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Iowa Football 2016 Opponent Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Oh, Iowa State … at last, we meet again.

NCAA Football: Northern Iowa at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

With one weekend of college football now officially in the books, it’s time to turn our attention away from the MAC’s Miami (OH) and really hone in on the FCS’s Iowa State Cyclones.

All joking aside, each year the Cy-Hawk football rivalry seems to live up to the hype, as the game is, more often than not, competitive throughout, despite there being an obvious contrast in talent some years.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what Cyclones have to offer the Hawkeyes on both sides of the ball in this year’s matchup.

When Iowa State is on Offense

Led by redshirt sophomore and first team All-Big 12 running back, Mike Warren, the Cyclones’ gameplan heading into this Cy-Hawk matchup will be to get things going on the ground early, as that’s the type of offense first-year head coach, Matt Campbell, would like to institute.

In last week’s matchup with Northern Iowa, a game in which the Cyclones ended up dropping 25-20, the Cyclones struggled mightily to get anything going on the ground, as they finished the game with only 51 rushing yards on 25 total rushing attempts, which, if you’re capable of basic math, averages out to around two yards per carry. Yikes.

In the loss, Warren saw the ball handed to him a mere 12 times for 30 yards, which averages out to 2.5 yards per carry — the second-worst average of Warren’s career. Although Cyclones fans were notably upset with Warren’s lack of touches, I think it’s fair to say that the box score doesn’t exactly tell the whole story in this situation.

When I re-watched the Northern Iowa game, I saw an offense trying desperately to find some sort of ground game, however, the offensive line was simply unable to generate any type of push or open up any kind of running lanes against the Panther defense throughout the entire game.

Although growing pains were to be expected, as the team returns only one starter from 2015 in left tackle Jake Campos, who is currently out for an indefinite period of time with a broken leg, I was surprised with how awful the Cyclones’ starting line looked against the Panthers, as they were dominated from start to finish.

When I took the time to study the Cyclones in the offseason, I was surprised with how many talented pieces they had on offense. In addition to Mike Warren, the Cyclones have one of the most physical, contested catch receivers in college football in Allen Lazard.

In the Cyclones’ opener against Northern Iowa, Lazard was nearly uncoverable, as he made coming down with contested catches look routine.

Typically, the Hawkeyes assign their corners one side of the field throughout the entire game. However, this week Desmond King has come out and said that he will indeed shadow Lazard wherever he’s lined up. This will undoubtedly be the toughest task of Lazard’s young career.

Lazard, isn’t the only talented player in the Cyclones’ receiving corps however, as junior, Trever Ryen has proven to be a valuable gadget player for the Cyclones offense.

At quarterback, the Cyclones are manned by Joel Lanning, who, despite harsh criticisms, isn’t actually that bad of a player.

It’s true that Lanning’s two interceptions against the Panthers may have cost the Cyclones a victory, however, without his displays of arm strength, accuracy, ball placement, and willingness to go deep, the Cyclones more than likely aren’t even in that game to begin with.

By no means is Lanning a great quarterback, however, the Hawkeyes found out last week in their game against Miami (OH) that a quarterback who possesses good arm strength and has the willingness to throw a deep ball can cause problems for their secondary and I’d say Lanning is a better player than Miami (OH) quarterback, Billy Bahl.

When Iowa State is on Defense

On defense, the Cyclones don’t have any backbreaking weakness like they do on offense with their offensive line, however, depth is a serious issue at each positional group.

Against Northern Iowa, the Cyclones’ defense ended up allowing three touchdowns, however, when you look into how each of those drives started, it’s unfair to solely place the blame on the defense, as their backs were against the wall from the start of the drive.

When I studied the Cyclones’ defense in the offseason, I came away rather impressed with the talented pieces they had in place.

Whether you want to focus on the secondary with guys like sophomore cornerback, Brian Peavy and junior safety Kamari Cotton-Moya, or if you want to focus in on the linebacking corps with sophomore Willie Harvey, there are quite a few talented pieces to go around. However, the most impressive player on the Cyclones’ defense, at least, in my opinion, has to be senior nose guard Demond Tucker.

When you watch Tucker play, it’s hard not to come away impressed, as his explosion off the ball for a player measuring in at 6’0”, 295-pounds, is unquestionably elite. And because of that, Tucker has the ability to be a serious disrupter in the middle of that defensive line.

Having to guard Tucker will be first-year starter James Daniel’s first real test at center, as he has yet to face a player who possesses the get-off and quickness that Tucker does. Hopefully, this matchup is able to serve as a learning experience for Daniels.

Expectations

As most sports fans know, rivalry games tend to bring out the best in players, as intensity and the desire to win are at their peak. With that said, coming into this game, the Cyclones’ offensive line is currently in shambles and with Jaleel Johnson manning the inside, a red-hot Anthony Nelson coming off the edge, Desmond King shadowing Allen Lazard, and the return of Hawkeyes star linebacker, Josey Jewell, following a targeting call early in last week’s game, it’ll be extremely tough for the Cyclones to keep up on offense, as they simply lack the talent to counter those players.

With that said, the Cyclones’ defense will be the backbone of this team and should provide a good test for the Hawkeyes’ interior offensive line and young receivers this Saturday.