THE BIG GAME: The T-R tells you why Iowa State will win

More times than not, the Iowa State football team is an underdog heading into the Cy-Hawk Series game with in-state rival Iowa.

No matter what happens the previous week, Iowa State rarely gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to its series with the Hawkeyes.

And that is perfectly OK with Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads.

“I think that is the way it should be this year,” admitted Rhoads. “Our lackluster performance against Northern Iowa is an excellent reason why, too.”

The Cyclones were less than impressive against the Panthers, allowing 457 yards of total offense, 228 rushing yards and 6.9 yards per rushing attempt during their 28-20 loss on Aug. 31.

But even though Iowa did not play its best game against lowly FCS foe Missouri State this past weekend, the Hawkeyes are still favored by three points on the road.

“They’ve done a lot of good things in their two games,” said Rhoads of Iowa. “But there is a lot of parity in this game and that is evident this year. We needed the bye week. We needed more improvement and needed to focus on the fundamentals.”

Iowa State will try to push past a disappointing effort against the Panthers and can do so with a win over the Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday.

Eleven new starters took to the field against UNI and seven of those 11 were on the defensive side of the ball. That number grows to nine this weekend when Luke Knott moves into a starting linebacker position and Sam E. Richardson takes over for Charlie Rogers at one of the cornerback spots.

That is what Rhoads and the Cyclones are trying to do to fix the issues that plagued Iowa State on the defensive side of the ball.

Knott, the younger brother of Cyclone icon Jake Knott, played much better during his snaps at linebacker than Week 1 starter Jevohn Miller.

“(Luke) played better against UNI, but the positions on the field are always up for evaluation,” Rhoads said. “Sam is grading out better than Charlie right now. That is why we made the switch there.”

It is hard to say just how the Cyclones will respond after their lackluster performance against Northern Iowa.

The defense is going to have to tackle better against Iowa’s potent rushing attack, and the offense will have to work around quarterback Sam Richardson’s injured ankle and a banged-up offensive line.

“We have to have bigger holes opened up on offense and our linemen have to maintain those holes,” said Rhoads. “We didn’t have opportunities for our skill players to make tacklers miss.

“We need to tackle better on defense. We had eight missed tackles on two of UNI’s touchdown drives. We can’t have that.”

Iowa will be looking for its 600th win as a program. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series with Iowa State, 39-21, but the Cyclones are 9-6 in the past 15.

The Hawkeyes are 2-5 in Ames under Ferentz. And the only two wins have come in seasons when Iowa has gone on to win at least 10 games.

“This week is electric,” Rhoads said. “There is great energy and great emotion and the fact that this game has gone back and forth in recent years makes it a rivalry.

“And it is for a trophy – and that is not overrated. Winning the trophy signifies victory and victory is not overrated. I could play for a lollipop and be extremely excited about it.”

Kick off is set for 5:05 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium.