Leistikow's Week 2 Big Ten picks: Hawkeyes gain an unexpected edge vs. Iowa State
IOWA CITY, Ia. — This has felt more like "Respect Week" than "Hate Week" in the buildup to the 2018 chapter of Iowa vs. Iowa State.
Compliments have flowed both ways.
From Ames to Iowa City: Iowa State coach Matt Campbell lauded the command of Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley and even said it’s been “fun” to see the growth of Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, the Hawkeyes’ impact tight ends.
From Iowa City to Ames: Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz gushed about the well-coached, fundamentally sound defense that the Cyclones will put on Kinnick Stadium’s FieldTurf for Saturday’s 4:05 p.m., Fox-televised matchup.
These are two solid football programs that warrant such mutual respect.
Both schools have the roster talent and coaching to contend for a conference championship in 2018.
But only one can win a game this Saturday.
It’s a fascinating matchup, one that I’ve struggled to get a grasp on over the past week. It’s one of the most unpredictable Cy-Hawk meetings of my lifetime.
In the summertime, I predicted the Cyclones would get payback on Iowa — and break a series three-game losing streak. A big reason for that was because Iowa State has more proven playmakers on offense (David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, for starters), and the Hawkeyes are breaking in a trio of raw linebackers on defense. Plus, the aforementioned Cyclone defense is good.
Circumstances have changed, though.
The cancellation of Iowa State’s opener can’t be dismissed as a factor. Instead of getting the Week 1 kinks out against South Dakota State, the Cyclones’ opener will be in front of a sold-out road stadium. In a game with little margin for error, a team that gets off to a choppy start could dig a deep early hole.
On the Hawkeye side of things, the stuff that looked good in a 33-7 win against Northern Illinois — the interior offensive line, the secondary, the punt-return game — answered some of the biggest offseason question marks.
Maybe the best thing that happened to Iowa was that the passing game was a mess in a 26-point win. Stanley did not play well, perhaps serving as a motivator for the Hawkeyes' leader. I expect the QB who threw for 333 yards and five touchdowns in Ames in 2017 to be sharper in Week 2, especially with the return of two starting offensive tackles.
This has all the makings of a second straight Cy-Hawk classic. I think the oddsmakers have this one about right, with Iowa as a four-point favorite. So ...
I’ve flipped my winner from the summer. The Hawkeyes will get out to a fast start and, behind their powerful defensive line, hang on in a game that’ll end under the Kinnick lights.
Prediction: Iowa 24, Iowa State 21
Now, for the rest of this week's Big Ten picks on a busy Saturday. (Note: No line available on 0-1 Western Illinois at 1-0 Illinois, 6:30 p.m. Big Ten Network.)
New Mexico (1-0) at No. 6 Wisconsin (1-0)
Time, TV: 11 a.m., Big Ten Network
Vegas line: Wisconsin by 35
Prediction: Death, taxes and a salty Badger defense are things just about anyone can count on. Even with a lot of new pieces, Wisconsin kept Western Kentucky to a field goal in the season opener and won, 34-3, despite an overall average performance. Bob Davie’s Lobos have rival New Mexico State on deck, so if this one gets out of control early, New Mexico might be happy to limit its lumps, cash the paycheck and save its starters for next week. Wisconsin 52, New Mexico 10
Western Michigan (0-1) at No. 22 Michigan (0-1)
Time, TV: 11 a.m., Fox Sports 1
Vegas line: Michigan by 28
Prediction: The talented Wolverines didn't look good in a 24-17 loss to Notre Dame. The offensive line struggled, the vaunted defense didn't lock things down and quarterback Shea Patterson was average. Look for Michigan to continue to work through the kinks and face an inspired performance from the in-state Broncos — who gained 621 yards in a Week 1 loss at Syracuse. Michigan 35, Western Michigan 17
