Iowa Football Preview, Prediction: It’s a Cy-Hawk Clash for the Ages

September 11, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Matt Campbell sees the strength of Iowa’s program being its awareness. The Hawkeyes know who they are.

Iowa State’s coach has been working on building his outfit’s identity during his three plus seasons in Ames. He’s seen progress.

“The biggest thing for our program is we have grown greatly over the last three years. For us as as program and for them as a program, you know what you’re going to get. I think that’s why they’ve had the success that they’ve had over the amount of time that coach (Kirk Ferentz) has been there. We’re a lot closer today to knowing who we are, which is certainly a positive for us,” Campbell said earlier this week.

The Cyclones will see how far they’ve come on Saturday (3 p.m. CT, FS1) when Iowa visits Jack Trice Stadium for the annual Cy-Hawk contest. ISU will be looking to break a four-game skid in the series, which includes an 0-3 mark under Campbell.

The teams will meet on the biggest national stage the rivalry has seen. ESPN’s College GameDay will be broadcasting live from the site and the country will be watching. The Hawkeyes come in at No. 19 in the AP Poll, while the home team sits at No. 26.

While Iowa prepares this week two hours to the east, the Cyclones deal with intrusions from a national television network. It’s the first time GameDay has been in Ames. Campbell says he’s prepared.

“The big thing for us is you have to communicate about those things. You can so easily get lost in the hoopla to the game and miss the game. That’s a great challenge for our team, especially for our program where we haven’t been in a lot of these situations. Communicating, talking about it and growing through it is really important for us,” he said.

Campbell has revived a downtrodden program since arriving from Toledo. ISU has three wins over top-6 opponents since ’17 to tie for second nationally behind only Alabama.

He hasn’t solved the Hawkeyes, however. Ferentz dropped his first four in this matchup before breaking through in ’03.

Unlike his predecessors who treated this game like the Super Bowl, Campbell has tried keeping it in perspective. He’s approached it as such.

“It’s a game of great importance just because of the history of this game. I certainly won’t downplay our rival game. That is something that is really unique to being a part of this state and certainly being a part of this institution,” he said.

He admitted that winning Saturday would be another step in the right direction for a program he hopes is on to bigger and better things, like a conference championship.

“I think we’ve done a great job here of understanding that each game has its own meaning and it’s own entity and not changing who we are and what we are this week in preparing ourselves to be our best in these 12 given Saturdays that we get. I think there’s a fine line, but there’s certainly great importance and great tradition to this game,” Campbell said.

His comments bring to mind those coming from Ferentz for the last 20 years. And it creates the narrative that Iowa doesn’t care as much as its rival in this game. Really, Campbell and Ferentz just believe in the perspective that one contest does not make the season and conference play reigns supreme.

The belief that Ferentz downplays this rivalry is quieting. That’s because Iowa will be trying to win five in a row against the Cyclones for the first time since running off 15 straight from 1983-97.

For that to happen, the Hawkeyes must figure out an imposing ISU defense. Eyes will be focused on the middle of the line where all-Big 12 nose guard Ray Lima matches up with redshirt freshman center Tyler Linderbaum.

“He’s a leader on defense, certainly a leader up front. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge,” Ferentz said.

“You’re playing a team where (Linderbaum is) going to get mashed up under center a lot, and that’s no easy task. That’s part of playing in the Big Ten and playing college football, too. And Tyler knows that, so I’m sure he’ll work hard this week.”

Campbell believes the Iowa offense is led by a tough matchup in quarterback Nate Stanley, a three-year starter. He’s working with an improved group of receivers.

“What you see in the first two games is the confidence he’s playing with,” Campbell said. “You see a veteran, senior football player playing with great poise. When you have that, you’re not so much playing against the offensive coordinator, you’re playing that quarterback because he knows his answers and he’s got the ability to adapt.”

The Hawkeyes will be seeing ISU signal caller Brock Purdy for the first time. He’s the unquestioned starter after winning the job following the Iowa game as a true freshman a year ago.

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“He certainly has given them a great boost and just has had a tremendous impact on the football team, great leader. You can see that just from watching the tape. They’re an excellent football team,” Ferentz said.

TV ANNOUNCERS: Brian Custer, Robert Smith, Sarah Kustok on FS1.

SERIES: Saturday’s game will mark the 67th meeting in the series. Iowa holds a 44-22 advantage in the series that began with a 16-8 ISU win in 1894. Iowa has won four straight in the series. The last time Iowa won five straight in the series was when it won 15 in a row from 1983-97. The Hawkeyes have won three straight and are 19-8 all-time in games played in Ames.

