Saturday is the biggest day for football in our state. Without a professional football team, well an NFL one, sorry Barnstormers, its our Super Bowl. The one day where the state stands still and watches ESPN2 for a few hours with friends, family, strangers in a sports bar or crying alone in the car.
Saturday is the 40th, since the restart, Cy-Hawk game. Iowa State and Iowa. The two biggest colleges in our slice of heaven battling on the gridiron for a trophy and bragging rights. Two colleges that don’t really care for one another talking smack. This really is the most wonderful time of the year, all due respect to Christmas.
Neither team performed to their full potential in their openers. Iowa’s offense struggled with a new quarterback, but their defense stepped it up big time against a quarterback slated to be a top 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. That Hawkeye defense may have to carry them through a lot of games this season. The few minutes I was able to watch of the game, Nate Stanley has a long ways to go before he can do more than manage the game.
But the Hawkeyes seem to be successful with game managers. Not since the days of Chuck Long, around the time I came around in the world, has Iowa has a game changing quarterback. You could argue that Brad Banks was a guy, but that was an overrated Iowa team that really didn’t play great teams that season in 2002.
Run game and a solid defense will key the Hawkeyes this season based on that first game. Just didn’t see a whole heck of a lot, again, in my small window of time to be able to watch the Wyoming game. Looking at the stat line, Josey Jewel will have to be their guy on defense. He’s been a great linebacker for a couple of years. This is his time to be the next in the line of Hawkeye LBs going to the NFL.
Iowa State, on the other hand, I was able to watch that entire game. The offense was dreadful for the first quarter and a half. I didn’t see anything really positive out of that unit for quite some time. The defense, after that opening drive, kicked themselves in the rear with two pick sixes and settled down as the game went along.
David Montgomery kick-started the offense for the Cyclones with some great runs in the latter half of the second quarter. He pinballed off of UNI defenders for tough yards and showed the home crowd something.
Iowa State took over in the second half as Jacob Park found his groove passing the ball around. Given how stout Iowa’s front seven looked to be against Wyoming, Iowa State may have to have Park drop back and spread the ball around to his receivers.
With the graduation of Desmond King, who does Iowa have that can cover Allan Lazard? I don’t see a whole lot of talent on the corners, that’s why Iowa has to dominate with their front seven on defense. Iowa State’s defense probably won’t able able to slow down Iowa’s run game.
I cannot remember the last time I saw a great Iowa State run defense. Maybe when Dan McCarney was still there they might’ve had a few good seasons, but other than that, it’s been a swiss cheese of defense.
This is an interesting chess match of a game this season. Iowa’s better in the run game and on the front seven than Iowa State, but Iowa State has the better quarterback and secondary. So, as with most big games, this probably comes down to special teams play and who can limit their mistakes. Iowa State could blitz quite a bit to confuse Stanley, forcing him into mistakes, but that also opens up the lanes for Wadley to run through.
If Iowa lets Lazard get one on one coverage with nothing over the top, and the line gives Park time, the Iowa State pass game could get chunk plays at will.
It’s the spread against pro style offense. From what I saw, Wyoming ran an offense like Iowa’s, more of your traditional pro style where Iowa could stick in a base defense with their great front seven. If they’re forced to spread out, and a guy like Jewel is stuck on an Iowa State receiver, that advantage might go away.
If Iowa wants to win, they’re going to have to be the grind it out team they usually are and keep Iowa State’s playmakers in check. If Iowa State wants to win, they’ll have to figure out how to open running lanes on Iowa’s defense to set up the big plays downfield.
I think it’s a close one this year, Iowa State is a much improved team from a season ago, and I think the team that’s ahead without any time left on the clock is the winner. Sorry folks, can’t call a winner on this one. Let’s just hope for a better game than last year’s beat down.