Sept. 14 NCAA Football Picks and Preview — No. 19 Iowa (2-0) at Iowa State (1-0)

(Cy-Hawk Trophy photo courtesy Reese Strickland/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Saturday, Sept. 14, Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa, 4 p.m. EDT.

Nineteenth-ranked Iowa looks to maintain state bragging rights for a fifth straight year as it makes the trek west to Ames for its annual matchup with Iowa State.

The Hawkeyes (2-0) have showcased a balanced offense and a solid defense in its fast start, totaling more rushing yards (407) than total yards allowed (370). They had little trouble tearing through Rutgers last Saturday in their Big Ten opener, cruising to a 30-0 win as Nate Stanley threw three touchdown passes.

Stanley has helped Iowa retain the Cy-Hawk trophy each of the last two years, with the better performance coming in Ames in 2017 when he threw for 333 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-41 overtime victory over the Cyclones. The senior signal-caller had a more pedestrian game last year, finishing 16 of 28 for 166 yards in a 13-3 triumph.

Iowa State (1-0) was idle last weekend, which may have been a good thing considering it escaped with a 29-26 triple-overtime victory over FCS foe Northern Iowa on Aug. 31. Brock Purdy engineered a game-tying drive to force overtime and then guided the Cyclones to a pair of touchdowns in the extra periods as he threw for 278 yards and two scores while completing 30 of 41 passes.

He also rescued Iowa State from an embarrassing loss by diving on a fumble the play before Sheldon Croney scored the winning touchdown.

The Cyclones have not had possession of the Cy-Hawk Trophy since a 20-17 victory in 2014 and have dropped three straight at home to the Hawkeyes since a 44-41 triple-overtime triumph in 2011.

Facing Cyclones is old hat for Ferentz, who is concerned about Purdy

This will be Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz’s 30th Iowa-Iowa State game when counting his time as an assistant under Hayden Fry in the 1980s before taking over in 1999. Ferentz is 11-9 against the Cyclones since succeeding Fry and very wary of facing Purdy, who was not under center in last year’s matchup.

“The thing that’s new for us is the quarterback,” Ferentz said of the Cyclones quarterback at his weekly news conference. “We didn’t have the opportunity to face him last year. He certainly has given them a great boost and just has had a tremendous impact on the football team, great leader. You can see that just from watching the tape. They’re an excellent football team.”

Despite pitching a shutout versus Rutgers, injuries on defense are a concern for the Hawkeyes, who have been playing more of a base 4-3 defense in contrast to the 4-2-5 they used for most of last season. Junior Nick Niemann was the extra linebacker in last week’s win, helping to stabilize the front seven.

“That’s kind of been our identity these first couple of weeks,” weakside linebacker Djimon Colbert said Tuesday to Hawk Central regarding the 4-3. “I think having an extra linebacker in there helps stopping the run, and Nick’s been doing a good job in the pass game as well.”

The offense has no such issues as Stanley has made a smooth transition looking for wide receivers as primary targets after having a pair of tight ends — first-round picks T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant — serve in that role in 2018. Ihmir Smith-Massette has already matched his three touchdown catches from last season and has eight receptions for 148 yards in leading a more experienced receiving corps.

“They’re just better players now. Much better players than they were two years ago certainly and even better than last year,” Ferentz said about the position group. “It’s not the same as what you were asking about earlier, but it just kind of affects how you lean, how you bend as a team philosophically.

“Last year our best talent was at the tight end position. So you kind of go where your talent is in some ways, and then everybody else has to fill in around it.”

Cyclones set for ESPN Gameday experience

A true sign of just how far Iowa State football has come under coach Matt Campbell in his three-plus seasons is that ESPN is hosting its traveling studio show College Gameday outside Jack Trice Stadium for the first time.

Whether analyst Lee Corso will don the Cyclone mascot headgear for his pick is yet to be determined, but there is no denying the buzz ahead of this game as Campbell tries to beat Ferentz for the first time in four tries since taking over the program.

