It’s one of the better rivalries in college sports that most people probably don’t think about.
Iowa (1-0) and Iowa State (0-1) are bitter in-state rivals. Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series games are almost always interesting.
In 2014, Iowa State’s Cole Netten hit a 42-yard field goal as the clock expired to win the game in Iowa City, 20-17. Last season, the Hawkeyes got revenge on the Cyclones, handily beating them in Ames, 31-17. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard completed 15-of-25 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. The Hawkeyes rushed for 260 yards as a team, led by Jordan Canzeri’s 124 yards and a touchdown.
It’s a different Iowa team this year, but many of the important pieces from last season’s 12-2 squad still remain intact.
Beathard is still the quarterback, and he’s one of the best at his position in the Big Ten. Canzeri is gone, but the Hawkeyes have a great one-two punch in the backfield of LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley.
Last weekend against Miami (Ohio), Wadley led the Hawkeyes with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Daniels Jr. rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes have one of the best cornerbacks in the nation — Desmond King — and a number of other important returning starters from last year’s squad: defensive linemen Nathan Bazata and Jaleel Johnson; linebackers Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann; and defensive backs Greg Mabin and Miles Taylor.
Desmond King told @MarkEmmert he will shadow Allen Lazard this week.
— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) September 6, 2016
This is an Iowa team that has been built to compete for the Big Ten title and even the College Football Playoff.
Iowa is pursuing its 42nd win in this series, holding a 41-22 advantage over ISU.
What Can The Cyclones Do?
As mentioned above, Iowa State is 0-1, coming off a loss to FCS program Northern Iowa, 25-20. UNI is a formidable FCS program, especially against its in-state rivals. In 2014, the Panthers gave the Hawkeyes quite a scare at Kinnick Stadium, led by running back David Johnson, who is now a star for the Arizona Cardinals.
The key stat of the game from an Iowa perspective: Iowa State gave up 114 rushing yards to Northern Iowa’s quarterback. Beathard is a mobile quarterback for Iowa, so the thought of facing another dual-threat signal-caller has to be concerning for Campbell. If Beathard isn’t going to hurt ISU with his feet, at this point it’s a strong likelihood that the Hawkeyes’ backfield will do some damage.
Iowa State’s offense could also be in for a tough weekend, going up against a unit that was championship worthy last season.
Against UNI, ISU quarterback Joel Lanning threw threw two interceptions. Sophomore running back Mike Warren was held to just 30 yards on 12 carries (2.5 yards per rush).
If that’s what Northern Iowa’s defense was able to do to Iowa State, what are the Hawkeyes capable of?
It may not be pretty for the Cyclones, but don’t tell Kirk Ferentz that. True to his steady nature, he’s not getting ahead of himself.
“It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s home, what happened the week before, all that stuff,” Ferentz told Darren Miller of Hawkeyesports.com. “What it gets down to is who plays the best on that given day. That’s the challenge that’s ahead of us right now.”
The Hawkeyes are trying to play on a national level, and they have a No. 16 AP Poll ranking to back up that thought. Meanwhile, the Cyclones are trying to break in a new coach, learn a new system and simply transition into a new era of ISU football.
It’s a tale of two programs heading into Saturday’s Cy-Hawk Series game. For Iowa, a win is expected, and it’s just another checkmark on the path of CFP aspirations. The Hawkeyes should flourish in this game, but they have to take this game seriously in order for that to happen.