The game of the week in college football this weekend is an in-state showdown as the Iowa State Cyclones host the no. 19 Iowa Hawkeyes. Kickoff is at 4:00 EST on Saturday, September 14 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. Fans can catch all of the action on FS1.
Oddsmakers are forecasting a close game, as the Hawkeyes are listed as 1.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 44.5 points. Click here for a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
Rather quietly, Iowa has been one of the most impressive teams in college football over the first two weeks of the season. Granted, the Hawkeyes have played Miami (Ohio) and Rutgers, but they’ve been sound on both ends of the field and taken care of their business. They outscored those two opponents a combined 68-14, including a shutout last week against Rutgers. Iowa will face a challenging Big Ten schedule in October and early November, so a trip to Ames to face their rivals should be good preparation for them.
Iowa State, meanwhile, had last week off, which turned out to be something they needed after barely surviving a triple-overtime thriller with Northern Iowa in their season opener. It’s worth noting that Northern Iowa is an FCS program, although they beat the Cyclones to open the 2016 season, so Iowa State shouldn’t have been surprised that they were pushed to the brink. Nevertheless, the Cyclones need to get back on track fast. ISU began the season with lofty expectations and beating Iowa would be a great way for Matt Campbell’s team to prove that they are as good as people thought they were before they struggled to beat Northern Iowa.
In addition to in-state bragging rights, the Cy-Hawk Trophy is on the line in this game. The Hawkeyes have taken home the trophy in four straight seasons and eight of the last 11 years. They’ve also won three straight rivalry games when visiting Ames. That being said, the game two years ago was decided in overtime while Iowa took last year’s contest 13-3, so the games in recent years have always been close and competitive.
Statistically, Iowa State dominated Northern Iowa, so I’m not going to put too much stock in that game. Having said that, I still like Iowa to win this game. The low spread more or less makes this a straight-up PK. Based on recent history, that favors the Hawkeyes. I also think Iowa is the more complete team and will be more prepared for this game with two wins under their belt.
Iowa State’s biggest issue in their season opener was on offense. Keep in mind they only had 13 points at the end of regulation and then scored 16 points in three overtime drives when they started at the 25-yard line. Part of this I attribute to the loss of their two best playmakers from last season, David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler. Deshaunte Jones seems to have filled Butler’s shoes after he had 14 catches in the opener. But running back remains a three-man rotation. Also, quarterback Brock Purdy doesn’t appear to have many options in the passing game outside of Jones.
Obviously, things should improve as the season goes along, but if the Cyclones didn’t have the playmakers to put away an FCS opponent, I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to find the end zone against Iowa. Again, the Iowa defense hasn’t been challenged much in their first two games. But they were utterly dominant last week against Rutgers. The Hawkeyes allowed just 125 total yards and five first downs while forcing three turnovers. They won’t dominate Iowa State quite that much, but that game is a testament of how good the Hawkeyes can be on that side of the ball.
The Cyclones will need their defense to step up and keep them in the game until their offense can get going. Iowa State’s defense has been their strength in recent years, and there’s no reason to expect that to change in 2019. After all, the ISU defense did a solid job in the opener against Northern Iowa and played an important part in winning the game in overtime.
However, the Iowa offense has been steady and efficient through the first two games of the season, albeit against weaker teams. The Hawkeyes, much like ISU, is using a running back by committee, although all three backs have been productive. More importantly, Nathan Stanley has performed the way senior quarterbacks are supposed to perform. He’s tossed six touchdown passes and no interceptions through two games and has the track record of a quarterback who can be trusted in games like this. After all, he’s beaten Iowa State twice as a starter, once in a shootout and once in a defensive slugfest.
In the end, I think the Cyclones will settle for field goals while the Hawkeyes will be able to find the end zone. The game will be tight because the Iowa State defense is capable of playing at a high level. But the Hawkeyes are a little better offensively, and that’ll allow them to win and cover on the road.