Last fall, two of my good friends got married on the day of the Iowa/Iowa State football game.
When I left my house to go to the ceremony, the Hawks had a nice seven point lead, but I was a little nervous. As we drove to the church and arrived early before the ceremony, I watched Twitter in horror as the Cyclones managed to storm back in the third quarter. I turned my phone on silence in disgust and came to terms with the fact that Iowa wouldn’t be able to come back, and would inevitably lose the game. I was glad to not have to watch my team suffer an embarrassing loss to our in-state rival.
45 minutes and some nuptials later, I pulled out my phone to assess the damage of the loss to see that Akrum Wadley had scored a miraculous touchdown and the game was headed to overtime. As we waited outside for the happy couple to emerge, I frantically refreshed Twitter to find out what was going on, and rejoiced loudly to everyone around me when Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught the game-winning touchdown in OT for a thrilling 44-41 OT victory.
How do you follow up a game like that?
If the 2012 Iowa/ISU matchup as a follow-up to an overtime thriller in Ames the year before is any indication (it’s not, right?), buckle up, we’re in for a 6-3 thriller this year in Kinnick.
But I highly doubt that will happen. Or at least, that’s my hope.
With both teams fresh off bowl victories (wow, that’s a weird fact to wrap my head around), a lot will be at stake on September 8th for this matchup. I think a lot of people would agree with me that last year’s CyHawk matchup was when we realized Matt Campbell’s program might have progressed a little further than we thought — or allowed ourselves to believe.
You know the drill here though. The Hawks have won the last three straight, and have a 43-22 all time record against the Cyclones. Kirk Ferentz is undefeated against Matt Campbell, a point of contention I’m sure for Campbell and his staff. While last season was an undeniable success for him, adding a win over the Hawks and a second-consecutive bowl win might make Campbell the most legendary coach in ISU history -snort-.
Our rivals will enter the season riding the momentum of the third bowl win in program. history. That will never not be stunning to read. Iowa State finished the year with an 8-5 record (that matched Iowa’s, ugh), and the momentum has only grown for the Cyclones since then.
Secret Iowa Hawkeye fan Matt Campbell continues to mold his program in the image of Kirk Ferentz after last year’s successful campaign, this time with fancy new jerseys. Read the replies to this tweet for some very good laughs about the Cyclones’ new black alternate uniform. You mad, bros?
(Stats from sports-ref and Bill Connelly’s Iowa State preview)
Both teams will return their starting quarterbacks come fall, but Nate Stanley will not be facing off against Jacob Park this year (barring unforeseen circumstances, of course).
You might remember that Park started the first few games of the season before former walk-on Kyle Kempt took over the reigns and lead the Cyclones to victory in the Liberty Bowl. If you’re like me and go out of your way to avoid Cyclone news, you may not have seen that Kempt was somehow granted a sixth(!) year of eligibility by the NCAA because of the “circumstances surrounding his path to Iowa State,” according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.
Drew Ott has something to say about that I’m sure, but I digress.
His two most notable performances in my humble opinion came in the Cyclones upset win against then-No. 3 Oklahoma and in the Liberty Bowl. You’ll remember that the OU upset was his first game as a starter, and he managed to come back from a 14-0 deficit to win. Granted, folk hero Joel Lanning was the true star of that game, but Kempt maneuvered a 94 yard drive to tie the game, and then threw a 54 yard touchdown to Allen Lazard for the lead, and the eventual win (thanks for refreshing my memory on all of this in your ISU preview, Bill).
In his limited time at starter, Kempt finished the season with 1787 yards for a 66% completion rate, 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Not bad at all, but he only eclipsed a 150 passer rating against OU. He also had one of ISU’s most talented receivers in history catching his passes. Well, he gone, and so are the other receivers. But the Cyclones should have a decent offensive line blocking for RB David Montgomery, who rushed for over 1100 yards last year.
This could spell trouble for Iowa but thankfully it’s early in the season and Iowa State will probably be relying heavily on the run while Kempt gets some true reps with his new receivers.
The Cyclone defense lost a lot of talent as well from a squad that really struggled defending the pass. From Connelly’s preview:
The Cyclones ranked just 96th at passing success rate prevention (44 percent) and 126th in completions allowed (67 percent).
If I’m Iowa, I’ll be throwing the ball as much as I can. The Cyclones lost their top four safeties and will be captained by a sophomore and a JUCO transfer. Call the deep ball, Brian! Especially this early in the season!
However, the Cyclones also return three corners, Brian Peavy, D’Andre Payne, and De’Monte Ruth, that accounted for over 130 tackles last year, and have a stout run defense on top of it. Losing Lanning as linebacker/QB extraordinaire will probably hurt, particularly on the leadership level. Marcels Spears Jr. will probably pick up where Lanning left off. He had 107 total tackles last year, including 8.5 for loss, and a sack. Willie Harvey will probably also eclipse 100 total tackles this year. Jaquan Bailey and Enyi Uwazurike were big contributors as well, and they all will return.
If I’m Iowa, I’m throwing the ball as much as possible against this team.
As much as I and every other Iowa fan hates to admit it, Matt Campbell is doing good things with his Iowa State program. Do I think they’ll be able to have another breakout season? No. Do I think they can still finish with at least a .500 record? Yes. An experienced QB and running back, along with a stout rush defense will get them wins.
Should Iowa be worried? I don’t know. Probably, honestly. They’ll be playing against a huge upgrade at QB, and getting the run game going could prove difficult, which could also stifle the passing game.
Ultimately, I think the Hawks can pull it out in a tight match, but for the second year in a row, it won’t be easy. Regardless, I’m already getting excited thinking about this game. Is it Hate Week yet?