Western Illinois Rush Offense vs. ISU Rush Defense
Leathernecks run a more traditional power offense similar to Iowa’s. They churned up an average of 210 yards on the ground in wins over FCS non-scholarship Butler and Division II Indianapolis. Jake McDonough-led Cyclones, which limited the Hawkeyes to 68 rushing yards, won’t bend so easily. Advantage: ISU
Western Illinois Pass Offense vs. ISU Pass Defense
Completing passes against the Cyclones hasn’t been easy. Neither Tulsa’s Cody Green or Iowa’s James Vandenberg managed to eclipse a 50 percent success rate against Jeremy Reeves and company. Leathernecks quarterback Josh Hudson hasn’t throw it much, but has tossed two interceptions. Advantage: ISU
ISU Rush Offense vs. Western Illinois Rush Defense
It’s possible one or two of the Cyclones’ tailbacks — Shontrelle Johnson, James White, or third-string DeVondrick Nealy — could post 100-yard games. Leathernecks’ defense giving up an average of 126 yards on the ground is a mirage. They ranked 108th out of 120 FCS teams last season against the run. Advantage: ISU
ISU Pass Offense vs. Western Illinois Pass Defense
Cyclones were oh-so-close on a number of deep posts last week against Iowa. Expect Steele Jantz to score a couple big vertical plays in today’s game, but be leery of the Leathernecks’ secondary, which features Martinez Davis, who intercepted two passes last week, including a pick six. Advantage: ISU
ISU punter Kirby Van Der Kamp has placed 10 of his 15 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He might not see much duty today. Cyclone kicker Edwin Arceo strives for more consistency in his kickoffs and field goal mechanics. Western Illinois kicker Pat Smith is 5-for-5 in field goals. Advantage: ISU
Jack Trice Stadium used to welcome big crowd just for “big” games. Not anymore. After selling in excess of 39,000 season tickets (a record), expect 50,000 fans even for the “lesser” games. This would be one of those. Hostile, vocal crowd magnifies talent differential. Advantage: ISU
Western Illinois will win if ... The Cyclones turn the ball over five or more times, drop several passes and miss on double-digit tackles. The Leathernecks would likely needs a defensive touchdown or two, as well. A fast start could lead to hanging around and perhaps some tightness from a heavily-favored ISU team.
ISU will win if ... It plays clean and efficiently and Steele Jantz turns his touchdown-to-interception ratio positive again (it’s 3-3 this season). The Cyclones should have decided advantages up front on both sides of the ball — in skill and strength, if not always weight. If the Cyclones rush for 200-plus yards, look out.
Prediction: ISU 38, Western Illinois 6.
Three things to watch
ISU’s redshirt freshmen on offense. If the game plays out as offshore oddsmakers expect, there should be plenty of DeVondrick Nealy and Quenton Bundrage sightings. Nealy, the third-string tailback, has explosive speed and shifty moves. Bundrage, a wide receiver, has quickness and speed to go over the top.
ISU’s Ernst Brun. The junior college transfer will likely see the field even more this week since Ricky Howard’s out (knee scope) until the Big 12 opener. Brun’s first catch against Tulsa was his first career touchdown. He nearly gathered in another touchdown last week at Iowa and has four catches this season.ISU’s Edwin Arceo. The former Muscatine star will make his third start — and first since kicking himself for missing an extra point at Iowa. His leg is strong, as his near-miss from 57 yards last week showed, but so is his constitution. He said it’s “inexcusable” for a Division I kicker to miss a PAT. How does he respond today?