Okay, diehard Hawkeye fan here. A diehard Hawkeye fan who happens to be attending Iowa State University. I've decided to write this in light of the constant Facebook/Twitter/blog posts claiming to know everything about the other team and, in doing so, insulting and belittling the other team as much as possible. This is what a rivalry is supposed to be like. There is supposed to be bad blood.
But I'm put in a tough position.
On one side, I have to cheer for the Cyclones. No matter how you are raised, no matter what your team loyalty lies with, you feel like you are part of a family when you attend a university. Of course I want my school's athletics to do well. And this is a team that can make my Hawkeyes look good by doing well. On top of all of that, I have too many Hawkeye friends that are just complete douches about the rivalry. A win wouldn't shut them up, but it would give me bragging rights.
But on the other side, I want the Hawkeyes to crush the Cyclones and maybe rub it in the faces of a few friends who can't believe I sleep with a Hawkeye blanket at night. What Hawkeye fan wants to lose to an in-state rival and obviously end the expected (or hoped for) 5-0 start? None. Including me. I want nothing more than a 10-win football team going to a great bowl game.
So I'm torn. I'm upset. I know for a fact that no matter what happens Saturday, I'm going to be happy and I'm going to be sad. Since the game is at Kinnick, I will most certainly be cheering for my Hawks even though I can't reveal that this week on campus. But what I have learned most from my complete neutrality in the situation is that fans are just flat-out uneducated. Here are the most frequently argued points for each team's fan base...
Iowa State fans:
Iowa's offense sucks because they won 18-17 against NIU.
While it's true that Iowa's offense wasn't potent by any means, there are wayyy too many factors that make this assumption invalid. First, Iowa scored FIVE times. It's not like Iowa was going 3-and-out every drive. In fact, Iowa State's opponent, Tulsa, scored 23 points off of four scores. Make the Iowa drives that stopped at the 12, 11, and 5 yard lines touchdowns instead of field goals and your final score is a much more respectable 30-17. And throw on top of all of this NIU's defense, a defense that returned 10 starters and is considered the best Iowa sees until Michigan State, and you have reason to believe that Iowa's offense will do just fine. Vandenberg will find receivers downfield and Bullock looks to be a rising star.
We beat them last year and we are a better team this year, how won't we win?
There is a big difference between beating Iowa in Ames and beating Iowa in Kinnick. Iowa State hasn't won there since Seneca Wallace was at QB, and Vandenberg has been known to play his best at home. Iowa State had to have a brilliant performance from Steele Jantz, and Shontrelle Johnson averaged 6.0 YPC. They had to rely on two vital 4th down conversions to keep in the game and it wasn't pretty football all the way through. And perhaps the biggest reason to doubt Iowa State's chances is the empty trophy case at Iowa. There is nothing that the Hawkeyes want more than to fill their trophy case.
Now this is where you need to listen, because this one is on you guys.
Iowa State sucks. (Tulsa)
Not so fast my friend! Iowa State just beat a good Tulsa team. Some of you may laugh at the notion that I just called a team from Conference USA that went 8-5 last year "good", but do your research. Four of the five teams they lost to were ranked in the top-10 at the time, and they lost their final game to BYU by a field goal in their bowl. And Iowa State just flat-out beat them. The first quarter was a little shaky, but once halftime hit, it seemed that the Cyclones had a good hold of the game.
Iowa State sucks. (Mediocrity)
Iowa State has gone a combined 18-20 under Paul Rhoads. In most cases, Iowa would not be too threatened by a team coming in with a coaching record below .500. But Paul Rhoads has extreme circumstances. Like, 'toughest 4-year schedule in the nation' type of extreme. This season, Rhoads has the weakest SOS since he has been with the Iowa State program. For the first time in 4 years, he doesn't have a top-5 toughest schedule in the nation (he has the 6th according to Phil Steele). The Cyclones have been favored in a whopping 8 games since Rhoads has taken over. If you do the math, that is 10 upsets in 3 years. That's above mediocre in my eyes. Being 4-point underdogs is nothing for a team that was 16.5 and 28-point underdogs in games the Cyclones won last year (Texas Tech and Oklahoma State).
Iowa State sucks. (Talent)
Iowa State may be the more talented football team on the field Saturday. Shontrelle Johnson, James White, and Jeff Woody all have the potential to have 100-yard games individually, so when you rotate the 3 in the backfield throughout the game, there is potential for trouble stopping the run. Steele Jantz? Remember him? He tore it up last year against Iowa. Don't think he can do it again? His stat line from last week (with TD's cut in half) was actually better. He completed 10% more of his passes and threw for a few more yards. If anything, I would be more worried about him this year than last. And don't even get me started with the linebacking duo of A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. Bullock and Vandenberg may have nightmares.
Iowa State sucks. (Cy-Hawk)
Yeah, Iowa holds a 39-20 lead over the Cyclones for the series. But what about recent history? Like.. the last 15 years? Iowa State leads 8-7. Even in the last 7 years, the Hawkeyes just barely hold a 4-3 edge. Don't think that the Hawks are invincible because history is on their side.
My prediction: Iowa State 42, Iowa 37
I hate to pick against my Hawkeyes, but Iowa State has a fantastic team. The offense is actually somewhat potent, the defense is better than it was last year and it was considered a strength, and I think Iowa just doesn't quite have it together yet. Share your thoughts.