2017 Game II: Iowa State (1-0, 0-0) vs. “The Team Out East” (1-0, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, September 9th
Time: 11:00 AM CDT
Location: Jack Trice Stadium
Line: Iowa -2.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
“Team Out East” SB Nation Website - Black Heart Gold Potatoes
It’s HATE WEEK, and the “Team Out East” comes to town to face the Cyclones for their second-straight home game. Both programs won handily a week ago, and if ISU wants to go bowling, this game is a must-win against their in-state rivals.
There has been a lot of banter back and forth, but none more significant than the feud between Matt Campbell and Brian Ferentz – one that has added fuel to a rivalry that needed gasoline added to its measly flame. It all started when little Ferentz cried about how many scholarships “that team up north” and “those guys in Ames” were handing out. He was of course referencing PJ Fleck in Minnesota, and Matt Campbell at ISU.
Since then, there has never been more wasted time listening to the 3rd graders fight on the sports talk radio. Campbell upped the ante when his public service announcement (shown above) mentioned “The Team Out East” instead of Iowa. He has never said those ill-fated words (Iowa Hawkeyes) in tweets, in media conferences, or anywhere there is a microphone, and Hok fans are livid about it. Especially this one…
We have another bomb-diggity hype video, courtesy of our very own Matthias Schwartzkopf. Enjoy
When we last left off….
“Takin Care of Business”
Iowa State finally beat a team they were “supposed” to beat. Too many times have we seen close losses, and defeats to teams that were far inferior in scholarships, talent, and athletic budgets. ISU took care of that business last week against Northern Iowa, and looked like a team that belonged on a football field.
While the Cyclones started slow, the defense came through with their first two-touchdown performance since 2010, and carried the offense until David Montgomery and company got it going in the second quarter. After that, ISU scored on four of five possessions, and the game was out of reach.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the prettiest game, but we saw some players break through, and a defensive line that looked dominant at times. The offensive line gave up no sacks, and gave Jacob Park all day to throw. It was a step in the right direction, and a solid win for the good guys.
Iowa leads the all-time series 42-22, but ISU has won 10 of the last 19.
The following GIF below explains last year’s performance in Iowa City.
Today’s college freshmen weren’t even born when Kirk Ferentz began his coaching career in Iowa City. The man who is known for his incessant gum-chomping and emotionless demeanor seemingly uses the same gameplan as he has had for all of his 19 years – win in the trenches.
The Hawkeyes bring back four of five starters on the offensive front, and looked down-right dominant on defense against hopeless Wyoming last week. They are led by Preseason All-Big 10 linebacker Josey Jewell, who took home the hardware with National Defensive Player of the Week.
The offense was average at best, with quarterback Nathan Stanley earning his first start, and only attempting 15 passes. It didn’t matter, as their stalwart running back Akrum Wadley ate up the Wyoming defense for 116 yards on the ground. The Hoks also have another talented back behind Wadley in Nevada transfer James Butler.
Iowa State Offense
David Montgomery provided a much-needed spark to the offense on a second-quarter drive with three straight carries for 29 yards, with his final rush hitting pay-dirt.
Montgomery will prove as an important piece to the puzzle against this vaunted defense, and will have to carry the load. We will most likely see more two-tight end sets, as well as bowling ball Sam Seonbuchner paving the way as lead-blocker. The junior played one of his best games in a Cyclone uniform last week, and is an integral part to establishing the run game.
Jacob Park found the open receivers, as he completed over 77% of his passes, and really shined on his short to intermediate throws. Iowa State played very much a vanilla flavored offense, and did not go deep in the passing game.
Both Hakeem Butler and Trever Ryen came away with a career-high in catches last week, and look for more of Butler in the slot matching up against much shorter and slower linebackers, as shown below in the red zone.
If I were a betting man, I would guess Iowa moves their coverage in the direction of Allen Lazard. This leaves more targets for others – especially lightning-quick receiver Deshaunte Jones. Jones did not see much action last week, but I foresee him stretching the field not only as a vertical threat, but also a dangerous runner in the open field.
First Key to Victory – Keep X-Factor Jacob Park’s Jersey Clean
Iowa State wins and loses this game based upon Jacob Park’s performance. I haven’t seen a player with these kinds of intangibles since Seneca Wallace. The guy’s moxie and confidence has shot through the roof, and there is no telling what his ceiling is. That is, if he can get protection.
Last week, ISU gave up zero sacks, and created a safe pocket for Park and his deep drops. Nothing will be as important as giving #10 time to throw the ball. He can sling it better than anyone in a Cyclone uniform, but none of that matters if he gets pressure in his face. Iowa only blitzes on third and long, so it will be important to gain positive yards on 1st and 2nd down to put the offense in manageable 3rd downs.
Keep Park’s jersey clean, and he will be licking his chops to find one of our many talented receivers downfield.
The Hoks have a stellar front seven and three above-average linebackers who can play in space and cover the pass. All three players in the second-line of defense are experienced seniors who have been here before. Led by Josey Jewell, this unit held Wyoming and future pro QB Josh Allen to only 233 yards of offense.
They created pressure from their line, culminating in three sacks and four quarterback hurries. One of those sacks was by way of heralded five-star recruit A.J. Epenesa, who is one of the highest ranked high-school players ever to join the dark side.
Some other names to look out for are Nathan Bazata and Anthony Nelson. ISU’s interior will have its hands full with the 287-pound beast Bazata, and the 6-foot-7 Nelson coming from the outside edge.
The secondary gets back their starting cornerback Manny Rugamba, who served a one-game suspension last week. Hard-hitting safety Miles Taylor is a forced to be reckoned with, and we will see him up in the box ready to attack the run.
The Verdict – EVEN
To the outside pundits reading this, you all think there is no way Iowa doesn’t win this battle. Think again.
