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The Pants Predicts: Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones

We are not expecting a lot of points. Neither is anybody else. This is the way.

Northern Iowa v Iowa State
Will Rocco Becht frustrate the Hawkeyes on Saturday?
Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

Welcome back for week two of the college football season and right into hate week! After taking down Utah State in a game that was closer than the final score indicated, the Hawkeyes move on to face a new test as they take their talents on the road to Ames where they will face off with the Iowa State Cyclones.

The Cyclones are fresh off a 30-9 win over UNI in a game that really got away from the Panthers before it got started . Neither team showed a ton of offense in week one while both defenses looked solid. That’s a familiar refrain in this series. As you’ll no doubt recall, Iowa State defeated the Hawkeyes in Iowa City 7-3 a season ago.

For Saturday, Vegas is expecting another slugfest. Our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook opened the line at Iowa -4 with an over/under set at an absurdly low 36.5 total points. Surprisingly, both of those lines have held throughout the week. That gives us an implied final score of 20-16 in favor of the Hawkeyes.

Here at The Pants, we’re a bit less optimistic in the offenses involved this weekend. On average, our staffers are calling for a final score of Iowa 18, Iowa State 13. That would put us pretty firmly on the under with just 31 total points. It also puts on Iowa giving the 4 points.

While we are collectively on Iowa with the points, we’re actually pretty split if you go writer by writer. Just over half of us are taking Iowa giving the points while the other half are going to take the points and Iowa State. Either way, only two of us are on the over 36.5 total points and even those two are sitting at just 37 points.

Here’s a look at our individual predictions for Saturday’s matchup.


I expect a defensive struggle. My assumption is Iowa State stacks the box and forces Iowa to throw the ball. McNamara is meaningfully better than Petras has been at being able to do that so I do think the Hawkeyes manage more than a FG (and a TD that was somehow overturned but whatever). On the other side, the Hawkeye defense is not what it was a year ago based on what we saw in week one. I think they’re still very good, but the inability to generate pressure up front likely allows Rocco Becht to connect on an infuriating number of well-timed passes to keep a couple scoring drives alive.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa State 17

Bartt Pierce

I did not write my prediction for last week’s game against Utah State (I did pick us to win btw) and I heard about it from one of my oldest friends. So here we go. The Iowa/Iowa State game has been ugly lately, made more ugly by a “kinda” fumble on the goal line last year, Arland Bruce tackling himself, and a long drive by ISU in Kinnick against Phil Parker’s formidable squad. After the first quarter against the Aggies I was thinking ginormous things for our beloved black and gold. The rest of the way made me terrified to scrimmage a high school team. There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere, no?

It won’t be a pretty game. Cade Mac’s health terrifies me, and the Cyclones would be wise to go after him (w/n the rules of course). If our offensive line decides to not get any more sand kicked in its face, I think we come away with a win. Our defense surprised me in a not-so-good way against Utah State. Our depth may be an issue on that side of the ball. From what I have read, Iowa State actually had some positive special teams plays against UNI. Hawks move to 2-0. If we lay an offensive egg, things are going to get really bad and Kirk, Brian, and George Barnett are going to be one of the nation’s top news stories week after week. Let’s hope not. Go Hawks!

Prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa State 13

Glendale Hawk

My prediction last week, like everyone elses, came from maybe just a little too much kool-aid chugging around the potential for offensive improvement. Yeah, Cade at ~75% is still an upgrade at the QB spot, and the receivers (provided they catch the ball) are better than last year, but 2.8 ypc is abysmal. ISU lost a couple of key pieces on the defensive side (and more than a few on the offensive side), but that defense is going to be salty and keyed in on the pass all damn day because for a second straight year they have no reason to respect the run. That being said, I do not expect their offense to have anywhere near the kind of success they had against UNI (and Iowa still outgained them on the day) with Iowa’s defense in town. It’s going to be close, it’s likely to be ugly, and I don’t think I’d want it any other way. BEAT STATE!

Prediction: Iowa 17, Iowa State 9


This is going to be the most El Assico of El Assico games. Last year will be tough to top - blocked punts, fumble at the goal line that from some angles looked like a touchdown, dumb penalties that keep a last-ditch scoring drive alive, only for the team that got the gift to immediately return it by missing the tying field goal - but these two teams are going to try. Unconvincing offenses, player suspensions both ways...we’re off to a good start!

