The Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclonesrenew their annual in-state Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk rivalry series this weekend as Iowa visits Jack Trice Stadium looking to remove the perpetual Cyclone thorn in head coach Kirk Ferentz's side. The Hawkeyes also will be playing in honor of former Hawkeye defensive standout Tyler Sash, who was found dead in his Oskaloosa, Iowa, home earlier in the week from undetermined causes.
Putting both of those factors in play for the Hawkeyes could mean Iowa State is in for a world of hurt defensively, where the Hawkeyes pounded Illinois State last week en route to a 31-14 victory. Head coach Paul Rhoads and Iowa State also are coming off a fairly easy opening win against the Redbirds' fellow MVFC and FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa.
With the Hawkeyes still feeling the burn of last season's 20-17 home loss to the Cyclones, it could get hot in Ames on Saturday night.
Iowa holds a 40-22 advantage in the series, dating back to 1894.
Iowa at Iowa State
Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Iowa -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Is the Hawkeye defense for real?
As expected in Week 1, Iowa Senior DE Drew Ott came out of the blocks on fire, recording two tackles for a loss in the first few minutes of play and igniting an overpowering Hawkeye defensive effort against the overmatched Redbirds, who were held to just 231 yards of total offense en route to the Hawkeye pounding that was delivered. Most of the Redbirds' offensive production came with under 5:34 to play, after the Hawkeyes had removed their first team unit from the field. Most impressively, the Hawkeyes held the much vaunted Illinois State duo of QB Tre Roberson and RB Marshaun Coprich and their offense scoreless for most of the game. If they can duplicate that effort against the Cyclones, it could be a very long day for Iowa State senior QB Sam Richardson and his offense.
2. Is Sam Richardson a Manning Award contender or pretender?
Last season saw Cyclones senior QB Sam Richardson struggle to find a consistent rhythm to allow the Iowa State offense to get into winning form. In spite of those struggles, in 2014 Richardson threw for 2,669 yards while completing 56.3 percent of his pass attempts. Which is probably why he enters the 2015 season on the Manning Award Watch List. In their opening day win against Northern Iowa, Richardson started out a bit wobbly and it looked as though last season was still on his mind. It stayed that way for the first half, with the Cyclones clinging to a 10-7 lead entering the break. But in the second half Richardson and his offense did find their stride and he completed the game 21-of-29 passing for 233 yards and no interceptions in the Cyclones' first opening game win at Jack Trice since 2012. He'll need to be on his game from the opening snap against the Hawkeyes, whose defensive unit looked to have the potential for greatness against the Redbirds.
3. Which Kirk Ferentz comes to coach?
A quarterback draw. A fake field goal attempt. A 51-yard screen pass with under 30 seconds to play in the first half. Those are the decisions of what looked to be a decidedly different version of Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz in Week 1. Gone were the overly conservative, run-out-the-clock-type calls that have given Iowa fans reason to call for his job in the last several years. And even when his decisions didn't necessarily work, as it didn't in the fake field goal attempt, the fans were downright giddy at the aggressiveness of the play calling from Ferentz. With the transition currently in process to a new University of Iowa President, Ferentz is all too aware that the seat beneath him remains hot. How he responds against the team that has gotten his number repeatedly in this series will surely signal the direction of the entire season ahead.
Look for the Hawkeyes offense to come out with its foot firmly on the gas once again this week. And don't be surprised to see a bit of the "old riverboat gambler" Hawkeyes fans remember in Hayden Fry, who was Ferentz's long-time mentor, as Ferentz loosens the reins on offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Iowa State's defensive unit showed some promise against the Panthers last week, but not enough. Iowa's backfield 1-2 punch of Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels combined with the arm of QB C.J. Beathard and the overpowering Iowa offensive line will wear out the Cyclones defense one down at a time, just like it did against the Redbirds.
Prediction: Iowa 34, Iowa State 7
— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a native Iowan currently living in Los Angeles. A University of Iowa graduate, Boleyn is a Hawkeye fanatic and former contributing writing for The Daily Iowan. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.