After a shaky start, the Hawkeyes look to open their season 2-0 against the Iowa State Cyclones. It won't be easy, as they always face a tough test from the Cyclones, and this year the game is in Ames. It should be another great game in the in-state rivalry.
When Iowa runs the ball
The Hawkeyes' running game was awful during the first half of Saturday's game vs. UNI. Paki O'Meara couldn't ever get going, and the offensive line wasn't great by any means. But in the second half, redshirt freshman Adam Robinson impressed, rushing for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line will be much improved as well, as tackle and All-Big Ten candidate Kyle Calloway returns to the lineup after a one game suspension.
On top of that, Iowa State's run defense looked bad against North Dakota State, as they allowed over 200 yards. This week, they're facing a much better opponent.
When Iowa throws the ball
Like the running game, quarterback Ricky Stanzi couldn't get anything going in the first half. But he improved greatly in the second half, throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown.
The receivers looked better than they have in a while for Iowa. Marvin McNutt looked very impressive during his first game as a wide receiver, and tight end Tony Moeaki finally showed Iowa fans the potential they knew he had, with 83 receiving yards and a touchdown—one of the best games of his career.
Iowa needs to use play action to their advantage. That is how they won many of their games last year, and Stanzi does very well rolling out of the pocket in those situations. They used play action for most of the second half, and if that success rolls over into next week, as it likely will, there is no reason the Iowa passing game can't have its way against ISU's mediocre (at best) pass defense.
When Iowa State runs the ball
Although it was supposed to be the big defensive question mark heading into 2009, the defensive line was actually Iowa's most impressive unit in week one. Karl Klug proved that he is certainly capable of filling the hole left by Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Christian Ballard and Adrian Clayborn also had great games, and quarterback Pat Grace was sacked or hurried all day long.
The Cyclones' rushing attack isn't great, but expect them to mix in a lot more of quarterback Austin Arnaud in their new spread offense. But the Hawkeyes proved they could stop the spread against UNI, who actually has an even better offense than ISU.
When Iowa State throws the ball
This is a tricky area to examine. Clearly, Iowa has the better talent, but the Hawkeye secondary certainly didn't play as well as we know they can in week one. They allowed the Panthers to march down the field basically at will on two different occasions and allowed them to set up for the game-winning field goal attempts.
Other times, though, they were rock solid and showed why many people see them as the best in the Big Ten. There seemed to be a sense of urgency coming from star cornerback Amari Spievey, and the secondary will likely play much better in week two.
But they will definitely be tested in Ames. Quarterback Austin Arnaud performed very well against North Dakota State, but then again, it's North Dakota State. It's tough to tell right now, and while both are good, we'll see which side is really elite on Saturday.
This is another battle that is difficult to predict. Iowa's special teams were off and on last Saturday, and while Iowa State's appeared decent, you can't learn too much from playing North Dakota State. Daniel Murray needs to be more consistent for the Hawkeyes, and they need to find a solid replacement for Andy Brodell, but it's hard to pick against a team that blocks two field goals on consecutive plays.
So Kirk Ferentz didn't know about the rule that says a team can recover a blocked field goal if it stays behind the line of scrimmage. That's okay; nobody else did either. There's a reason Ferentz just received a contract extension that lasts through 2015, and he'll prove that on Saturday by out-coaching Paul Rhoads, who is in his second game as Iowa State's head coach.
For anyone who didn't know, Iowa is a Hawkeye State. Almost every town in Iowa has more Hawkeye fans than Cyclone fans with the exception of Ames. Jack Trice Stadium will be filled with black and gold on Saturday, and it should feel more like a home game for Iowa than Iowa State.
That being said, Iowa has had some trouble in Ames in the past. While the Hawkeyes have won four of the last six games, the Cyclones have won four of the last five in Ames. I don't see history having much to do with the outcome of this game, though. It should just give Ferentz's squad some extra motivation come Saturday.
Iowa 31, Iowa State 9
As has been true of the last two years, Iowa State won't score a touchdown in this game. The Hawkeye pass defense will step up and give ISU quarterback Austin Arnaud trouble all day. The run defense will also be rock solid, as usual.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi will redeem himself, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. Adam Robinson will shine against the Cyclones' poor run defense, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and the Hawkeyes will prove they still have what it takes to be a sleeper for the Big Ten title.
After this game they should vault back into the Top 25 and head into a week three date at home against Arizona with some much-needed momentum.
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