Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football: 3 Things to know about Iowa

Hawkeyes feature NFL prospects on both lines

Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs touches the helmet on the Nile Kinnick statue as the team arrives at Kinnick Stadium for their Big Ten Conference football opener against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs touches the helmet on the Nile Kinnick statue as the team arrives at Kinnick Stadium for their Big Ten Conference football opener against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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AMES — Ahead of Saturday’s Cy-Hawk game at Jack Trice Stadium, here are 3 Things Iowa State fans should know about the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 19 in this week’s AP Poll after two dominating wins and Iowa State is unranked after a close win against Northern Iowa and a bye week.

1. O-Line U

Iowa produces NFL-grade offensive linemen at a rate few other schools in the country can match.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has built his reputation on his offensive lines and 2019 is no different.

The Hawkeyes have two surefire NFL Draft picks on their offensive line this season in Tristian Wirfs and Alaric Jackson.

Jackson hurt his knee in the Hawkeyes’ first game of the season and will be out against Iowa State.

Wirfs and Jackson were expected to bookend Iowa’s offensive line at the tackle spots. But since Jackson’s injury, Ferentz has been shuffling around with the offensive line trying to find the right fit for his players.

Last week in Iowa’s 30-0 drubbing of Rutgers, Wirfs split series at both tackle spots — he spent six series at left tackle and five on the right side.

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In total, eight offensive linemen saw the field against Rutgers. Against Miami (Ohio) in Iowa’s season-opener, nine different offensive linemen saw the field. Ferentz has used six offensive line combinations through the first two weeks.

With that much mixing and matching to find the right combination and with Ferentz’s history at the offensive line position, it would be nave to expect anything less than an elite, cohesive offensive line against Iowa State’s defensive line, arguably the Cyclones’ best position group.

That battle in the trenches will be fun to watch for both sides.

2. A.J. Epenesa

A.J. Epenesa has earned the right to have an entire section dedicated to him and his accomplishments.

He’s a projected top-10 NFL Draft pick with the size, skills and stats to prove it.

Last season, he led the Big Ten and was 12th nationally in sacks with 10.5, he was second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally with four forced fumbles and he ranked fourth in the conference in tackles for loss with 16.5 even with a limited snap count of 412.

This season, he’s seeing much more of the field and he’s just as much of a terror. Miami (Ohio) sent a double team his way whenever it could, and Rutgers tried its best to contain him.

Epenesa only has one sack so far this season, which was against Rutgers. But he was also terrorizing the Scarlet Knight backfield even when he wasn’t getting to the quarterback. On top of his one sack, he had four quarterback hurries and three tackles.

3. Iowa’s GameDay history

I’m pretty sure Gov. Kim Reynolds enacted an emergency law that states you can’t write a story about Iowa or Iowa State football this week without mentioning ESPN College GameDay coming to Ames. OK, maybe that’s not true, but it feels like it.

Anyway, Iowa State has no history with hosting GameDay, but Iowa does.

GameDay went to Iowa City in 1996 and 2006 — in each game, Iowa was playing Ohio State.

The Hawkeyes lost both games.

In 1996, No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 20 Iowa 38-26 and in 2006, No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 13 Iowa 38-17.

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In addition, GameDay was at Iowa’s 31-20 loss to Northwestern in 1995, 23-7 loss at Ohio State in 1997, 21-10 win at Penn State in 2009, the Hawkeyes’ 16-13 loss to Michigan State in the 2015 Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis and the 2016 Rose Bowl defeat to Stanford.

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