September 8, 2012; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Jarvis West (1) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeye safety Tanner Miller (5) in the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. The Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Iowa State Cyclones football: Game preview and prediction

September 8, 2012; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones players lift the Cy-Hawk trophy after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa State defeated Iowa 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-US PRESS WIRE

It’s been a long two weeks for Iowa State Cyclones fans after one of the worst showings by their football team. Maybe not as bad as anything in the Gene Chizik era, but certainly one of the low points under Paul Rhoads. Now they’ll try to pick up the pieces against their in-state rival that’s facing struggles of their own.

The Iowa Hawkeyes come in after losing to Northern Illinois in Kinnick Stadium, their first home opening loss since 2000. They rebounded by running the ball up and down Missouri State last week in a 28-14 victory, but never showed signs of fully pulling away from the team.

Blowing out opponents isn’t what Iowa does with how their built to run the ball and beat opponents at the line, and both of those have to be successful in order for them to win in Jack Trice Stadium today.

[Also see: What to expect after the best and worst games in ISU/Iowa history]

Iowa’s linebackers will need to show their senior leadership and put pressure on Sam Richardson and shut down any sort of running attack that the Cyclones have. That will put a lot of ease on Jake Rudock, a young quarterback in his debut season that will undoubtedly make some mistakes in this game.

For Iowa State, a lot needs to improve from two weeks ago. Both sides of the ball received strong criticism after not looking focused at the beginning of the game against Northern Iowa and having to fight from behind all game long.

The offensive line will have to find a way to protect Richardson without their center, Tom Farniok. He was missed after leaving the game with an injury and the quarterback had five total sacks in the game.

Richardson can’t run the show, and perhaps finding a solid solution at running back rather than rotating a ton of players would help this team out. Shontrelle Johnson is long due for a breakout game, but if he’s not the answer, than James White can provide a dual-threat with running and catching the ball for the Cyclones. Jeff Woody needs to be in on short yard and goal line situations — he should be able to provide an easy first down every time.

[Also see: Five players to watch]

It doesn’t really matter how bad the Iowa State defense gets. It’s been bad for a long time, and they will give up a ton of yards. All they need to do is bend but not break by giving up easy touchdowns. The focus will be squarely on the offense, and if they can’t produce, this team is doing nothing this season.

Prediction

This won’t be the ugly mess in Iowa a year ago. With both defenses being lackluster, this should be more of an offensive game. Iowa State’s offense will finally click and they’ll establish both phases of the game against a team that struggled to slow down Northern Illinois. Iowa running back Mark Weisman will be the biggest threat to ISU’s defense, and he’ll likely have over 100 yards and a few scores on the day.

If the Cyclones have a lead in the fourth quarter, the pressure will be put squarely on Rudock. He’s made some awful decisions when throwing the ball, and he’ll have to up against a packed crowd that will be incredibly loud to focus. When the Hawkeyes are on their final drive to win the game, he’ll throw a pick that will end the game and seal the Cyclones’ third straight victory in the rivalry.

ISU 34, Iowa 28 (Odds: ISU+2, O47.5)

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