Saturday, September 14, 2013

Game Day: Cy-Hawk Series, Iowa at Iowa State in Ames

Something has got to give on Saturday in Ames for one of these teams?

Iowa (1-1)has a seven game losing steak over FBS opponents, while Iowa State (0-1) looks to make it three in a row in the Cy-Hawk Series in Football.  The Hawkeyes have won three of the last five in the series. 

But, the Hawkeyes haven't dominated the series, since the fifteen game win streak that came to an end in 1998, in Hayden Fry's final season.  Iowa has won six of the last ten games in the series. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 39-21 and they are 16-8 all-time in Ames.

Iowa has won against FCS opponents, again last week, unlike Iowa State, who lost to the University of Northern Iowa 28-20 in the season opener. Iowa beat UNI 27-16 in Week 3 last season

Does Iowa State benefit from such an early bye week?  This is the first of four games this season, where an Iowa opponent is coming off a bye week ahead of playing the Hawkeyes. Iowa has two bye weeks ahead of Ohio State and Michigan, but today, it is all about Iowa vs. ISU.

It is the first of four trophy games for Iowa in 2013.  Many in Black and Gold suggest this is Iowa State's Super Bowl, since what other strong rivalry game does Iowa State enjoy each season other than the Cy-Hawk Game?

Playing Tulsa three games in two seasons doesn't create a rivalry for the Cyclones?  ISU actually has another bye week after today's Iowa game.

It is an interesting September slate for the Cyclones opening with ISU, a bye week, Iowa, a bye week, then a Thursday night game at Tulsa.  This is ISU coach Paul Rhoads fifth season Ames.  He brings an Iowan prospective as a Cental Iowa native.

Kirk Ferentz is coaching in his fifteenth straight Cy-Hawk Game as head coach at Iowa.  This week, Ferentz said, "I can't remember many trips up there in the last 15 years where it hasn't been pretty lively. You know, it's not an easy place to go play."

The young Hawkeyes hit the road for the first time in 2013 to face an even younger Iowa State team, who lost 6 starters on offense, seven on defense, after last year's 6-7 season.

Both teams will send out a sophomore quarterback in this year's Cy-Hawk Game.  As Marc Morehouse's Gameday article highlighted this morning in The Gazette, each is from the State of Florida.

ISU's Sam Richardson is making his fourth career start and seeking his first win in college.  He has ability to make plays with his feet (leading rusher in '13) and through the air.

Jake Rudock for Iowa will run less than Richardson, but he has scored three touchdowns via run in his first two weeks.  Ferentz said this week, "But no matter how many plays you run or how many yards you get, it's still about getting points. That is the number one criteria for an offensive football team."

Iowa brings the senior leadership at linebacker this season, after Iowa State did last year. Iowa starts three senior linebackers in Iowan James Morris, and out of staters Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens.  They each have 100 tackle seasons in their resume.

Iowa State has a senior MLB Jeremiah George, but he is making 11th start today in his career. WLB Luke Knott is a redshirt freshman making his first start and SLB Jared Brackens is a junior in his first season as a starter.

How will turnovers play out in the 2013 game?

Ferentz responded to questions this week on turnovers and schemes in this series, "I don't think there is anything that we changed. So I can't really explain it, quite frankly. And last year was one of those deals where we won the turnover battle and lost the game. That's kind of unusual in this series. But last year, that's the way it worked."

Iowa lost last year's game 9-6 in Iowa City, when ISU ended Iowa's final drive due to an interception by departed LB Jake Knott. In rivalry games, defense, special teams and turnovers are usually wildcards.

One the road in Ames, Iowa would be good to stay ahead of the chains.  In last years game at Michigan State, Iowa won 19-16 in 2 OT.

So, how will both teams stay ahead in the down and distance game?

"First thing I think of is two weeks ago and conversions on third downs, whether it be 3rd and short, 3rd and long, whatever it may be," Ferentz said. "You've got to keep the chains moving, and we didn't do a good enough job of that certainly a couple weeks ago," as Ferentz reflected on their last loss.

Watching Iowa today, how will senior Iowans Morris, PK Mike Meyer, RT Brett Van Sloten, LG Conor Boffeli, LDE Dominic Alvis and FS Tanner Miller play?  Morris, for example, didn't play in Iowa's last win in 2010.  Iowa starts eleven seniors, while Iowa State has eleven, as well, including special teams.  The chip last two seasons often come from the Iowans, but not always in this series.

ISU senior TB James White scored the winning TD in the 2011 44-41 3OT game in Ames.  He is starting, with senior Shontrelle Johnson and junior JUCO transfer Aaron Wimbley leads the group in most carries, after one game. Senior Iowan Jeff Woody could be a guy to keep an eye on today.