BETTING LINES: Iowa State opened as a 1.0-point favorite. It moved to Iowa -2.5 as of Tuesday morning at the Elite Sportsbook in Riverside. The total was at 44.5.

TRENDS

-The Cyclones are 0-4 Against The Spread in their last 4 home games.

-Iowa State is 0-6 ATS in its last 6 games overall.

-Hawkeyes are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games.

-Iowa is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 road games.

IOWA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

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Brock Purdy, QB – The true sophomore from Arizona chose the Cyclones ahead of a late scholarship offer from Alabama. He showed last season that he possesses that “it” factor at the game’s most important position. He looked a little reserved in the season-opener without stars David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, who are in the NFL, but he still completed 31 of 40 passes for 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception. His fumble recovery in overtime saved his team from being upset.

Ray Lima, NG – The anchor of a stout Cyclone defense, the fifth-year senior will provide Iowa freshman center Tyler Linderbaum with his toughest test to date. The 305-pound Lima isn’t just a slug clogging up the middle. He’s quick, strong and athletic with a variety of moves to punish offensive linemen. If the Hawkeyes lend Linderbaum help, that opens things up for others.

Greg Eisworth, Star – For Hawkeye fans, this redshirt junior from Texas plays the role of Amani Hooker in the Cyclones’ defense. Athletic and tough, Eisworth can run with receivers while also supporting the run. Iowa must be aware of where he lines up at all times as he can disrupt an offense in a variety of ways.

KEYS TO VICTORY

Iowa State: Opponents are averaging just 3.0 a rush against the Hawkeyes. ISU, inexperienced in the offensive backfield, must find some success on the ground to keep the defense honest.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes have run the ball well through two weeks, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. They’re facing a different animal here, however. Iowa State allowed 1.1 in the opener. Iowa needs balance.

GAME NOTES

-ISU has defeated a ranked Iowa team one time in this series, knocking off No. 8 Iowa, 23-3 in Ames in 2005.

-ISU is riding a seven-game home winning streak (2018-6/2019-1), tying for the best string in school history. It ranks as the 15th-best active streak in FBS.

-Iowa State assistant director of scouting 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.

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-Iowa kicker Caleb Shudak’s father, Jeff, was an All-Big Eight kicker for Iowa State from 1987-90.

-ISU has three wins over top-6 opponents since 2017 (2017: Oklahoma, TCU, 2018: West Virginia) to tie for
second nationally behind only Alabama.

-QB Nate Stanley has 6 touchdown passes and no interceptions in 2019. He has 58 career touchdowns passes, third all-time in program history. He trails Chuck Long (74) and Drew Tate (61) on the all-Ɵ me list.

-Saturday is the first of four trophy games on Iowa’s 2019 schedule. Iowa is 13-3 in its last 16 rivalry trophy games (Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin), with all three losses coming to Wisconsin.

-Iowa has won nine straight non-conference games since the 2017 season opener.

-ESPN’s “College GameDay” is following the Hawkeyes to Ames this week. Iowa State is hosting GameDay for the first time. Iowa is making its eighth appearance on College GameDay. Iowa is 1-6 on GameDay. It’s lone win was a 21-10 victory at No. 4 Penn State on Sept. 26, 2009.

-Iowa CB Michael Ojemudia is tied for the Big Ten lead with two interceptions. The Hawkeyes’ three picks ties for third in the conference. Iowa led the league and tied for second in the country in 2018 with
20 interceptions. Over the last three seasons, no school has more picks than Iowa (44).

NOTABLE ALUMNI

Iowa State – Carrie Chapman Catt

Iowa –  Wu Jin

HOWE I SEE IT: I predicted an Iowa State win in this game before the season. There certainly has been evidence through two weeks making me second-guess that choice.

Iowa has looked sharp in dominating a pair of opponents to kick off the season. Meanwhile, the Cyclones struggled against an FCS team in Northern Iowa at home in Week 1 before heading into an early bye week.

Buying too much into what we’ve seen from these rivals so far would be falling for the banana in the tailpipe, however. Iowa State is better than it looked against an in-state opponent that often plays it tough, and it’s hard to put a heck of a lot of stock in the Hawkeyes beating up two bad teams.

I began covering this game in 1998. It’s a series that often defies logic and produces the unexpected. I would plan on the same on Saturday.

Signs point to a defensive battle like last year’s 13-3 Iowa victory. I can’t see either team experiencing much success running the football. It could very well come down to a turnover or some other mistake that opens the door for opponent.

In a matchup of fairly even teams, I’m leaning towards the one playing at home. I wouldn’t mind, at all, being wrong.

PREDICTION: Iowa State 20, IOWA 17

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