Iowa vs. Iowa State: What 2 Watch 4
| Iowa vs Iowa State. Not much more needs to be said. All week fans from both sides have been patiently awaiting 11 AM Saturday morning for kick-off of this year’s edition of the annual rivalry. This year both teams are undefeated and both teams understand the importance of this game. The players and coaches for both teams have made that clear. Kirk Ferentz is 3-6 against Iowa State as head coach at Iowa. It’s long past time for that to change. No excuses. Here is a list of a few things to watch for and what needs to happen for the Hawkeyes to recapture the Cy-Hawk Trophy.|
This Saturday most eyes will be fixed on Iowa’s starting quarterback, sophomore Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi looked great in the first half against Florida International in his first career start, but there is no doubt that the young Hawkeye will face his first serious test against Iowa State. Not only will Iowa State be the most talented team Iowa will have faced thus far, but the excitement, intensity, and pressure will be unlike anything Stanzi has seen before. How he reacts in only his second career start will be interesting to watch. Ricky’s presence and poise in the pocket have been impressive in Iowa’s first two wins, but whether he can handle the pressure and all the blitzes ISU will likely bring at him will be one of the biggest keys to Iowa’s success on Saturday.
The Hawkeye Running Game
Another key to an Iowa victory will be Shonn Greene and the Hawkeye running attack. Iowa State’s first two opponents (South Dakota St and Kent State) have averaged 210 rushing yards per game and a staggering 6.2 yards per carry. In Iowa’s wins over Maine and FIU, the Hawkeyes have rushed for 486 yards. Iowa’s improved offensive line play paired with ISU’s struggles against the run this season, may be a formula for big games from Hawkeye running backs. Through two games, Shonn Greene has yet to be tackled for a loss. If Greene and the Iowa O-Line can establish the run early that will go along way towards taking the pressure off Stanzi and help lead the Hawkeyes to a win.
Winning the turnover battle is a key to any game, but it will be especially important against Iowa State on Saturday. So far this season the Cyclones have been very opportunistic on defense, forcing 10 turnovers in their first two games. Five different Cyclones on defense have intercepted a pass, and ISU has also recovered five fumbles as a team. Hawkeye back Shonn Greene did lose a fumble last week against FIU. He and the rest of Iowa’s running backs will have to take special care of the ball this Saturday.
Cyclone QB Rotation
The Hawkeyes may have settled on a quarterback, but Iowa State will continue to use a rotation between Austin Arnaud and Phillip Bates on Saturday. Arnaud will start the game under center, but Bates will also play and provide a change of pace to ISU’s offense. Iowa fans will remember Bates from his catch along the sideline in the 4th quarter last year that set the Cyclones up for the game winning field goal. This season, Bates leads the team in rushing with 138 yards on 17 carries. In the past, Iowa’s defense has had some trouble with mobile quarterbacks, and it will be very important for the Hawkeyes to contain Bates if they expect to have success stopping the Cyclones.
Special teams have played a key role in recent meetings between Iowa and Iowa State, and most likely this year will prove the same. In last season’s meeting, the Cyclones never got into the endzone but managed to win 15-13 thanks to five field goals. The Hawkeyes also had a field goal blocked in that loss which ended up being the difference in the game. Iowa will have to execute in the kicking game on Saturday as the Cyclones have already blocked two kicks this season.
Tony Moeaki & Trey Stross
The Hawkeye passing attack will get a much anticipated boost on Saturday with the return of TE Tony Moeaki and WR Trey Stross. Moeaki has missed Iowa’s first two games due to a foot injury, and Stross has been out with a hurt hamstring. Both are expected to play against Iowa State. How much action they will see and how effective each will be remains to be seen, but it will certainly be nice to see both back in uniform.
One thing to watch that neither team has any control of is the weather. The current forecast shows a 60% chance of showers on Saturday. It is not clear which team if any would gain any significant advantage from wet conditions, but stormy weather does generally even the playing field. If it means that each team’s ability to move the ball through the air is effected, then the advantage probably shifts towards Iowa. So far this season the Hawkeyes have been able to establish the run in their two victories, while Iowa State has struggled with their run defense. Either way for those planning on attending the game at Kinnick on Saturday, it would probably be a smart move to pack a poncho (preferably a black one).