Iowa has played four running backs this season and will likely continue to rotate them, lead by junior fullback Mark Weisman, who didn't play a significant role last year, but not until Week 3 vs. UNI.

Ferentz on his running backs said, "well, I think we have four backs we feel good about based on practice and what we've seen so far in games. It's just things are dictated by how the game goes. But Mark's doing a good job, and we're not surprised by that. But certainly we feel good about all four guys."

Iowa goes five deep at the tight end position for the first time ever.  Redshirt freshman George Kittle executed an explosive 47 yard wheel route in Iowa's 28-14 win over Missouri State last week.  Explosive plays are very important in big games. A 12 yard or greater run or 16 or greater pass play are what Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis measures.  Further, special teams and turnovers can play key roles, as well.

Who will use the tight end over the middle most effectively?  In last year's game, Iowa threw an interception over the middle targeting the TE.

Another challenge to the game in the passing game could be the wind? Jack Trice Stadium can become a wind tunnel at times and winds are expectedbon Saturday. Will they calm down as the Sun sets over Ames?

Both teams are expected to use the tight end.  The running backs could also figure in the passing game, as well.  Will someone step up at wide receiver for either team?

Nebraska-Omaha transfer senior Justin Coleman lead ISU at WR in the loss to UNI, with a 103 yards on four receptions, including an explosive TD reception.  TB White had five receptions in the season opener from his RB position.  ISU will go at least three deep at TE.

Iowa is lead at TE by senior C.J. Fiedorwicz, who has Iowa's lone TD reception, so far this season. Junior WR Kevonte Martin-Manley leads Iowa with 12 receptions.  Iowa needs to reduce drops and miscues in passing game.  Do they keep ahead of the chains and sustain drives in Week 3?

Iowa has given up four explosive TD passes in the secondary over the past two weeks. Iowa defensive coordinator and secondary coach Phil Parker needs to clean things up.  Iowa lone freshman starter is true freshman CB Desmond King, in for injured sophomore Jordan Lomax.  King did recovery a fumble last week, in his first career start.

Will the ISU coaching staff scheme towards Iowa's newbie at CB?  Or will they attack senior CB B.J. Lowery?  Or, will they attack Iowa's middle secondary?

While Iowa appears to own most of the advantages heading into this game, with the run game, run defense and special teams overall, ISU could be more dominate in the pass offense and defense heading into this one.  Iowa's Hitchens has been credited for a sack this season, while ISU's Brackens had a more traditional one in the season opener.

Iowa's red zone defense has been good, but red zone offense needs improvement. It should be a lively game in Ames today.

Defense lead last year in the 9-6 slugfest. Last time in Ames, it was 24-24 at the end of regulation.  Our pick: Iowa 30, Iowa State 21.

Iowa must keep Iowa State from hanging around with the Hawkeyes.  Iowa State is younger than Iowa.  Iowa's senior leadership and veterans need to begin strong and close out this game.  Iowa hasn't accomplished that on the road, since the 2 OT win at Michigan State last year.  This game, Iowa is a three point favorite on the road.

Iowa's offensive and defensive lines need to play physical and execute. It will be challenging at Jack Trice. Iowa typically wins this series when they win the game in the trenches.

As Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday, "It will be a tough ballgame like always. Anytime I think we get together, it's usually a pretty good game. I expect him to be ready to go, and they're an aggressive ballclub."

Iowa is healthy heading into Ames, except for one part-time starter at CB, but there has been some concerns in Ames?  How many players are impacted? 

How will sophomore Jamison Lark's first start go at center for the Cyclones?  Iowa's strength in defensive line is in the middle. Juniors Louis Trica-Pasat and Carl Davis, with sophomore Darian Cooper.  DE Alvis leads line in tackles.

Will Iowa continue to get to eighty or more offensive plays from scrimmage, as Iowa utilities new no-huddle offense with Rudock at QB?

Today's Cy-Hawk Game kicks off at 5:05 p.m. on FS1. Tune in on DirecTV on channel 219 and on Dish Network on channel 150.

No, it isn't Iowa State's Super Bowl, ISU has taken down Nebraska and Oklahoma State out recently and they ended Iowa 15 years of dominance.

The Cyclones have played some good football over the past 12 years, since 9/11.  We agree with Paul Rhoads "maybe at some point"  however here and now... it is simply the Iowa-Iowa State game.

Iowa has eight more important games in the Big Ten, with Iowa State having nine more important games in the Big 12.

But, today, this game is the most important one.  Who wins?  We shall soon see!

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