I give Iowa the slightest of slight edges because they still have the best unit on the field in their defense and they are improved at quarterback, even if Cade McNamara is dinged up. They had the best unit last year but a malfunctioning offense (I’m being kind here) required dumb Iowa State penalties to keep any hope alive. This offense, while still struggling week 1, will have just enough juice in the tank to get Iowa over the line this year. I have nothing to base this on other than I’m a homer and Kirk Ferentz’s previously shaky record in Jack Trice Stadium now features 5-straight wins, and 6 in their last 7 visits.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa State 10


I’ve seen enough to believe that Iowa is cooking with better ingredients offensively. Cade McNamara is a clear step up and the skill corps looks improved. What Iowa loses in Sam LaPorta they gain in improved Luke Lachey and Erick All (who I loved as a run blocker). The question for me is if the run game can come together but I’m not sure tomorrow will be that day.

No matter!

A freshman mistake or two from Rocco Becht and a smothering D for 60 minutes will be enough. But it won’t be pretty.

Prediction: Iowa 14, Iowa State 6


I hate picking this game. No matter how clear a picture I feel I have on either team after week one every year, it all gets thrown out the window as soon as this game kicks off.

Still, there are some constants that will continue to apply this Saturday. Turnovers and other mistakes will be killers and could cost either team the game. Iowa State QB Rocco Becht (I have to remind myself it’s not “Brecht”) was solid for the Cyclones last week but he won’t be facing the UNI defense this time around. If I were Phil Parker I’d try to get as much pressure on the young QB as possible to make him uncomfortable and force mistakes. Take away the run and make him try to best you through the air, then let your secondary pounce.

On the flip side, ISU fields a terrific defensive test for Iowa’s offense. McNamara is obviously not 100% so Brian will need to come up with a game plan to protect him, either through quicker passes out of shotgun or additional blockers. The O-line being able to establish some kind of running game would be nice too but that 3-3-5 is a tough nut to crack.

In the end, I’ll err on the side of the more experienced quarterback to make smart plays and a feisty defense to force Becht to make a costly mistake late to seal the deal.

Prediction: Iowa 17, Iowa State 14


Can Matt Campbell establish a winning streak against the Hawkeyes, or will Kirk Ferentz earn his 200th career win against his team’s in-state rival? Fans who enjoy offensive fireworks may not stick around long enough to find out. Since the 44-41 overtime shootout in 2017, Iowa has scored only five offensive touchdowns against the Cyclones and has not allowed Iowa State to put up 20 points in a single game. Between Iowa State’s inexperience and Iowa’s general offensive malaise, expect another defensive battle that will come down to the wire. Iowa’s poor play in the running game in Week One is a serious cause for concern, especially if McNamara remains limited or suffers another injury setback which could hamper Iowa’s passing attack. However, Iowa holds a slight edge thanks to its experience at the quarterback position and the strength of its defensive front seven.

Prediction: Iowa 17, ISU 13


Last year I had a bad feeling about this game that was proven right. It’s an awful series that defies logic and instead brings chaos and insanity. This year, I feel ok about it for some reason. It took maybe the worst offense in Iowa history for Matt Campbell to get his first win over Iowa, and they still barely accomplished that. Congrats I guess?

State sucks, Hawks win, end of story. No 25 points again though. Brian’s in trouble.

Prediction: Iowa 21, ISU 14


I traveled from South Bend to Des Moines last weekend for a wedding and I must say that my feeling on this game has changed. Unfortunately, it has not changed for the better. Looking at Iowa State, and hearing from Cyclone fans this past weekend, they seem to be filled with a quiet confidence that in my mind puts this outcome in doubt for the Hawkeyes. With TJ Tampa and company running the Cyclone secondary, and Iowa still showing that running the football is going to be a chore, this could be bad. Couple that with Cade being one hit away from Iowa’s hopes resting on the shoulders of Deacon Hill… yeah you get the point.

In the face of all of the above, I’m still going to take the Hawkeyes out of principle, but I’m not comfortable with it.

Prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa. St 17

So that’s how we see things playing out in week two. How about you, Hawkeye fans? Let us know your predictions in the comments below!

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.