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Football

Williams: Cy-Hawk preview/prediction

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Throughout the offseason, there was plenty of noise surrounding the Cy-Hawk rivalry.

Paul Rhoads may or may not have taken a shot at the University of Iowa during his National Signing Day press conference. 

Because of those comments, Brian Ferentz absolutely took a shot at Paul Rhoads on a podcast over the summer. 

This week, an Iowa player gave a very honest answer to a question about the rivalry during a session with reporters.  

Iowa steamrolled the Cyclones last season in Ames.

Iowa State grinded out a win over the Hawks two years ago in Iowa City.

Iowa State has won nine of the last 16 games in this series.

Iowa dominated the series before that. 

These two programs don’t care for each other. Nor should they. 

These days, this is a very real rivalry.

However, Cy-Hawk week 2014 has been mostly quiet on the world-wide-web. Usually, this week is full of smack talk, wild predictions and boisterous fans. Over the last seven days, even the most outspoken trolls have for the most part kept to themselves. 

That is probably a smart thing too.

Despite showing drastic improvement from week one to week two, Iowa State still enters the game 0-2 with an ugly loss to an FCS program on its resume.

Iowa on the other hand is 2-0, but a blah 2-0 at best. The Hawkeyes struggled to put away the pesky Panthers of UNI and were fortunate to escape week two with a win over mighty Ball State.

Onto the specifics…

Iowa State will win if…

…it gets an early lead and forces Iowa to go to the air.

As Mark Morehouse from the Cedar Rapids Gazette pointed out earlier this week, Iowa is 3-13 during the Kirk Ferentz era when it throws 42 passes or more. Last week’s win over Ball State was one of those wins. Jake Rudock chucked the football a whopping 52 times in the 17-13 triumph.

That, my friends, isn’t Iowa football.

Through the first two weeks of the season, Rudock has accounted for the fifth-most pass attempts in the country. Against UNI and Ball State, who in the world saw that coming? 

Chances are, Iowa is going to attempt to get back to its usually ways vs. a suspect Iowa State defensive line. But if the Cyclones jump out to an early lead and force the Hawkeyes to go to the air, that is a good thing for Paul Rhoads’ squad.  

This brings me to…

Iowa will win if…

…it can consistently move the football on the ground.

In last season’s 27-21 Hawkeye victory over the Cyclones, Iowa ran 20 more plays than Iowa State and held a 16 minute time of possession advantage when all was said and done.

That is exactly what Iowa State can’t afford to let happen on Saturday in Iowa City.

As noted above, the Hawks haven’t exactly been stellar when it comes to running the football so far this season. Last week against Ball State, quarterback JakeRudockled Iowa in rushing with 36 yards on seven carries. JordanCanzeriled Iowa running backs with 26 yards on the day. In week one, wide receiverTevaunSmith had one carry for 35 yards. That accounted for a team high in rushing yardage in the 31-23 victory over UNI.

Iowa enters Saturday ranked 96th in the country in rushing offense. Iowa State’s defense is giving up 6.3 yards per rush. Something has to give.

In the 2013 Cy-Hawk game, despite there being only a touchdown difference on the final scoreboard, Iowa absolutely dominated the game in the trenches and it wasn’t even close.

If the Cyclones can compete up front on Saturday, the 11-point underdogs have a puncher’s chance to pull off this upset.

Why can’t Iowa State score in the second half?

How many times have you heard this topic get hashed out this week? 

Clearly, the simple answer to this question is offensive execution. Iowa State has yet to enter the redzone in the second half this season. 

But just like Iowa State’s offense needs to help out its defense by limiting 3 & outs and keeping Wally Burnham’s young unit off of the field, the defense hasn’t exactly been handing Sam Richardson and company great field position either. 

In 11 second half possessions this season, Iowa State has started beyond its own 30 only twice. The defense has yet to force a turnover this season. It is also notable that Iowa State’s kick return team is currently ranked 67th in the country at 16 yards per return. 

The offense needs to make the proper adjustments and execute down the stretch, but the other two units need to do their part in helping Mark Mangino’s group too.

Three key questions

1 – How good is Kansas State? I’m not sure we really know at this point in time.

2 – Because of the style of football that this program usually plays, when will Iowa’s lack of kicking end up costing the Hawks a game? 

3 – Will Iowa State’s offensive line be able to protect Sam Richardson from what looks to be a stout Hawkeye front four?

Prediction 

I want to go back to that Mark Morehouse stat from above about the Hawks being 3-13 during the Ferentz era when throwing 42 passes or more. Kirk Ferentz and Greg Davis had to have figured that out over the last seven days, right? All they have to do is watch last season’s Iowa State game tape as a refresher course on how to get it done. 

On Saturday afternoon, Iowa State will load the box to stop Iowa’s run. But even so, will the Cyclones be able to stop the Hawks? Iowa State couldn’t last year. Let’s say that they do; will Iowa State’s young secondary match up with Iowa’s talented wide receivers. Can Jake Rudock’s arm beat the Cyclones? 

UNI and Ball State contained Iowa’s run game. Iowa’s projected top five NFL Draft pick, Brandon Scherff played in those games too (he is likely out for Saturday’s game due to knee injury).

Offensively, Iowa State has some matchups that they have to like going into this one. E.J. Bibbs vs. Iowa’s outside linebackers is one. Accounting for Jarvis West will be a chore for the Hawkeyes all day long. Sam Richardson’s ability to run and spread a defense out has to be a concern too. 

I’m picking Iowa to win by seven though because I cannot get the 2013 game out of my mind. Sure, these are very different football teams but I am of the opinion that Iowa will get back to its bread and butter in this one. That is smash mouth, Big Ten football. I’m not convinced that Iowa State has what it takes to combat that if the game goes that way. 

Big Mark Weisman has carried the football 16 times this season for the Hawkeyes. He ran the ball 35 times against Iowa State a year ago. This Iowa State defense is not built to stop offenses like that. If Iowa is smart, that’s exactly how they will attack the Cyclones.

The pick

Iowa 24, Iowa State 17