LINCOLN — As Nebraska trudged through an uninspiring win over South Alabama, Husker media were keeping close tabs on a former Big 12 foe fixing to blow its season opener.
Iowa State narrowly survived Northern Iowa — 29-26 in triple overtime — and in doing so, had the most profitable win over a FCS team you’ll ever see.
ESPN’s “College GameDay” is coming to town this weekend as a result for the Cy-Hawk Trophy game between Iowa State and Iowa.
Don’t try to pretend you had that on the “GameDay” bingo card. ESPN was almost certainly headed to Syracuse for the Orange’s game against Clemson until another Big Ten team, Maryland, beat Syracuse 63-20.
If the Terrapins could do that, the Tigers could do worse. So Ames, Iowa, became the immediate beneficiary.
Maybe Fred Hoiberg is the special guest picker. Or perhaps Jeff Hornacek. Seneca Wallace? Sage Rosenfels?
No. 19 Iowa has to ignore all the hoopla and try to win its fourth straight game in the series.
“It all kind of gets squeezed down to, when we win, it’s a good thing,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “When we lose, it’s awful. That’s the essence of competition, I guess, and that’s what makes it so interesting and so painful sometimes. We’ve experienced both.”
It’s Ferentz’s 30th game in the Cy-Hawk series, and his 21st as coach.
He lost the first four games of his tenure, including the 36-31 thriller in 2002 that kept Iowa from an undefeated regular season. But he’s won 11 of the past 16 against four Iowa State coaches: Dan McCarney, Gene Chizik, Paul Rhoads and Matt Campbell, who’s yet to beat Iowa.
Campbell, 39, is viewed as a rising star in college football, a guy who could take a bigger, better job right now if he wished. He’d be wise to stay at Iowa State — a well-supported program in a middling Power Five conference — then bust skulls in the Big Ten.
If James Franklin rolled out to USC in the offseason, you’d expect Campbell to get the first phone call from Penn State.
Though he’s an offensive coach, he’s built a defense-first program in an offense-mad league, staging upsets over Oklahoma, TCU and more. Iowa State was the Big 12’s No. 1 scoring defense in 2018. No. 2 in 2017. Ferentz called Iowa State’s defense — coordinated by Jim Tressel disciple Jon Heacock — “unique” and hard to run against.
Iowa’s defense is stingy, too. Through two games, the Hawkeyes are allowing seven points and 185 yards per game. Rutgers had zero points and 125 yards in a 30-0 loss. It’s stunning stuff.
It’s part of why the Hawkeyes are slightly favored — by 2½ points — despite playing on the road. Another reason: Iowa’s Nate Stanley has won more big games than Iowa State’s Brock Purdy.
The 3 p.m. kickoff on FS1 — interesting time and network for the game of the week — will present Husker fans with a perfect appetizer before the 7 p.m. game against Northern Illinois.
Look for a classic, and look for Cyclone fans to be denied their chance to take down the goalposts. My pick: Iowa 24, Iowa State 21
Other Big Ten predictions:
No. 6 Ohio State (2-0) at Indiana (2-0)
11 a.m. (Fox)
Let’s see what you got, Indiana. You’ll have the crowd and your most talented team in a long time. Line: Ohio State by 16½
My pick: Ohio State 42, Indiana 21
Arizona State (2-0) at No. 18 Michigan State (2-0)
3 p.m. (Fox)
My general rule with all Herm Edwards teams: They don’t blow out opponents and they don’t get blown out. The guy can coach. Line: Michigan State by 14
My pick: Michigan State 20, Arizona State 17
Northern Illinois (1-1) at Nebraska (1-1)
7 p.m. (FS1)
Defensive struggle for much of the game, with the potential nod toward a big play or two when Nebraska catches NIU in the wrong blitz. Line: Nebraska by 14
My pick: Nebraska 24, Northern Illinois 16
TCU (1-0) at Purdue (1-1)
6:30 p.m. (BTN)
Gary Patterson got a bye week to scout a one-dimensional Purdue offense. This isn’t a great TCU team, but it’s good enough. Line: TCU by 2
My pick: TCU 25, Purdue 20
Georgia Southern (1-1) at Minnesota (2-0)
2:30 p.m. (BTN)
The Gophers have survived — barely — in wins over South Dakota State and Fresno State. My hunch is they survive GSU, too. But don’t look for a blowout. Line: Minnesota by 15½
My pick: Minnesota 31, Georgia Southern 21
Pittsburgh (1-1) at No. 13 Penn State (2-0)
11 a.m. (ABC)
The Nittany Lions beat Buffalo by 32 but trailed at halftime and got outgained. Strange one. Pitt wants this pretty badly. Line: Penn State by 17 ½
My pick: Penn State 28, Pittsburgh 17
No. 21 Maryland (2-0) at Temple (1-0)
11 a.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Pretty hard to bet against the Terrapins after last week, isn’t it? Temple will put up a better fight than Syracuse, though. Book it. Line: Maryland by 7
My pick: Maryland 27, Temple 24
Eastern Michigan (1-1) at Illinois (2-0)
11 a.m. (BTN)
Upset alert. The Illini will be looking ahead to Nebraska next week and potentially get caught at the tape as a result. Watch this one. Line: Illinois by 7½
My pick: Illinois 20, Eastern Michigan 19
UNLV (1-1) at Northwestern (0-1)
2:30 p.m. (BTN)
UNLV is one of the worst teams in FBS, so the Wildcats skate through with a win. That’s about all they do, though. Line: Northwestern by 18½
My pick: Northwestern 19, UNLV 6
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