2021 WRNL Digital Game Program I: Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa


Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 0

Football is here, and so are the expectations.

By: Patrick Brown

Football. Is. Back.

It’s been said repeatedly — this is, by far, is the most anticipated football season in Iowa State history. But how do the Cyclones stack up against the rest of the league? Here’s how it shakes out, at least before anyone takes the field.

10. Kansas (0-9)

New coach, same expectations. 67 days until basketball season.

This week: vs. South Dakota (0-0)

9. Baylor (2-7 in 2020)

The Bears face an uphill battle in head coach Dave Aranda’s second season at the helm, this after losing seven of their last eight games last year. The sparkling new offense will have a chance to shine, and will have good opportunities to tune up before their first real test on Sept. 25 against — you guessed it — Iowa State.

This week: at Texas State (0-0)

8. Texas Tech (4-6 in 2020)

Matt Wells, Matt Wells, Matt Wells. The talk heading into this season is whether he can pull this group together, but an improvement this year would simply be a boost into mediocrity. The Red Raiders are a collective 8-14 under Wells (5-13 in the Big 12), but with nine starters back on defense, it’s possible we see Tech surprise a few teams. Their first game isn’t an easy one, on the road against Houston in what could be a preview for a future conference game.

This week: at Houston (0-0)

7. Kansas State (4-6 in 2020)

The Wildcats were seemingly on cruise control last season, racing out to a 4-1 record before crashing back down to earth. They lost their last five games (including a 45-0 loss against the Cyclones), though a lot of that can be attributed to missing quarterback Skyler Thompson for most of the season. He’s back, and though Kansas State doesn’t look like a juggernaut, they open with three winnable games, and host Oklahoma and Iowa State in Manhattan on Oct. 2 and Oct. 16, respectively.

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This week: vs. Stanford (0-0) in Arlington, Texas

6. West Virginia (6-4 in 2020)

Honestly, a number of these middle-of-the-pack rankings could go either way, but the Mountaineers have as good of a shot of any to make a little noise in the conference. West Virginia was consistently inconsistent last season, winning two games in a row just once en route to a 5-4 regular season. Their 24-21 win over Army in the Autozone Liberty Bowl was a quality win, but they’re going to need a much more reliable offense to do any noticeable damage this season.

This week: at Maryland (0-0)

5. TCU (6-4 in 2020)

The Horned Frogs looked to be staring a disappointing season square in the face last season, before winning five of their last six games to qualify for the Mercari Texas Bowl against Arkansas (which was ultimately cancelled). All eyes are on quarterback Max Duggan, and we know Gary Patterson almost always has his team ready to play.

This week: vs. Duquesne (0-0)

4. #21 Texas (7-3 in 2020)

The Longhorns’ new coach, Steve Sarkisian, is known as the offense whisperer, so maybe he can help Texas progress to where fans expect them to be. Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson has his sights set on the Heisman Trophy this year, and has potential to help lead the way back into the playoff picture. Their first test is no cupcake, though, so they’ll have to prove themselves right out of the gate.

This week: vs. #23 Louisiana (0-0)

3. Oklahoma State (8-3 in 2020)

The Cowboys enter the season with many questioning its wide receiver corps, and while the offense needs to click early and often to have a shot at catching Iowa State or Oklahoma, their defense will keep them in a lot of ballgames. Keep your eyes on the Pokes.

This week: vs. Missouri State (0-0)

2. #7 Iowa State (9-3 in 2020)

I wanted so badly to give the Cyclones the top spot, but despite the team’s litany of returning experience, they still need to prove they can get over the hump and avoid an early-season letdown, a la Louisiana. Yes, this has the makings to be the most exciting season on record, but it’s up to Campbell and Co. to show they’re ready for a team’s best shot each and every week.

This week: vs. Northern Iowa (0-0)

1. #2 Oklahoma (9-2 in 2020)

I know, I know, and you can let me have it in the comments. I get it. Even I’m mad at myself for this. But hey, the bottom line here is the Sooners are the reigning Big 12 champs, have a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Spencer Rattler, and there’s no reason to think they’re not up to yet another playoff-sized challenge this season. Oklahoma may be primed for an upset at some point, but until that happens, Boomer will sit atop the rankings.

