Iowa State Preview: Trench Warfare

It's Friday, which means it's time to preview tomorrow's game. We used to call this "There's A Game On Saturday?", but as it turns out, nobody googles that. So the boring title is your fault.

News, Notes, and News

Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos are your starters at wideout, and Jewel Hampton is the #2 back. Shaun Prater will likely be available, but until Ferentz clarifies that statement further, expect Greg Castillo and Micah Hyde to start at corner again. A recovering Jeff Tarpinian will see time at MLB with Bruce Davis starting, and that's a dynamic worth watching.

Meanwhile, ISU corner Ter'ran Benton probably won't play due to a death in his family. Bummer for the kid and we hope life gets better for him in a hurry.

Kickoff is at 2:30 CT, and the game is televised on either ABC or ESPN2. If you cannot get this game on television, something has gone very wrong.

Keys to the Game

Hold the line! Don't get enamored with the 35-3 final score from last season; this game is definitely in doubt, and the reason's the same as last season: ISU's offensive line against Iowa's DL. The marquee matchup is ISU LT Kelechi Osemele against Adrian Clayborn, a matchup that Osemele won last season, much to Clayborn's chagrin. 

Meanwhile, Iowa's offensive line clearly isn't "there" yet, and while ISU's defensive line is similarly unheralded, Iowa's OL isn't tasked with only blocking the Clones' front four. And if there's one thing Iowa State coaches should have taken from the Clones' successes against Iowa over the last 10 years, it's that a stalemate on the LOS and hyper-aggressive linebackers are enough to win the battle against Iowa's offense. That can absolutely happen this year. 

Don't give him the satisfaction: Austen Arnaud has never scored a touchdown against the Hawkeyes at all, and it's a dead certainty that he knows this fact. That awareness might, in fact, work in Iowa's favor; Arnaud is an emotional guy, and Iowa's already taken him off his game with key defensive plays early in years past.  If they can do that again, it might be one more long afternoon for the senior.

Predictions

Are you convinced that this game worries me yet? This game worries me. And yet at the same time, I'm pretty sure Iowa covers -13.5. That's because Iowa is, on paper, easily two touchdowns better than ISU. The Clones' secondary is David Sims and three liabilities, and I don't trust them to shut down Ricky Stanzi in straight coverage. The running game will be worth watching, but Iowa did well enough in Ames last season, and there's not much reason to expect that to change this season.

Likewise, when ISU has the ball, it's wise to assume that Austen Arnaud is not throwing a hundred interceptions again this year. And yet, he doesn't have the composure to just stick to 5-yard curls and well-timed slants, which are likely the only ways to neutralize an Iowa pass defense that ranked near the highest among its peers last season. If Iowa wants to antagonize Arnaud, they can, and that bodes ill for ISU.

Most importantly, barring a stunning reversal of fortune, Iowa holds a dominant advantage in the special teams game, especially on defense; ISU's Grant Mahoney is a prime candidate to take points off the board for the Clones, and we don't trust their punt game at all. Anything can happen once the game's on, of course, but it would be ridiculous to have more faith in the Clones' special teams than the Hawkeyes' right now. Same goes for Iowa's kickoff and return games.

The bottom line is that Iowa is significantly more talented than Iowa State, and better equipped to shut down the opposing offense for 60 minutes. If the turnover battle stays even--or, hell, -1 for Iowa--Iowa should just overpower the Clones. So I'll say 27-9 Iowa.

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