The first game of the CyHawk Series. El Assico, as it’s been dubbed by our SB Nation overlords. The University of Iowa vs. Iowa State University. “The Super Bowl,” as Cyclone fans say. It’s Week 2 of the college football season, and like most years, it’s a tradition that brings Cyclone and Hawkeye fans together like no other. But what do you really know about Iowa State football (besides the fact that they’re generally not very good). Will they be better this year? I sure as hell didn’t know, so I enlisted help from Kevin Fitzpatrick over at Wide Right & Natty Lite.
Max: Alright, let's get it out of the way - what are the takeaways from Iowa State's game against Northern Iowa this past weekend? Is what we saw the true identity of this football team?
Kevin: Gosh, that game was frustrating. Everything we hoped the Cyclones would shed from the Rhoads era - mainly penalties and boneheaded decision making - still ended up occurring. Iowa State had nine penalties for 89 yards and four costly turnovers, three of which were from quarterback Joel Lanning. Heading into the season, the general feeling from the fan base was we could get behind a program that plays hard and doesn't shoot themselves in the foot. Against UNI, they played hard, but definitely took off a couple toes.
The overused cliche is Rome wasn't built in a day. Yet, that's part of what's going on here. I'm a huge fan of the culture-building Campbell seems to be emphasizing at ISU, but he's obviously got a lot of work to do in order to bring to life a program that has never really had much of a pulse. The true identity of this team, as the season rolls along, will hopefully morph into one that features more discipline than was shown against the Panthers. If they can do that, I still think we can win 3-5 games.
Max: Allen Lazard looks like he's an absolute monster of a wide receiver. He'll be covered by All-American DB Desmond King on Saturday night. Who do you think will win out?
Kevin: King is the real deal. However, it's tough to completely take away a talent like Lazard. My guess is that Lazard will struggle getting open for most of the day, but he'll have 3-4 catches with one of those being a touchdown or "explosive play" by definition. If I had to propose a line, I'd say four receptions for 40 yards and a TD. The rest of ISU's receiving corps is underrated in my opinion, so if Iowa's defense is keying in on Lazard too much, we might see a big day out of a guy like Trever Ryen or Dondre Daley.
Max: What are the new toys that the Cyclones have to play with this year on both sides of the ball?
Kevin: The main newcomers on the offensive side of the ball for Iowa State are David Montgomery, Kene Nwangwu, and Deshaunte Jones. Montgomery and Nwangwu are both true freshman running backs, with Montgomery being more of the downhill-runner type and Nwangwu playing the speedster role (it sounds like he's the fastest guy on our roster). Montgomery played a couple series' at running back against UNI, carrying the ball twice for 11 yards. Nwangwu came in as the primary kick return man and averaged 26.5 yards per return.
Jones was a 4-star recruit and is listed as the backup at the "M" receiver position behind Ryen, which often runs routes out of the slot and sometimes pops into the backfield.
As for the defense, JaQuan Bailey and Jamahl Johnson are a pair of true freshman who are in the defensive line two-deeps. They often rotated in on 3rd downs against UNI. Opposite Kamari Cotton-Moya at the safety position is redshirt freshman Mike Johnson, who's taking over for the departed Qujuan Floyd.
Oh... And another thing to keep an eye on... Don't be surprised if newcomer Jacob Park gets some PT at quarterback. It sounds like Campbell wanted to get him on the field against Northern Iowa in the first half, but the right situation never presented itself. Park was one of the nation's best pro-style quarterbacks out of high school and originally committed to Georgia, then transferred out and took a year off from playing football before coming to ISU. He's in the classic "backup must be better than the starter" role for some Cyclone fans right now. I wouldn't be unhappy if that ended up actually being the case.
Max: Iowa's offense performed like a well-oiled machine this past weekend against Miami with a limited playbook. Do the Cyclones have the firepower to stop them?
Kevin: Short answer: probably not. I have a lot of respect for the offensive lines that Ferentz molds year in and year out. With our suspect linebacking unit, stopping the run is going to be tough for Iowa State. And once they start selling out by bringing in the safeties, that's when CJ Beathard can throw over the top.
The Cyclone secondary is the best part of the defense. If by some miracle ISU can force the Hawkeyes to throw in order to move the ball, the game could get interesting.
Max: The Hawkeyes is heavily favored in this game. What will the Cyclones have to do in order to keep it close or pull off the upset?
Kevin: Easy: limit turnovers and penalties. I believe if ISU plays a clean game, they'll have a chance. The problem is, that's very tough to do with the Cyclones' offensive line situation. I wanna say at least 3-4 nice runs from Mike Warren were brought back against UNI due to holding penalties on the offensive line. Run blocking certainly won't get any easier against Iowa.
6. Alright, prediction time. What's your pick?
I'll say the Cyclones beat the spread, but Iowa wins. Something like 27-17. El Assico wouldn't be the same without some tension late in the game.
Thanks to Kevin for his time and insight! Of course, I hope the Hawkeyes throw a hundred points on your team. For more on Iowa State football, check out Wide Right & Natty Lite’s blog and follow them on Twitter at @WideRtNattyLt. Go Hawks.