This week: vs. Tulane (0-0)

Current Mood Heading into Week 1:


Betting the Big 12: Week One

We’re back and better than ever!

By: Austin Keeney

WE’RE BACK! This is going to be a fantastic season. Now that we’re back to a somewhat normal place in society, the college football is ready to go. The stadiums are going to be full. Home field advantage is back on the table. We are finally getting out of conference games after a (sort of) gap. That means we’re going to be betting from a place of normalcy. This offseason has been long, and tumultuous.

Texas and Oklahoma’s impending move to the SEC will cast a shadow over the entire season. The Big 12’s future is uncertain. It is totally unfair what the remaining 8 schools are going through. That has been taken into account, especially when those schools hit the road. Now, before we tackle week one, there are a couple of things to know about this column in particular:

1. Last season, the column made money.

I like to point this out as much as possible. This game isn’t easy, but I can promise your mortal Big 12 locks will be coming your way every Thursday during the season (bet with caution, but definitely follow these picks).

2. We’re here to make more money.

The hardest part about betting on Iowa State and the Big 12 as a whole is the emotional connection, both good or bad, to each program. There will be times where Iowa State is a big favorite and the prudent financial move is to take the other side. It’s not personal.

3. We’re going based on mid week lines.

A word of advice I’d give to all gamblers out there would be to jump on a line whenever you like it. Things will change a little bit between now and kickoff.

For reference, as we did a week ago, we will be betting point spreads only, and betting 1.1 units on each game. Assuming -110 odds on each side, we’ll win 1 unit on each victory. For example, a $110 bet on each game will return $100. All lines are being pulled from the DraftKings sportsbook. Now, with all the housekeeping out of the way, it’s time to bet the Big 12 2021!

THE GAMES

South Dakota (0-0) at Kansas (0-0)

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Kickoff: Friday - 6:30pm | TV: ESPN+ | The Line: Kansas -15.5

I love Kansas’ hire of Lance Leipold. South Dakota is not a good FCS team. I know that despite how bad their program is, the new coach will have them fired up to play. This has to be the only all year that we can do this, but GIVE ME KANSAS.

Pick: Kansas -15.5

#2 Oklahoma (0-0) at(?) Tulane (0-0)

Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: ABC | The Line: Oklahoma -31

Oklahoma is tuned up for a run this year. Let’s start with this, Spencer Rattler will be good, but he won’t win the Heisman. His receivers will make him look great. The running game and the defense will control this one. Nothing against Tulane here, but the Sooners should be fine in this spot.

Pick: Oklahoma -31

Stanford (0-0) vs Kansas State (0-0)

Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: FS1 | The Line: Kansas State -3 | Location: JerryWorld in Arlington, TX

Stanford has been down for awhile now, but I’m not sure if their reputation has caught up yet. Skylar Thompson will be at 100% for this one. There might be under 10 total passes thrown and the game will take about an hour and a half to complete with the running clock. I just don’t trust Stanford.

Pick: Kansas State -3

West Virginia (0-0) at Maryland (0-0)

Kickoff: 2:30pm | TV: | The Line: West Virginia -3

This is such a delight of a season opener. West Virginia is getting better under Neal Brown. Jarrett Doege is back. Leddie Brown is back. They should have enough to beat a middling Big Ten team, even on the road.

Pick: West Virginia -3

UNI (0-0) at #7 Iowa State (0-0)

Kickoff: 3:30pm | TV: ABC | The Line: Iowa State -31.5

I’ve been all over the place on this one. Here’s where I landed: UNI isn’t going to score enough points to keep up here. As scary as UNI has been in the past, a team with this much continuity shouldn’t have trouble starting strong.

