NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA|
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Rivalry Week does not come until closer to the end of the college football regular season. But one of the better rivalry matchups of the season will take place during Week Two—the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. the No. 9 Iowa State Cyclones.
Both opened their respective seasons with a win last week. However, the Hawkeyes looked a whole lot better against Indiana than the Cyclones did against Northern Iowa. But that has not stopped oddsmakers from making Iowa State the favorite.
Of course, being the favorite and recording a “W” are two different things.
Iowa fans knew they had a solid team heading into last week’s game against Indiana. But they could not have known just how much they would dominate the game—especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Iowa D forced Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. into three interceptions, two of which they returned for touchdowns.
They only allowed Penix to complete less than half of his passes and held the Indiana offense to less than 250 total yards and no touchdowns. However, if you take away the two defensive scores, you get a more accurate picture of the game.
Yes, the defense was stellar, but the offense was anything but. Spencer Petras struggled with his accuracy, much like he did last season. The running game had a respectable day with 158 yards on 32 carries (avg. 4.4 yards/carry). However, nearly half of it came on two carries (a 56-yard run and a 22- yard run).
Petras has the size and arm every coach likes to have in a starting quarterback. But his accuracy and decision-making need to improve. You will not beat too many teams completing less than 50 percent of your passes for well under 200 yards (unless you are rushing for 300+, which the Hawkeyes are not).
On paper, it looks like the Iowa State offense and defense will be a lot tougher than Indiana was. But, then again, the Cyclones struggled against an FCS team last week (Northern Iowa).
Iowa State Cyclones
Barely beating an FCS team like Northern Iowa could be enough for many fans to hit the panic button. If their team, one that started the season ranked inside the top ten, could not handle an FCS squad (and not one of the better ones), how will they fare against Big 12 competition?
However, as easy as it would be to hit the panic button, things are not as bad as they may seem.
For one, it is not unusual for good teams to struggle in their season opener as they get accustomed to new starters and just playing again. Such was the case last season when they got off to a slow start but then bounced back to go 8-1 in conference play and 9-3 overall.
While it wasn’t flashy and impressive, Brock Purdy had a sneaky good game last week. He completed 21 of 26 passes and did not throw an interception. Yes, it would have been nice to record more than just 199 passing yards. But credit Northern Iowa for tackling well.
Defensively, other than Northern Iowa’s first drive, the unit performed well. They had a lot of experience coming back, and it showed. If the offense cannot be more productive against a more challenging Iowa team this week, the defense may need to pitch a shutout for the Cyclones to walk away from this one with a win.
Neither offense was overly impressive in their season opener, and it is hard to say whether that will change in Week Two. There may be a little more of a reason for hope with Brock Purdy than Spencer Petras. But while both have good offensive lines, neither has a great set of skill position players to work with.
This game will be a hard-hitting, gritty defensive battle—which means taking the under is the safest bet. As for picking a winner, it is easier to have more faith in Brock Purdy than Spencer Petras. So, it is not hard to see the Hawkeyes generating more offense and winning this one.
But this will be a close one, which means taking Iowa and the points could be a good bet. Choosing the Hawkeyes to win via the moneyline is not a bad bet, but taking the points is a safer one.