Everyone's saying it. Austen Arnaud must have a big game for the Iowa State Cyclones to stand a chance against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Cyclone quarterback is in his senior year at Iowa State and his track record against the Hawkeyes is not good.
Ricky Stanzi is not the only quarterback in the state of Iowa prone to mistakes. In fact, mistakes are exactly what have hurt Arnaud in the past against the Hawkeyes. Arnaud threw two interceptions in his first game against the Hawkeyes in 2008, which the Cyclones lost 17-5. He was even worse last year, throwing four interceptions in a 35-3 loss at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
It's safe to say "Beat Iowa" is on the Ames, Iowa product's list of things to do before graduation. But Arnaud will have to do better than he has in previous contests if he wants to cross that item off the list.
Arnaud knows even his performance in Iowa State's opening victory against the Northern Illinois Huskies won't cut it. Two interceptions would likely be two too many against the Hawkeyes.
A turnaround performance from Arnaud will be critical. But he isn't the only player on the ISU roster who needs to carry his load on Saturday in Iowa City if the Cyclones are to take back the Cy-Hawk trophy.
AP all-Big 12 second team selection Kelechi Osemele had a great game against Northern Illinois.
His ability to shift from pass protection to run blocking—and the fact that he excels at both skills—has people talking next level.
The 6-foot-5, 335-pound monster in the trenches will have to crank his internal motor into overdrive against the brutal Iowa Hawkeyes defensive line.
Those guys will bite harder than the Huskies, guaranteed.
Arnaud is going to need open targets against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Many are claiming they are wary of the Iowa secondary after watching FCS team Eastern Illinois put together a successful scoring drive mostly through the air last week.
First team wide receiver Sedrick Johnson will have to get open—and often—for Arnaud to find success similar to that Eastern Illinois drive.
Johnson was hampered by an ankle injury last season, but he's got the talent to be an explosive threat for the Cyclones.
Johnson was relatively quiet against Northern Illinois, catching four balls for 32 yards. He can't be that quiet if he wants to help hoist the Cy-Hawk trophy at the end of the game.
Win or lose, Johnson may make the highlight reel with a couple big plays on Saturday.
Franklin was a popular target for Arnaud in the latter parts of the 2009 season. That streak continued last week, as Franklin led all ISU receivers with 75 receiving yards via five catches.
Like Johnson, Franklin will need to find ways to get open. A 6-foot-5 tight end shouldn't have a problem getting Arnaud's attention.
Or will he?
This matchup could get interesting, as Franklin will be the first FBS TE a still-raw Iowa linebacking crew faces.
A native of Waukee, Iowa, Knott is like Arnaud in that he grew up surrounded by Iowa's biggest rivalry.
Knott saw action in every game last year for the Cyclones. That experience may have paid off.
Last week, Knott was an all-out ball hawk, with nine tackles and two interceptions, the first of which bailed Iowa State out of trouble early in the third quarter.
The Cyclones need somebody to step up on defense to stop the Iowa rushing attack, which gains Jewel Hampton after he served a one game suspension for his minor offseason snafu.
The Cyclones will be playing with a passion. Knott, being from Iowa, could have some extra fuel to add to the fire.
Alexander Robinson was by far Iowa State's most impressive performer last season. He rushed for 1,195—
good for third in the Big 12 and 25th nationally.
Against Northern Illinois, Robinson rushed 19 times for 97 yards and two TDs, however, a chunk of those yards came from a 63-yard scamper.
Robinson is a big play threat. He won't find running against one of the nation's best defensive lines easy, but he could break off a few big ones. He'll have to if he's to help the Cyclones' efforts.
Iowa State's A-Rob also represents a dual threat. He's been known to rack up the all-purpose yards and that continued last week, as he snagged four catches for 32 yards.
Robinson is arguably a bigger key to the game than Arnaud.
Iowa's defense can't take its eyes off Robinson.
Not for one play.