Pick: Iowa State -31.5

#23 Louisiana-Lafayette (0-0) at #21 Texas (0-0)

Kickoff: 3:30pm | TV: ABC | The Line: Texas -8

Iowa State’s mortal enemy is back to take on another Big 12 heavyweight. The Cajuns are the extremely public underdog, as this line has moved a lot. That’s not moving me off them here. Texas’ first game with Sark won’t go nearly as well as everyone is expecting. Hudson Card is a huge unknown in his first start. Louisiana is returning their coach that everyone expected to bolt for a bigger job (amazing how that works out hmm?) and a bunch of starters. Texas might win this game, but it definitely won’t be by more than a touchdown.

Pick: Louisiana +8

Baylor (0-0) at Texas State (0-0)

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Kickoff: 6:00pm | TV: ABC | The Line: Baylor -14

I have no idea why Baylor is playing this game on the road. This is game number one with a new QB. I actually think Dave Aranda is going to point them in the right direction, but all the signs here should lead to a Baylor blowout, which is why we’re swerving and taking the Sun Belt school in the biggest home game in school history.

Pick: Texas State +14

Texas Tech (0-0) at Houston (0-0)

Kickoff: 6:00pm | TV: ABC | The Line: Texas Tech -2.5

I found a fun little stat that Dana Holgorsen is riding a 5 game winning streak against Texas Tech as a head coach. That’s Matt Campbell-esqe efficiency. Houston has surprisingly been toiling in obscurity with Dana as head coach. Texas Tech has a little hype with Tyler Shough coming in at QB. However, we’re riding with the underdog here. Iowa State beat Shough off the field in the Fiesta Bowl his last time on the field. I know Houston won’t bring anything like that defensively, but this is a great spot for a home dog with a packed stadium.

Pick: Houston +2.5

BEST BET FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY

LSU -2.5 at UCLA

First things first, LSU fans will absolutely PACK the stadium. UCLA looked a little too good last week. We’re essentially picking the game-winner so let’s take the SEC team with all the talent to get off to a strong start.

PROP OF THE WEEK SPONSORED BY SCOTT FROST’S BUYOUT

Empty seats at Jack Trice Stadium for the season opener?

O/U 0.5 - HAMMER THE UNDER

SEASON RECORD: 0-0


Delusional Discord: UNI Week

The WRNL Discord threw out some ragers.

Well I think we could all get behind this first one here

One of the WRNL OGs NormanUnderwood came with a not so popular one right way. Good lord.

This is something I am curious to see happen.

Bold take Farcyde.

Let’s get to some fun Iowa State takes

This one just seems more like a probability than anything

Sorry Oklahoma, you forced this upon yourself

Oh Lord.

If you think you got some good takes or something funny, join us in the Discord next week!


2021 Tailgate Preview I: UNI

Finally.

By: Meg A. Tron

It’s finally time.

It’s been 651 days.

1.78356 years.

21 months, 1 week, and 4 days.

Let’s get back to what we as a fanbase do better than anyone else.

You don’t need me to tell you to get ready. I know you’ve been packed for weeks. I can’t wait to see each and every one of you on Saturday.

Weather

As of this very moment, the weather on Saturday looks like a B+, only downgraded from perfection because of rain chances in the morning. With a high of 78, it will be warm but not blazing hot. Probably a perfect day to paint something on your chest and go shirtless. That’s my plan, anyway.

Food - Walking Tacos

We’re going to be back together for the first time in forever. Let’s go portable so we can walk around and see each other again. Traditionalists can take the Walking Taco route (if you need a glowing review of this culinary delight, just ask Bob Wischusen, who compared the idea to “splitting the atom”). My genius caterer friend dreamed up a variation with Fritos, pulled pork, coleslaw, and spicy barbecue sauce. It’s heaven.

Your imagination is the only limit here. Make your handheld meal and wander the lots to see old friends and meet a few new ones.

Drink - Busch Light

Because some things are meant to be.

Game - Bags

You can call it Cornhole if you want to be wrong. I don’t really care. Evidently, it’s also known as Beanbag Toss (which sounds like it belongs on Bozo’s Grand Prize Game), Hillbilly Horseshoes, Chuck-O, or Tailgate Toss. Official rules from the American Cornhole Association are here, or you can just slap the boards down and play, though someone at your tailgate will invariably have extraneous and slightly irritating rules of their own.

