Matt Campbell begins his second year at the helm at Iowa State on Saturday when the Cyclones host Northern Iowa. And even though the visiting Panthers are an FCS school coming off a disappointing 5-6 season, Campbell knows all too well that his team can’t take the visitors for granted.
That’s because Northern Iowa has won three of the past five meetings with Iowa State, including a 25-20 thriller last year in Ames that spoiled Campbell’s coaching debut with the Cyclones. Iowa State appeared to turn a corner later in the season when it bounced back for impressive Big 12 wins over Kansas and Texas Tech en route to an overall 3-9 finish. But with a showdown with in-state rival Iowa on deck, Campbell wants to make sure his squad doesn’t sputter out of the gate again. “I don’t want to take any credit from Northern Iowa because they beat us,” Campbell said. “But I think we have certainly matured and continued to grow. That’s why I‘m really excited for this week.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, None. LINE: None
ABOUT NORTHERN IOWA (5-6): The 5-6 finish for the Panthers was only the third season below .500 in the 16-year Mark Farley coaching era. Seventeen starters return including 6-5 junior quarterback Eli Dunne who threw for 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns despite playing in just five games. Senior linebacker Jared Farley is a STATS FCS second team preseason All-American who anchors the defense and had 80 tackles last season.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (3-9): The Cyclones return 10 players on offense and nine on defense who started at least four games last season. Junior Jacob Park returns at quarterback and has a strong supporting cast led by wide receiver Allen Lazard, who has 170 career catches and 2,419 receiving yards, and two talented running backs in junior Mike Warren, who led all freshmen in rushing two years ago with 1,339 yards, and sophomore David Montgomery, who averaged 113.7 yards and 6.1 yards per carry over the final three games last season. The defense is led by defensive backs Kamari Cotton-Moya and Brian Peavy and linebacker Willie Harvey, all of whom had at least 62 tackles and were named to the All-Big 12 team.
1. Lazard has caught a pass in a school-record 35 straight games and needs seven receptions to become Iowa State’s career leader in receptions (176, Todd Blythe).
2. Joel Lanning, who spent his first four years at QB for the Cyclones, has moved to linebacker for his senior season where he is listed as a starter, but he is also likely to see action on offense in short-yardage situations.
3. Iowa State is 21-6-3 all-time against Northern Iowa.
PREDICTION: Iowa State 38, Northern Iowa 17