The #5 Iowa Hawkeyes are set to take on the Colorado State Rams of the Mountain West in week four in what will be the first meeting between the two programs. With no prior meetings and limited knowledge of the CSU program, we’re helping Hawkeye fans out by going behind enemy lines to get some info about Iowa’s next opponent.
We hooked up with Mike Wittman of Mountain West Connection, SB Nation’s Mountain West Conference site, to get some background on what Iowa fans should expect to see this weekend. Here are our five questions on Colorado State.
BHGP: Iowa and Colorado State have never met before. What should Hawkeye fans know at a high level about the CSU program and the style of play they’ll bring to Kinnick on Saturday?
MWC: Colorado State has invested heavily in their football in recent years. They have some of the best facilities in the west and a top-notch stadium. However, that investment has not returned many dividends. After reaching his ceiling as a strong recruiting program that annually reached 7 wins, Mike Bobo was fired and was replaced by Steve Addazio, fresh off his firing from Boston College. The hiring of a coach perpetually stuck in .500 didn’t seem to make sense at the time and doesn’t now either. Regardless, he is implementing a run-heavy approach that tries to wear defenses down. While that hasn’t totally come to fruition, the run-game is steady, and the specialists are legit weapons. On the other hand, the defense is hit or miss, and the passing game is suspect.
BHGP: The Rams struggled in their first two games with losses to South Dakota State and Vanderbilt, but bounced back with a big win over Toledo in week three. That’s the same Toledo team that nearly took down the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium. What was different in that third matchup vs. the first two and which version of the Rams should we expect to see this week?
MWC: The difference was primarily special teams. The Rams did not score an offensive touchdown, instead scoring on a return and a plethora of field goals. If that isn’t contained by Iowa, those points could slowly add up and keep the game close. The second factor was going to Trey McBride early and often in the passing game. He is hard to stop, averaging 11.3 ypc and has over 100 receiving yards in each of the three games. Lastly, I think the Toledo offense was just bad. Off the field, Addazio and the program faced a lot of scrutiny in the media last week and I think they used that as motivation. I would expect a team more like the first two games.
BHGP: Iowa’s defense is no longer a secret. They’ve held 25 straight opponents under 25 points scored. Through three weeks, CSU is averaging just 22 points per game, but the offense has been able to effectively move the ball, averaging nearly 410 yards per game. How do you see the Rams attacking this highly touted Hawkeye defense and who are some names Iowa fans should know in the offensive side of the ball?
MWC: TE Trey McBride. He is arguably the best in the nation at his position and extremely difficult to guard. Expect to hear his name early and often. RB David Bailey is featured early and often and is steady, if not spectacular. He averages 4 yards a carry and has found the endzone twice. WR Dante Wright is off to a quiet start (10 receptions, 146 yards, no TDs), but broke out in 2019 (57 receptions, 805 receiving yards, 4 TDs).
BHGP: Conversely, Iowa’s offense has really struggled. Despite scoring more than 25 points in nine consecutive games for the first time in program history, they’ve relied on the defense to score nearly a third of their points this season and come in averaging 100 yards per game less than the Rams. How should Iowa look to attack the CSU defense and who should Hawkeye fans know on the defensive side of the ball?
MWC: Their best defensive player is DL Scott Patchan, who transferred from Miami two years ago. He’s a force in the middle of the defensive line and Iowa’s offensive line may have more trouble than they think with him. Other players are solid; leading tackler LB Dequan Jackson, LB Mohamed Kamara already has 3.5 sacks, and safety Tywan Francis is have a good year. The other player to know is P Ryan Stonehouse. He has long been the top punter in the conference, and can set the tone for field position, averaging 51.9 yards on 15 punts this season.
BHGP: OK, prediction time. Iowa opened as 22-point favorites in this one. That’s a big number for any Iowa game. Do you expect a tighter contest and can the Rams pull off the upset? Let’s hear your call for the final score on Saturday.
MWC: Unfortunately, I don’t see any magic from the Rams this week. Hopefully they have found a working game plan on offense and their defense can keep the Hawkeye offense from finding its groove. The CSU defense vs the Iowa offense is the battle to watch, as I think the Ram offense will struggle to score. I think they will cover, but to the tune of a 31-13 final score.
So there you have it, the MWC folks are on the Hawkeyes this week. Here’s hoping they know what they’re talking about and Iowa can hold onto this top-5 ranking as they head into the meat of the Big Ten schedule.
Thanks again to Mike at Mountain West Connection. Be sure to follow Mike on the twitters at @Mike_SBN. You can catch the MWC site on Twitter @MWCConnection. And be sure to head over to MWCConnection.com to get caught up on all things Mountain West Conference.