It’s easy, it’s fun, and you’re better at it when you are a little bit buzzed. Tailgate perfection.

Song - “I Won’t Back Down” Tom Petty

I went back and forth on many choices for this category, but it always came back to Tom Petty for me. It’s an “Iowa State” song without being too on the nose, it’s a crowd-pleaser, and it strikes the right balance of pump-up song and poignancy I’m feeling about being back at Jack Trice Stadium.


Defensive & Offensive Players to Watch: Week 1

What to Look for Against UNI

By: Dylan Coon

Iowa State

Offense

This one won’t surprise you, but there’s no need to overthink it. Breece Freakin’ Hall. One of the best running backs in school history behind one of the most cohesive offensive lines, that’s a recipe for success. UNI is solid defensively, as they usually are, but Breece Hall basically is good for 100 yards no matter who’s on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Look for Breece to be the star of the show Saturday.

Defense

JR Singleton was probably the biggest eyebrow raiser of the depth chart release. The redshirt freshman leapfrogged Isaiah Lee for the starting spot at nose tackle. We’ll have a good dosage of both players as the D-Line cycles through their rotations, but I’m excited to see what the coaching staff saw in Singleton to give him the nod. Campbell is known to trust upper classmen, even if the younger guys might show more promise or skill.

That being said, I expect JR Singleton to bring something to the table almost immediately. He’s certainly someone to keep an eye on week one, before he goes up against Iowa’s All-American Tyler Linderbaum in week two.

UNI

Offense 

Will McElvain is no stranger to Jack Trice. In his first career start he pushed Iowa State to triple overtime. If not for a heroic fumble recovery by Brock Purdy, that season might’ve started with a Panther miracle and a Cyclone nightmare.

McElvain is great at improvising on broken plays, or scrambling when his first few reads aren’t there. Iowa State has a history of struggling with scrambling QB’s. Fortunately for Iowa State, UNI’s pass block was a tad shaky last year, and the Cyclones might sack him before he can get out of the pocket.

Defense

Omar Brown is the standout corner for UNI, I expect him to be given the Xavier Hutchinson assignment come Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see how many times Purdy targets Hutchinson, or if he’ll opt to throw to a different weapon with a lesser defender.

When Brown was targeted last year, which wasn’t often, he had five pass break ups leading UNI in that statistic. Brown also had one interception last year in an odd FCS Spring Schedule.


2021 Game I: #7 Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa Football Preview

Iowa State looks to pick up where they left off in January

By: Matthias Schwartzkopf

2021 Game I: #7 Iowa State (0-0, 0-0) vs. University of Northern Iowa (0-0, 0-0 MVC)

Date: 

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

Time: 

3:30 P.M. CST

Location: 

MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Capacity: 

61,500

Line: 

ISU

Television: 

ESPN+/XII Now

Radio: 

Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

UNI Game Notes

SB Nation Website - N/A

It has finally arrived. The 2021 season brings unprecedented excitement and high voltage expectations to Ames this Saturday. Most importantly, it resurrects a packed Jack Trice Stadium for the most important in-state game this season. Fresh off their spring football season (due to COVID), Northern Iowa is in town and promises to be a tricky opponent. Our advice? Let’s table the never-ending realignment talk for one day and simply watch our beloved Cyclones take the field.

When we last left off....

When we last saw this Iowa State team, the Cyclones had bounced back from a less than stellar appearance at the Big 12 Championship and were celebrating their hard-earned PlayStation Fiesta Bowl victory over the Oregon Ducks. Breece Hall rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on the way to a 34-17 victory. The Cyclones absolutely dominated the time of possession and locked down any chance for Oregon to gain momentum. The feather in the helmet? It was the first New Years Six bowl appearance and win in program history for Iowa State. Not a bad way to send off the 2020 season...