Playing in the friendly confines of Jack Trice gives ISU an edge, and with a sure-fire quarterback leading this offense, I think the Cyclones can move the ball. This year’s team just looks different seeing them in person. The bodies are bigger, faster and stronger, and finally ISU has the depth (and talent) to compete against the elite.
Iowa State Defense
Last week, the defense blitzed more than I have seen before in the Campbell era, and with that came three turnovers. The effectiveness of both Ray Lima and Vernell Trent was a pleasant surprise, as both disrupted plays in the backfield and did a tremendous job of gaining vertical penetration.
Linebacker Willie Harvey played his best game yet, creating a sack and taking one back to the house with a pick-six. His counterpart Joel Lanning was second in tackles with seven, and Marcel Spears was solid in his first collegiate start. Instead of the old days of the nickel package, I foresee these three linebackers staying on the field for the majority of snaps. They will have their hands full with a potent zone-blitzing scheme and tremendous acceleration in running back Akrum Wadley. Sound gap responsibility and shedding blocks in the second line of defense will be the name of the game in this back-and-forth war.
The secondary allowed some balls to be completed downfield versus Northern Iowa, and needs to improve with better control and awareness. Cornerback Brian Peavy wasn’t one of those, as he played this pass perfectly.
Look for him to match up against the Hawkeye’s best receiver in Matt VandeBerg, who is at his best in the underneath routes. I see Iowa State playing with eight in the box, forcing the inexperienced Stanley to see if he can throw his way out of it. If Iowa wants to run for three yards and a cloud of dust, I say let them. The Cyclones need to force Iowa to play left-handed, and take away their juice. They also need to make sure they wrap up at the point of attack and gang tackle.
There is no team better than the Hoks at the play-action pass, and they have a future star in tight end Noah Fant. Kamari Cotton-Moya and Reggie Wilkerson will need to have their heads (and hips) on a swivel if they want to stop the downfield throw.
Second Key to Victory – Stops on 3rd Down
Matt Campbell spoke at his recent press conference about what ISU will need to do to have success. They were:
1) Eliminating mistakes to improve from Week One to Two
2) Winning the Turnover Battle
3) Conversions on both sides of the ball on 3rd Down
With Iowa’s stubbornness to run the ball, third-down conversions will prove to be critical in their clock-eating drives. We will see lots of third-and-shorts in this game, and ISU will have to impose their will in the trenches.
Gone is previously laughable Heisman front-runner C.J. BeatHARD, and in comes sophomore Nathan Stanley. The sophomore was anything but spectacular last week, only completing eight throws, and all of those went to only three receivers. He also had a case for butterfingers, losing two fumbles.
The verdict is still out on Stanley, but he is what every Hawkeye quarterback is – a game manager. He should be able to take care of the ball, and makes the throws he needs to keep the drive alive. ISU needs to force Stanley into tough positions by winning on first down, and creating an uncomfortable pocket.
That will be hard to come by, as seven of their returning offensive linemen started at least one game a year ago. The leader of the pack is senior Sean Welsh, who is on a boat-load of preseason watch-lists. The man who makes all the signals at center is James Daniels (coming back from injury), while Stanley’s blind side is kept clean by redshirt freshman Alaric Jackson.
The best player on the field Saturday is none other than running back Akrum Wadley. This man will play on Sundays, and can dizzy you in a multitude of ways. There is no doubt Wadley will get his, most likely at least a few long runs, as he is slippery between the tackles, and has a knack for breaking tackles in the open field.
The outside receivers don’t scare me in the least. Matt VandeBerg returns for his eighth fifth season, as the Wes-Welkerish-type receiver makes his mark in the short passing game. Tight End Noah Fant and his 6-foot-5 frame scares me a bit, as he scored twice last week, and will be a force, especially in the downfield seam route.
Verdict – EVEN
Both of these units are a step down from our previous head-to-head battle. Iowa has a solid offensive line and fantastic running back, but their quarterback is below average. ISU has a solid secondary, with an average line and below average line-backing corps.
Iowa preaches special teams like Donald Trump talks about “building a wall,” except they actually follow through. Iowa’s return men can both break one deep, with VandeBerg returning punts, and Wadley kicks. They helped the Hoks rank top-2 in conference in both categories a season ago.
Brand new kicker and punter for the black and gold, as both were serviceable last week, and the kicking coverage team was impressive only allowing 10 yards per return. But nothing compares to what the punt defense did on this play.
New Cyclone place-kicker Garrett Owens didn’t make any mistakes last week, and punter Colin Downing kept the famed #PunterU alive with a stellar performance, averaging over 45 yards per punt.
Backup running back Mike Warren had one long return versus Northern Iowa, and Trever Ryen always has a chance to go the distance.
Verdict - Iowa
When Kirk Ferentz sleeps at night, he dreams of a perfect punt coverage unit.
Third Key to Victory – Win the Turnover Battle
Another point of emphasis for Coach Campbell is winning the turnover battle. With this game being as methodical as I think it will be, turnovers will make HUGE differences in swings of momentum. ISU needs to continue to stay aggressive on defense, and Park will have to be smart in his throws.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
For this week, if we were to compare a 1 to “No Drinking Tickets Handed Out in Tailgate Lots” to a 10 of “Me wearing an AHF Shirt to Tailgate,” (which you can buy on our site), I would say ISU’s chances of winning are right around a 7.5.
It is going to be knock-down, drag-out fight, with lots of punts and a battle for field position. Wadley will break a few long runs, and Park will find a few targets downfield for long gains. I think both defenses will hold their own and we will see a low-scoring game.
It may come down to a few plays, and possibly a field goal at the end of the game.
Either way, the good guys end up on top, and the CyHawk trophy returns to Ames.
Iowa State 20