Here is everything you need to know about the Cyclones’ upcoming road game in our Iowa vs. Iowa State preview and prediction.
4:00 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
Radio: Iowa State Cyclones Sports Network | Learfield Sports
Fun Fact: Saturday’s game will mark the 66th meeƟ ng in the series. Iowa holds a 43-22 advantage in the series that began with a 16-8 ISU win in 1894. The Hawkeyes are 24-14 all-time in games played in Iowa City. Iowa has won three straight in the series. The last time Iowa won four straight in the series was during a stretch of 15 in a row from 1983-97.
QB Nate Stanley
The junior quarterback is back in the saddle for the Hawkeyes after having a breakout sophomore campaign where he finished the season with 2,437 passing yards and 26 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Stanley had some outstanding moments last season and one of them came against Iowa State, the other against Ohio State, both Iowa wins where Stanley threw five touchdowns in each game. Stanley welcomes back most of his top targets on the outside, so keeping him in check will be key for the Cyclones.
TE Noah Fant
Fant is one of the nation’s top tight ends. He’s a match up nightmare at 6’5”, 240 pounds and has the speed to get by most linebackers. Fant only had three catches for 10 yards in Week 1, but one of those catches was a touchdown grab. Last season, his 11 touchdowns were an Iowa record for a tight end and he averaged 16.5 yards per catch.
DE A.J. Epenesa
The defensive line, specifically the defensive ends, are the strength of this team, and former five-star recruit Epenesa has a lot of pressure to succeed. He finished his freshman season with 4.5 sacks and had one in the season opener against Northern Illinois last week. Epenesa needs to get to ISU quarterback Kyle Kempt early and often or Kempt could have himself a day against the Iowa back seven (more on that below).
QB Kyle Kempt
In last week’s cancelled game against South Dakota State, Kempt did have himself a 50+ touchdown hook up with DeShaunte Jones, alas it won’t count since the game was called off. But it was a potential sign of things to come with this offense having a full offseason to work under Kempt and for the quarterback to work with the rest of the first team, something he has never done in his career at any of his three stops. Iowa has lost a lot of talent and production at linebacker and in the secondary, potentially giving himself ample opportunities to take shots downfield.
WR Hakeem Butler
The former high school basketball standout has the ability to really stretch the field and, with the graduation of Allen Lazard, be the new No. 1 of the Iowa State wide receivers. At 6’5”, he can open up opportunities for himself down the field and for his fellow wide receivers underneath and in the flat. Iowa has a lot of new faces at linebacker and in the secondary, opening up a potentially big afternoon for Butler & Co.
DT Ray Lima
Lima has a chance to be one of the most feared interior linemen in the Big 12 Conference this fall. That needs to begin on Saturday by clogging up the gaps and giving opportunities to his defensive ends and linebackers to make plays off the edge. Iowa had suspended its two starting tackles, Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs for Week 1, but they are both back on the depth chart and listed as starters. To get by those guys and create chaos in the backfield, it all starts with Lima in the middle.
Iowa returns a plethora of talent at wide receiver and tight end as mentioned, but let’s be honest, Iowa football is about running the football. Who is going to do that? They had a few options in younger players like Toren Young, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Mekhl Sargent, who all received at least eight carries in the opener. Getting the running game going to set up Stanley and the passing game will be key. Then, the Hawkeyes have to figure out how to slow down a potentially potent ISU offense. The Hawkeyes are replacing all three starting linebackers from 2017 and the nation’s interceptions leader in Josh Jackson, which should give an advantage to the Cyclones.
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State should be attacking deep and attacking often. Use Butler, DeShaunte Jones, Matt Eaton and the rest of the talent on the outside to challenge Iowa’s new secondary right off the bat. If Iowa’s defensive ends are causing trouble, then utilize David Montgomery on screen passes or get it to your playmakers in the flat. Defensively, Iowa State has great cornerbacks to match up well against Iowa and athletic linebackers in Marcel Spears and Willie Harvey who should be able to keep with Iowa’s star tight end Noah Fant.
Prediction: Iowa State 35, Iowa 31. I believe that Iowa State’s advantages match up better against Iowa’s disadvantages than vice versa. The Cyclones return one of the best defenses in the Big 12 at all three levels and the offense has the explosive weapons who can challenge and beat an Iowa unit that is going to be still working out some kinks this early in the season. I’m optimistic that this Iowa State team can rack up some points against the Hawkeyes and get revenge from last season’s crushing loss.
**Sign up here for our HCS weekly e-mails for a chance to win FREE Heartland College Sports and Big 12 team gear!!**