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The Cyclones did finish with some holes to plug, though. JaQuan Bailey, Lawrence White and Dylan Soehner were all essential players from the 2020 team that ISU will need to replace. The coaching staff has some options to fill these spots and it will be something to watch unfold over the course of the season.

Northern Iowa Tidbits

Northern Iowa is coming off a spring season due to the FCS moving their season in response to Covid-19. The Panthers were scheduled to play eight games but had one cancellation (again, Covid-19) against South Dakota and finished the season 3-4. The spring season was the first time since 2016 that Northern Iowa finished with a losing record.

Panthers Head Coach Mark Farley commented on last season, “You couldn’t get rhythm in anything. I call last season a disaster. Our guys played hard, they played well, but how we want to run our program and what we are, there was really no consistency to do it because every day there was a new set of rules or something you had to adapt and change to. It’s nobody’s fault, just, from start to finish it was bite your lip, don’t question it, and do the best you can with what you have.”

Northern Iowa was tabbed to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference behind the front runners South Dakota State, North Dakota State, North Dakota, and Southern Illinois. The Panthers return all 11 starts on both sides of the ball. Northern Iowa will go into the season as the 23rd ranked in the Stats Perform FCS Preseason Top 25.

The Series

Iowa State leads the all time series 32-6-3. While there have been three ties in this clash of arguably the two best teams in the state, Iowa State has still won the last two meetings - and the last game went into overtime. We’ve decided to ignore that one.

Iowa State Offense

The Cyclones will return all 11 starters on the offensive side of the ball, highlighted by reigning Big 12 offensive player of the year Breece Hall, and the most decorated quarterback in Iowa State history, Brock Purdy. Additionally Iowa State brings a depth on the offensive line, including proven weapons on the outside, found in Charlie Kolar and Hutchison.

The Cyclones rode the running game heavily in 2021 in large part due to a monster year from Breece Hall, not to mention opposing teams showing an unwillingness to stop him. We expect much the same to be seen again but won’t count out Brock Purdy from filling up the stat sheet. Our Cyclone quarterback is clearly on a mission to show himself and the world that he is an elite quarterback.

First Key to Victory - Control The Line of Scrimmage

Iowa State’s offensive line took a major step forward last season and showed themselves as one of the top offensive lines in the country. The Cyclone maulers finished as a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top offensive line. Collin Newell and Trevor Downing are some of the best lineman in the entire country, both of whom will garner serious NFL considerations after the season. Collectively the Cyclones return all seven (different) starters from 2020 which have 93 starts across the seven of them.

Last year in games where Iowa State dominated, the offensive line was one of the biggest reasons why. The big boys up front leaned on opposing defenses all game long and simply wore. them. down. This is exactly what Matt Campbell wants to happen year in and year out. In 2016, if you had told us that Iowa State’s strength would be the offensive line in only five years, I would have laughed in your face.

Expect Saturday’s game to be one where the Cyclones use that newly found offensive strength to wear down the Northern Iowa front. With the Panthers coming off a spring season, they maybe not be fully back to full health, and ISU can exploit that potential weakness with ease.

Northern Iowa Defense

Despite having a down year in the win column, the Northern Iowa defense is once again solid. The Panthers were the second ranked scoring defensive in the Missouri Valley Conference, allowing around 15 points per game. The unit is led by reigning MVC defensive player of the year and consensus All-American, Jared Brinkman. Brinkman led the Missouri Valley with nine tackles for loss this past spring. Additionally he boasted three quarterback hurries and forced two fumbles.

Brinkman a force to be reckoned with and he isn’t the only one. Northern Iowa’s defensive line coach, Bryce Paup, has shown an ability to develop pass rushers in his two stints at Northern Iowa. Northern Iowa’s defensive line earned top-15 rankings in Paup’s second year of coaching. The defensive line coach also had the Panthers consistently near the top of the FCS is total sacks.

Behind them are a few others who earned All-MVS honors. Linebacker Spencer Cuvelier led the conference in tackles last spring. All-MVC defensive backs Omar Brown and Austin Evans are also returning players for the Panthers.

