May 25, 2024

Cyclones preparing for the ultimate measuring stick

Iowa State Cyclones Football

Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletics

Coach Matt Campbell has spent the past five years building Iowa State’s credibility, which is why Saturday’s home clash with Iowa will be the biggest game of his career for many reasons.

If there’s one team that has been a thorn in Campbell’s side, it’s the Hawkeyes. That program located 126 miles east of Ames, with the longest-tenured coach in the FBS, has owned the series as of late. Kirk Ferentz has won five-straight in the rivalry, plus his last four trips to Jack Trice Stadium.

Campbell is trying to change that narrative, considering he’s 0-4 head-to-head against Ferentz. Not being able to renew the rivalry last year only amplified the anticipation among both fan bases. Both teams put up different results in their first games last week.

Iowa manhandled a previously ranked Indiana squad, while Iowa State struggled to put away Northern Iowa. The Cyclones dropped two spots in the AP Poll, while Iowa moved up eight notches. However, the Hawkeyes will be the underdogs in this matchup, so they’ll be coming with a chip on their shoulder. This will be the first time in the storied rivalry that both teams are ranked in the AP top-10, making it the most important Cy-Hawk game ever.

It’s no mystery the pressure is on Campbell to get his team over their Hawkeye hump. Iowa State’s roster is full of veteran players on both sides of the ball, yet none of them has ever experience a victory over Iowa. The last time these two teams met the game was decided on a special teams blunder. On top of that, Iowa band members even accused Iowa State fans of abuse. There were discussions about calling the rivalry off because of the ordeal.

It’s no mystery that the level of hate has surged. The last two games in Ames have been physical dogfights that went down to the wire. So make no mistakes, both teams are on a mission.

The No. 9 Cyclones want to show the College football world that they’re the real deal and last week’s performance was a fluke. The 10th-ranked Hawkeyes have their fans wondering what they can do for an encore after throttling the Hoosiers.

In hindsight, it seems Campbell turned down the Detroit Lions and several of his star players passed up on the NFL, just to return for this moment. After all, it’s the spotlight matchup of the week. And Jack Trice is going to be rocking at the highest level with ESPN College Gameday in the building.

Although there’s no championship on the line and it’s non-conference play, bragging rights is priceless in the state of Iowa. Owning the Cy-Hawk Trophy for a year always brings comfort to the winning team and fans. Both coaches understand what the game means to the state overall and how it’s the biggest sporting event of the year.

There’s going to be NFL talent all over the field for both programs. Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy needs to be aware that Iowa’s secondary is full of ballhawks, and the unit snagged three interceptions last week. Breece Hall is the best running back in the country, but he’ll be going up against one of the stingiest defensive front sevens against the run.

It’ll be shocking if the Cyclones don’t load the box to stop Tyler Goodson and force Spencer Petras to beat them with his arm, which is unproven at this point. This game could very well come down to special teams and field position again.

Campbell has had an amazing journey leading up to this point. And for the country to take him and the Cyclones seriously, he has to snap the five-game losing streak. An Iowa State victory will shatter Iowa’s seven-game winning streak, and likely boost Iowa State into the top-five for the first time in program history.

Regardless of the matter, everyone is about to find out Saturday if Iowa is a Cyclone or Hawkeye state.