The Iowa State Cyclones didn’t get to play for very long last week, as weather forced their season opener to wrap up earlier than expected. This week, they hit the road to play the rival Iowa Hawkeyes. The Cy-Hawk Trophy and in-state bragging rights will be up for grabs when the two programs meet in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and it should be another highly competitive game, just like last season.
Kirk Ferentz has taken over the top spot for most career wins in Iowa program history, as his Hawkeyes continue to play signature Iowa football. Meanwhile, across the field, Matt Campbell is injecting new life into the Iowa State program and is looking to build off a surprising 2017 season. Getting a win against the Hawkeyes would be a good way for Campbell to get the year started on the right foot.
Iowa State at Iowa
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa -4.0
Three Things to Watch
1. Nate Stanley needs to be more efficient
Although Iowa won last week, Stanley did not have one of his finer performances, completing just 11 of his 23 attempts for 108 yards. The good news: Iowa should feel confident that its quarterback will have better games moving forward. Stanley will have to be careful, however, because Iowa State’s defense has improved over the last two years, and the Cyclones' secondary features two returning starters at the corners in D’Andre Payne and Brian Peavy.
2. Can Iowa State get its ground game going with David Montgomery?
It’s no secret that Montgomery is going to be a key player for Iowa State this season. After rushing for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, Montgomery is looking to stamp himself as one of the top backs in the nation. The elite backs are the ones who tend to thrive against stellar run defenses, and the Hawkeyes certainly qualify, particularly in Kinnick Stadium; in Iowa’s last 10 home games, only Penn State’s Saquon Barkley has broken the 100-yard mark on the ground against the Hawkeyes defense.
3. Stressing the importance of turnovers
In an evenly matched rivalry game, there really is no overstating how important it is to protect the football. Case in point: last season’s game. Iowa State lost an interception while leading 31-28 for the game's only turnover, and the Hawkeyes cashed that in for an eventual game-tying field goal four plays later before going on to win the game by a touchdown in overtime. Mistakes will happen, but not giving the other team an extra possession could be crucial in this one.
An Iowa State win in Kinnick Stadium would not be a shock at all. The Cyclones continue to grow as a program under Matt Campbell with a defense that is reshaping the way people view the program and an offense that has some key pieces in place to make for an interesting season. After all, this is a program that topped Oklahoma last year, so why can’t they win on the road at Iowa?
Here's why: Because Iowa’s defense can shut down Iowa State's run game, and Nate Stanley has shaken off the rust and is poised to have a more polished game, which should include getting tight end Noah Fant more involved. This one goes back and forth, but Iowa claims the Cy-Hawk Trophy yet again.
Prediction: Iowa 26, Iowa State 20
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.