The Verdict - Iowa State

Iowa State holds the advantage in the trenches despite Northern Iowa having a great defensive lineman in Jared Brinkman. we fully expect Iowa State to come out focused on running it down the Panthers throat and wearing them down - just like the Fiesta Bowl. The Cyclones won’t show much of their hand before the Cy-Hawk game, but their talent and physicality will take over early in the first game of the season.

Iowa State Defense

Iowa State brings back nine of their key contributors from the second ranked Big 12 defense last season, including reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of The Year, Mike Rose. Once again this unit is looking to improve from a year ago, which says a lot considering the Cyclones gave up only 16 total second half points in the final five games of 2020. That’s certainly something to be proud of.

The Cyclones will have to replace JaQuan Bailey, an instrumental part of Iowa State’s defense for the last five years. To help with the transition, Will McDonald and the always reliable Enyi Uwazurike are both back to shore up any shortcomings. Iowa State will be searching for a third pass rusher, but they have some options to fill that void.

The strongest unit on the Iowa State defense is the linebackers, headlined by the afore mentioned Mike Rose. Joining Rose once again are O’rien Vance and Jake Hummel, followed quickly by some intriguing players. Gerry Vaughn and Aric Horne are two players that have the staff excited for the future of the linebacker position following this season. We expect to see them quite often this season, helping to rest the starters.

Iowa State’s secondary is where we find more questions. Anthony Johnson, Isheem Young and Greg Eisworth are all back and will be at the ready for this defense, but we’re scratching our heads on the final safety position and cornerback spot. We assume Villanova transfer JaQuan Amos will land at the final safety spot, while T. J. Tampa, Tayvon Kyle and Datrone Young will find themselves at the other corner position.

Northern Iowa Offense

Northern Iowa’s offense did not have a good spring. Things got off to a rough start when then Offensive Coordinator Ryan Mahaffey left for a job with the Green Bay Packers just one day before the season began. One thing led to another and the Panthers did not have a good season offensively. Northern Iowa only averaged 19 points a game and scored only 13 touchdowns over the course of seven games.

Will McElvain is back for the Panthers. The Des Moines, LA native burst onto the scene in 2019 against Iowa State, throwing for over 228 yards and one touchdown. He went on to finish the 2019 campaign with 20 touchdowns. Last season McElvain only appeared in five games for the Panthers due to COVID-19 quarantine.

Adding to the pile-on, Northern Iowa had one of the worst rushing attacks in all FCS last season. The Panthers could only get just over three yards a carry and just over 100 for each game. Couple this with the uncertainty each week at quarterback, and it has led to some tough times offensively in Cedar Falls.

The Panthers do have an NFL ready offensive lineman back this season. Trevor Penning, the 6’ 7” offensive tackle is on NFL teams’ radars for the 2022 draft. It will certainly make for an interesting matchup if Will McDonald is paired up with him during the game.

Second Key to Victory - Limit The Run Game and Play Extensions

Iowa State found themselves in trouble in 2019 against Northern Iowa when Will McElvain was scrambling and extending the time the defensive backs had to cover. Where McElvain tends to struggle is inside the pocket and going through progressions. Iowa State is much better defensively than they were in 2019 and this will be critical to the success on Saturday.

The second key is Northern Iowa’s limited dimensionality through the air. In years past, UNI has been able to run the ball against Iowa State. They’ve sucked up the clock and kept it close. Iowa State will need to actively prevent the Panthers from gaining momentum on the ground and force them to throw from the pocket.

The Verdict - Iowa State

These are not the same teams they were in 2019. Iowa State’s defense is much more prepared for anything that Northern Iowa may attempt to throw at them. We don’t see a path where the Panthers have improved their run game in any real way and Iowa State is one of the better rushing defenses in the country. If Iowa State completely shuts down any rushing opportunity for the Panthers, we foresee this getting ugly fast - but in ISU’s favor.

