Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Northern Iowa Panthers.
Saturday, September 2; 1:00 p.m. CT; Jack Trice Stadium; Ames, Iowa
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network (John Walters, Eric Heft, Ryan Harklau)
2022 Records: Iowa State 4-8 (Big 12) Northern Iowa 6-5 (MVFC)
Series History: Iowa State leads, 24-6-3
Last Meeting: Iowa State 16, Northern Iowa: 10 (2021)
Fun Fact: The last two games between these two have been decided by a total of nine points.
I have to say quarterbacks because I fully expect Iowa State to play two of them on Saturday afternoon. With Hunter Dekkers out of the picture, it is now up to Rocco Becht and JJ Kohl to take over and be the guy. The question is that we aren’t sure who will start on Saturday because the depth chart had an or between their two names. Hopefully one of these two guys will emerge as the starter moving forward and Saturday will provide them with a great opportunity to do that.
LB Gerry Vaughn
Gerry has been in the program for a few years and is just one of two senior starters on defense. The Cyclones have lost some great players, but I think Gerry is one of the key leaders on this side of the ball. I know Northern Iowa is going to hit the run game hard, so this defense better buckle up those chinstraps.
QB Theo Day
Day returns after a nice season in 2022. Last year, Theo tossed 26 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions while completing over 65% of his passes. I know that Northern Iowa traditionally is a ground-and-pound kind of team, but keep an eye on Theo because he is capable of getting the job done through the air when called upon.
DL Khristian Boyd
There weren’t many bright spots on defense for UNI last season because they were fairly below average. However, senior defensive lineman Khristian Boyd is healthy and looking to bounce back after a tough year in 2022. While there may not be a bunch of big names on defense for the Panthers, Boyd is a player to keep an eye on.
We all know that the defense will hold their own and that secondary may actually be the best secondary in the entire Big 12. However, what will this offense look like? They really struggled last season in all areas and most importantly they could run the football at all. The Cyclones had the worst rushing offense in the Big 12 and they will need to change that to help out their two new quarterbacks. I know Jaylin Noel is a guy they can count on, but they will need someone to get him the ball to make big plays. Also, the offensive line must improve or else this offense is going to struggle once again.
Theo Day is a good quarterback, but I am not sure if he has the weapons around him to score a bunch on a good Iowa State defense. Offensively, the Panthers are going to have to keep the clock running to stay in the game. I know Iowa State’s offense has a lot of question marks surrounding them, but I also wonder if this defense is good enough to shut them down.
Prediction: Iowa State 24, Northern Iowa: 14
Like some of the other matchups between these two, I expect this game to be close for three quarters. Northern Iowa will likely get a score or two, but this game will fall on the shoulders of this Iowa State offense under new offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase. One of the quarterbacks will need to make plays and the run game should cross the 100-yard mark. In the end, the Cyclones will make a key play or two late in the game to separate themselves.