“It’s great for our state, great for both programs,” Campbell said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “The big thing for us is you have to communicate about those things. Sometimes, especially with environments like this, you can so easily get lost in the hoopla up to the game and miss the game. That’s a great challenge for our team, especially for our program where we really haven’t been in a lot of these situations.”

In addition to using the bye week to regain his team’s focus after a great escape against the Panthers — a win that dropped them out of the AP Top 25 — the time off has helped some of Iowa State’s key offensive cogs get closer to 100 percent healthy. Center Colin Newell is still recovering from a sprained knee, but the offensive line is one position where Iowa State is stacked in terms of experience.

Purdy is 8-2 since taking over the starting spot last season, but Campbell was as complimentary of Stanley as Ferentz was of his starting QB.

“You’re talking about a veteran quarterback,” Campbell told the Des Moines Register about the Hawkeyes signal-caller. “What you see from Nate, especially in the first two games, is the confidence he’s playing with. You see a veteran senior football player playing with great poise and great confidence.”

Campbell is still waiting for one of his four running backs to separate themselves as the feature back and successor to David Montgomery — now with the Chicago Bears. Johnnie Lang, Croney, and Breece Hall all had at least 10 carries against Northern Iowa as the Cyclones rolled up 185 yards on the ground. Kene Nwangwu had 30 yards on four carries before leaving with a shoulder injury, and Campbell said he is “probable.”

Campbell, the 39-year old coach who will be getting even higher coaching offers in the future, is 0-3 against Iowa. His worst loss with Iowa State came against Iowa in 2016 (42-3). But in 2017, they took the Hawkeyes to overtime, losing by three.

“They know who they are,” Campbell said about Iowa. “They’re not trying to be somebody else. And the reality is, when you know that and you become that, then you know your answers to some of the challenges that maybe come within a game and certainly from season to season.”

Notable Trends

Iowa State is:

  • 0-5 ATS in its last five non-conference games.
  • 0-4 ATS in its last four home games.
  • 0-4 ATS in its last four games following an ATS loss.

Iowa is:

  • 5-1 ATS in its last six non-conference games.
  • 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games.
  • 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games following a straight up win.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Iowa OVER 22 points (-110)

The Hawkeyes have scored 27 or more points in each of their last five trips to Iowa State, and with Stanley having a legitimate game-breaking receiver in Smith-Massette, they should find 23 points in this contest. This number also moved down before kickoff, which adds to the confidence in the Hawkeyes flying above it.

Though not likely to happen, the possibility of these teams getting extra possessions in an overtime contest is another reason to hop on the over.

****4-Star Pick****

Iowa ML (-121)

This has the feel of a single-possession game decided in the fourth quarter, and for such contests, experience matters. Stanley has it, having already won in Ames two years ago, and the expectation is Iowa wins another close one to keep possession of the Cy-Hawk Trophy for another year.

OVER 42.5 points (-110)

Iowa has shown it can beat Iowa State either with offense like it did two years ago or with defense like it did last year. Given the Cyclones wealth of experience on the offensive line and a stable of running backs Campbell can call upon, this game should veer more to the high-scoring matchup from 2017 than last year’s slugfest in 2018 as both teams try to find success on the ground.

Iowa State’s defense, though, is another reason in thinking the over will improve to 4-0-1 in the last five games between the teams in Ames. The good news/bad news is the number has dipped two points getting closer to kickoff but settling on a high-side hook on a touchdown number.

Still, the expectation is for both teams to score at least 20 and carry the over in this one.

***3-Star Picks***

Iowa -0.5 points 1st half (Even)

The Hawkeyes have been ahead at intermission in seven of the last 11 meetings between the teams (7-2-2) and in three of their last five trips to Ames (3-1-1). The feeling is Stanley’s experience in this rivalry is going to play a pivotal role for Iowa, which makes the road team the pick to be ahead after two quarters.

OVER 20.5 points 1st half (-115)

The low-side hook on a touchdown number makes a convincing argument for the over, along with Stanley’s experience for Iowa and Iowa State’s armada of running backs. There is some concern about the Cyclones given they have been held to 10 or less in the first half in six of the last seven meetings, but with neither team likely to get much separation, a 13-10 or 14-13 first half feels like a likely outcome.




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