September 3, 2011; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Shontrelle Johnson (21) during the game against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones defeated the Panthers 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
In a season already full of FCS opponents taking it to their FBS foes, the in-state rivalry between Northern Iowa and Iowa State shouldn’t be lightly by Cyclones fans.
This won’t be Western Illinois last year, who the Panthers actually played better against in that same season the Cyclones did.
What goes in favor of the Cyclones is a packed Jack Trice Stadium, full of fans that have been counting down to football season since the men’s basketball team lost on a last-second shot to Ohio State in March Madness.
[Also see: Five keys to victory for ISU against UNI]
Finally, there could be stability at the quarterback position. If Sam Richardson didn’t impress with his smile on the sidelines, he certainly did with his arm. He may have struggled finally facing a pass rush against Tulsa in the bowl game, but he’s been able to work with first-team during the entirety of fall camp.
The Cyclones have better skill players overall on offense to keep the game out of reach, but the key will be if Iowa State can stop the Panthers. David Johnson will be the team’s biggest threat, and freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen looked impressive as a freshman against Wisconsin and Iowa last year.
[Also see: How to watch UNI vs ISU]
Expect some big plays made by UNI during the night, and expect them to be in the game until the end. Iowa State’s defensive line is still young and the secondary will be thoroughly tested. But it won’t take a miracle in the fourth quarter to win the game like two years ago.
ISU will get nearly 200 yards on the ground with the tandem of Shontrelle Johnson and James White, and the established running game will make Richardson more comfortable under center. The Cyclones bleed the clock out in the fourth quarter after grabbing a lead they won’t let go of in the second half.
Final score: Cyclones 27, Panthers 16