.
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-Under is 7-1 in Cyclones last 8 games overall. Under is 7-2 in Hawkeyes last 9 home games.
-Hawkeyes are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 games as a favorite.
-Iowa is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games following a ATS win.
IOWA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
–David Montgomery, RB – The talented back stresses a defense running the football inside and out with an ability to do damage in the passing game. He squeezed through a lot of misses Iowa tackles last season and could enjoy another big game if the Hawkeyes aren’t more fundamentally sound.
–Brian Peavy, CB – Peavy is one of the better cornerbacks Iowa will face this season. He leads a veteran secondary against a Hawkeye receiving corps still trying to make its mark. It won’t be easy this week.
–Hakeem Butler, CB – The Hawkeyes still are pretty inexperienced at cornerback and Butler can be a handful, as they found out last season. If Iowa’s defensive front allows quarterback Kyle Kempt time to throw, it could be a long afternoon for the home team’s secondary with Butler roaming through it.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Iowa State: Iowa State’s offensive line must hold up against the Hawkeye defensive front, opening holes for Montgomery and allowing the accurate Kempt time to find open receivers without being harassed all day.
Iowa: Iowa needs more production out of the passing game. The Cyclones are good enough in the front seven to match up against a developing offensive line and challenge the home team’s rushing attack.
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-ISU’s last win in the series was a 20-17 victory in Iowa City in 2014. Cole Netten drilled a 42-yard game-winning field goal in the closing seconds to secure the victory.
-The Cyclones will technically open their season vs. Iowa for the first time since 1986 after their game vs. South Dakota State last Saturday was cancelled. It marked the first time ISU had a game cancelled (vs. Drake) since Nov. 23, 1963 (JFK assassination).
-ISU returns 11 players on offense and seven players on defense who have started at least four games during
a season in their respective careers. The offense has a combined 123 career starts returning and the defense
brings back players with a combined 136 career starts.
-Iowa State set school season records for fewest turnovers (10), fewest fumbles lost (1), passing yards per game
(272.9) and tackles for loss (96) in 2017. ISU’s one lost fumble led the nation and tied the all-time FBS record.
-Iowa State defensive GA Colby Kratch is the son of former Iowa OL Bob Kratch, who was a two-time All-Big Ten
selection (1986 and 1988) and an eight-year NFL veteran. Iowa sophomore kicker Caleb Shudak’s father, Jeff, was an All-Big Eight kicker for Iowa State from 1987-90. Iowa State freshman offensive lineman Sean Foster’s father, Troy, was a member of the Iowa football team from 1990-94.
-In in its last two regular season games, Iowa has outscored its opponents 72-7 in the second half (42-0 at Nebraska, 30-7 vs. Northern Illinois).
-Iowa holds an all-time record of 58-34 (.630) against current members of the Big 12 Conference, having met all but Baylor and West Virginia at least once. Iowa State is the only Big 12 opponent on the Hawkeye schedule this season.
-Iowa has appeared in 15 bowl games since 2001. Among Big Ten schools, only Ohio State and Wisconsin have appeared in more (16).
-Since 1936 when the first AP poll was released, Iowa has appeared in the poll 313 times, the fifth highest total in the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and MSU).
-Iowa tight end Noah Fant has 13 career touchdown receptions, tying Quinn Early and Mike Flagg for 10th all-time in program history. The 13 touchdown receptions tie Flagg for most by a tight end in program history.
Iowa State – Vine Deloria Jr.
Iowa – W. Ann Reynolds
HOWE I SEE IT: Take what I’m about the write and quickly clear it from your memory banks. I may have less of a feel for how this meeting will go than most other games I’ve previewed in this series, which is saying something.
I will say that this is one of the more evenly matched contests on paper, which we know doesn’t always hold form. There’s star power on both sidelines.
When that’s the case, the home team gets a little extra boost, although I expect to see ISU well represented in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. It’s a big deal that this game is being played in Iowa City, especially with it being the Cyclones first contest this season.
And that last part is what has mean leaning towards Iowa. The Cyclones likely will experience some turbulence and jitters like we saw from the Hawkeyes last week. They’ll need to iron things out quickly and that’s a tall task.
I think it’s a close game, for sure. But I think Iowa has an advantage in being able to improve from Week 1 to Week 2. The Cyclones will be playing their first competitive game since December.
PREDICTION: IOWA 27, Iowa State 24