Special Teams

Who and how much do we have to pay to get a damn touchback around here? Because just take our money. Enter Andrew Mevis the transfer from Fordham. During his last season played in 2019 (Fordham canceled the 2020 season due to COVID-19) Mevis kicked off 63 times and 50 of those were touchbacks. He and Connor Assalley will handle the kicking duties for Iowa State, but in what fashion? We’ll have our answer Saturday afternoon.

For punting, Corey Dunn is back from injury this season and Cameron Shook is returning with him. One of the two will look to replace Joe Rivera who opted not to take the extra year of eligibility. Dunn struggled during the early part of the 2019 season.

The Verdict- Even

Until Iowa State can kick the ball out of the end zone and the punters can prove they are worthy of the field position battle, Cyclone fans will be on the edge of their seat during special team situations. While we do think the Cyclone special teams will be solid this season, the proof will be on game day.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

This is the biggest game in the state of Iowa this year and the Panthers will most certainly be ready for it. On a scale zero to 10 million Busch Lights consumed on Saturday, we put this game at a about one million Busch Lights chances that ISU comes out on top against the Panthers. Or something like that...

Final Analysis

We all have those Northern Iowa scaries in our brain from performances past, but we feel deep in our end zones that this one will be different. Laser focus and determination to pick up where they left off in the Fiesta Bowl is a huge driving factor - and Matt Campbell is sick of slow starts.

Our prediction for gameplay goes something like this: we won’t be shocked to see Northern Iowa strike first as both Tom Manning and Jon Heacock feel out the Panthers pace and strategy. Then we might spin into spiral mode for a hot minute (looking at you, Matt Nelson). But in the end, we will breathe a Cyclone-powered sigh of relief as Iowa State pulls away big in the second quarter. Ultimately? It’s a Cyclone victory perdition for us.

Third Key To Victory - Foot On The Gas All Four Quarters

Final Score

Iowa State 42

Northern Iowa 10


Letter from the Editor

By: Levi Stevenson

Well, Cyclone fans, we finally made it. After a tremendously long offseason that went from mostly boring to extremely stressful in the blink of an eye, we’re here at game day, which almost seems impossible.

What seems almost equally as impossible is where we find our beloved Iowa State Cyclones - ranked 7th in the country and with a real shot at winning the Big 12 Championship and contending for their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Seriously. How the hell did we get here? We all know the litany of reasons we’ve read and heard over the last few years, but do any of us really know?

However, standing squarely between Iowa State and the start of a historically successful season is Northern Iowa, a longtime thorn in the side of Iowa State and owner of a victory over Matt Campbell in his debut as the head man in Ames.

As you’re all well-aware, UNI is not a program to be trifled with. Mark Farley has essentially created the FCS’s version of Kansas State, a team hell-bent on running the ball until you beg for mercy, and being annoyingly solid and sound on defense.

That said, the Panthers have never seen an Iowa State team like this. Frankly, not a single soul on Earth has. A program built in the mold of dominating in the trenches and playing sound fundamental football, much like the team from Cedar Falls. But not only does Iowa State have the personnel to accomplish and excel at their core goals, but they have All-American talents at multiple skill positions and a dynamic quarterback that’s up for the Perry Ellis Award for Infinite Eligibility at the end of this season.

Even a near-perfect game from UNI could struggle to slow down the Cyclone attack as long as they’re not turning the ball over. There’s simply too much firepower in too many places on the field for the Panthers to deal with for an entire game.

Similarly, Northern Iowa will likely require yet another Herculean effort from Will McElvain to truly challenge the Cyclones in any sort of scoring contest, should the defenses be less than optimal. Even then, the Panthers may simply not have enough.

Make no mistake, this is a team that should be taken seriously, though there will be no accolades afterward for Iowa State doing what it’s supposed to do: win, and win big. It’s probably fair to expect Iowa State to win this game, but how big is big, and how big does it need to be? That’s really in the eye of the beholder, but I personally don’t need anything extravagant. If we see turnover-free football and a solid running game, and I’ll be happy.

Here’s to a successful start to the best season in school history, and a touchback on the first Cyclone kickoff.

It’s go-time.

Iowa State - 37

UNI - 10