College Gameday Returns To CyHawk
For the second time in three seasons, ESPN College Gameday returns to the CyHawk game in Ames between Iowa and Iowa State. The matchup will feature the two as ranked teams for the first time ever. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell has yet to beat Iowa in his six seasons with the Cyclones, but has come within one score on two separate occasions. The Hawkeyes have won the previous five meetings dating back to 2015. The game did not take place last season due to COVID scheduling. It’s been two years in the making for the buildup of this highly anticipated in-state rivalry. This time, it’s a Top 10 matchup with playoff implications.
Iowa State has been the media darling leading up to this season after their most successful year in program history. The Cyclones finished last year’s campaign at 9-3 including a Fiesta Bowl win over Oregon. In just their third nine-win season ever, they defeated both Oklahoma and Texas. The heartbeat of the offense was running back Breece Hall who rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He returns for his junior year along with all 11 offensive starters from the Fiesta Bowl Champions. There’s a reason the media is so high on this year’s Cyclone team and it starts with their returning talent and depth on all ends.
Week One Statements
When evaluating the Hawkeyes and Cyclones first games, it’s almost as if they performed in opposite ways of what was expected of them. Iowa came out of the gate on fire and scored almost at will against Indiana. They excelled on defense with two interception returns for touchdowns by Riley Moss. Quarterback Spencer Petras and the Iowa offense were able to slow it down in the second half and play conservatively in route to the 34-6 win. A blow-out was not in the list of potential outcomes from that Top 20 matchup in Iowa City.
On the other hand, Iowa State started out very slow against Northern Iowa at home. They were unable to get a first down on offense until late in the first quarter. After giving up a long touchdown in the first quarter, the Cyclone defense limited UNI’s big plays the rest of the game. The defensive line got good pressure on UNI quarterback Will McElvain, and the secondary came away with two interceptions on the day. Offensively, Iowa State only managed one touchdown in the 16-10 win at home. The Cyclone game plan was very simple. Although it never felt as though they were going to lose, it was a lot closer than they would have liked. Northern Iowa had the ball down six with two minutes left in the game and a chance to win, but the Iowa State secondary stepped up with a late pick.
Entering last Saturday, Iowa State was a 28-point favorite against UNI. Their experience level and preseason hype indicated they should easily move past the Panthers. However, the game went in the opposite direction. The Cyclones played a much closer, hard-fought contest than expected. The close-game nature was more like what was expected between Iowa and Indiana. The Hawkeyes were a three-point home favorite against the Hoosiers, but it was never a contest. Iowa ended up being the team that won by 28 and surprised a lot of the nation with their performance against a very good Indiana program.
Where Iowa Has The Advantage
The Hawkeyes have Phil Parker. The defensive coordinator has been with Iowa since 1999 and consistently shuts down opposing offenses. After holding the 17th ranked Hoosiers to six points, the streak extended to 23 games in a row giving up less than 25 points per game. In the last two seasons against ranked opponents, Iowa has given up an average of only 17.5 points per game. When the opponent is better, the Hawkeye defense shines even brighter, and they showed it again last weekend.
The Iowa State offense has some very talented players including Hall at running back and Brock Purdy at quarterback. They didn’t have a great game on the stat sheet last weekend, but it was enough to win. Purdy finished with 199 yards and no touchdowns. He had two explosive pass plays of 39 and 34 yards where his receivers were left wide open. Those pass plays accounted for 36% of his production through the air. Iowa’s secondary plays tight coverage and it’s unlikely that Cyclone receivers get that open against them. It will be difficult for Purdy to find any easy looks against the Hawkeye secondary, and he’ll have to be careful where he puts the ball. Iowa State has not faced a top 15 scoring defense since playing Notre Dame and Iowa in 2019. The Cyclones were held to nine and 17 points in those games, respectively. A lot of the Cyclone offensive production results from capitalizing on the defenses of the Big 12. Statistically, the Hawkeye defense does not allow for that kind of production. Iowa will have the advantage when their defense is on the field despite the high ceiling of Iowa State’s offense.
Where Iowa State Has The Advantage
The edge for Iowa State starts with their linebacker group. The Cyclone linebackers were all over the field in their win against the Panthers. Mike Rose and Jake Hummel combined for 22 tackles and two tackles for loss. The two were key factors in limiting McElvain’s running capability. Despite giving up two long pass plays, they were able to keep him contained. Iowa has a solid offensive line, but there are some young guys who will be tested by the Iowa State linebackers. It’s likely that the Cyclones show consistent pressure on Petras and try to force him into tough decisions. Petras has great confidence in the pocket, but he has yet to show his poise in front of a stadium full of opposing fans.
The other advantage for Iowa State is the environment. This will be the second game in a row that the Cyclones have hosted the CyHawk Rivalry. With a visit from College Gameday, it being a late afternoon game on ABC, and a home crowd, it will all add to the hype that the Cyclones have been receiving all offseason. Petras will be starting his first away game in front of a full crowd and Jack Trice Stadium is going to let him know. Add to the fact that this game is the first ranked meeting between the two, let alone a Top 10 matchup, and Ames will be going crazy all week leading up to the biggest CyHawk game in history.
What To Expect In The CyHawk Game
Jack Trice Stadium is going to be rocking for a full 60 minutes of football on Saturday afternoon. The Cyclones are going to want to get pressure on Petras in his first start in front of a hostile crowd. Iowa will likely get things started with some high-percentage plays for Petras to get him settled in. Expect running back Tyler Goodson to get a good amount of touches as well. He’ll have his hands full with the Cyclone linebackers. On Iowa State’s side of the ball, they’ll want to get things moving out of the gate. They’ve got playmakers at every position who can be game-changing with the ball in their hands. It starts with Purdy and Hall, but on the outside, Tarique Milton is back after battling injury in 2020, and Charlie Kolar should be in the lineup for Saturday’s game. Kolar went through pregame warmups against UNI, but did not play due to a lower body injury.
Defensively, Iowa would like to force the punt often. Iowa State punted six times against UNI for a net average of 35 yards. Against Iowa, the Hoosiers punted for a net average of 37 yards and Iowa’s average starting field position was the 32 yard line. If the Hawkeyes can force the punt, Iowa can play the field position game as well as anyone in the country. It’s based on just one week of statistics, but the stat line in the punt game favors Iowa. As seen in the 2019 CyHawk game, the punt team definitely matters.
Gameday Returns To CyHawk
The talk all offseason has been Iowa State. The Heisman hopeful Breece Hall, the returning starters, and the high expectations for the Fiesta Bowl Champs. Now, Iowa visits Ames in a Top 10 showdown with the College Gameday bus parked out front. Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit will be in the booth. The Cyclones haven’t beaten Iowa since 2014. This Saturday, the pressure is on Iowa State. A win would solidify the Cyclones as a national contender, and Matt Campbell would finally have that signature win over Kirk Ferentz. There’s a lot at stake for Iowa State, but this is business as usual for Iowa. The Hawks are used to playing at Jack Trice, and they know what it takes to beat the Cyclones. For the Hawkeyes, Iowa State is just the next game on the schedule, and it’s going to be a rock-fight.