Duke (1-0) at Northwestern (1-0)
Time, TV: 11 a.m., ESPNU
Vegas line: Northwestern by 2½
Prediction: This could be seen as a letdown spot for the Wildcats, who had to spend a lot of emotion in capturing last week’s 31-27 win at Purdue in an early Big Ten West matchup. But payback is a good motivator, and Northwestern was embarrassed, 41-14, at Duke a year ago. Northwestern 28, Duke 20
Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Purdue (0-1)
Time, TV: 11 a.m., Big Ten Network
Vegas line: Purdue by 16½
Prediction: Tyler Wiegers finally gets to start against a Big Ten opponent. A backup at Iowa for four years before leaving as a grad transfer, Wiegers was 18-for-21 for 238 yards in Eastern Michigan’s opening rout over Monmouth. The Boilermakers’ defense was unimpressive against Northwestern, but freshman receiver Rondale Moore is a fantastic talent you're just starting to hear about. Purdue 31, Eastern Michigan 20
Rutgers (1-0) at No. 4 Ohio State (1-0)
Time, TV: 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Vegas line: Ohio State by 35
Prediction: The first Big Ten East matchup of the season figures to be a blowout, especially considering Ohio State piled up 77 points in its Week 1 thrashing of Oregon State and Rutgers starts a true freshman quarterback. But I think the Scarlet Knights’ defense is improved … and maybe keeps things interesting for a while. Ohio State 31, Rutgers 10
Colorado (1-0) at Nebraska (0-0)
Time, TV: 2:30 p.m., ABC
Vegas line: Nebraska by 3½
Prediction: Colorado is well-coached and has a quietly impressive quarterback in Steve Montez. And the Buffaloes just whipped rival Colorado State, while Nebraska had its opener against Akron canceled. Still, the Cornhuskers should be poised to make a splash in Scott Frost’s debut. All that pent-up energy in Memorial Stadium will make it tough on the Buffaloes. Nebraska 31, Colorado 20
Maryland (1-0) at Bowling Green (0-1)
Time, TV: 5 p.m., ESPN Plus
Vegas line: Maryland by 16
Prediction: The Terrapins pulled a shocker last week, taking down Texas for the second straight year despite the turmoil surrounding coach D.J. Durkin. This is a potential letdown spot for Maryland, which rolled up an impressive 263 yards rushing (6.1 a carry) against the Longhorns. Maryland 35, Bowling Green 28
Virginia (1-0) at Indiana (1-0)
Time, TV: 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Vegas line: Indiana by 6½
Prediction: Peyton Ramsey looks to be a solid choice at quarterback for Indiana, and Tom Allen had his team ready in a 38-28 win at Florida International. Virginia is seeking payback after losing at home to the Hoosiers, 34-17, a year ago. It’s not basketball season yet, so Indiana should enjoy an edge in its home opener. Indiana 28, Virginia 21
Fresno State (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0)
Time, TV: 6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Vegas line: Minnesota by 2½
Prediction: Fresno State won’t enjoy a plus-7 turnover edge, like it did in its 77-13 opening win against Idaho. But Fresno is a strong Group of Five program that has an experienced senior quarterback in Marcus McMaryion. Minnesota, meanwhile, is relying on a true freshman in Zach Annexstad. Advantage, Bulldogs. Fresno State 27, Minnesota 24
No. 10 Penn State (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
Time, TV: 7 p.m., ABC
Vegas line: Penn State by 9
Prediction: The Nittany Lions survived a dicey opener, beating Appalachian State in overtime. An indication of a flawed Penn State team? Or one that just got caught sleeping? This game might give us the answer. Pitt's win in this 2016 meeting at Heinz Field sabotaged Penn State’s College Football Playoff hopes. Under the lights, Panthers sophomore QB Kenny Pickett will shine. Pittsburgh 31, Penn State 30
No. 13 Michigan State (1-0) at Arizona State (1-0)
Time, TV: 9:45 p.m., ESPN
Vegas line: Michigan State by 6
Prediction: Big Ten meets Pac-12 After Dark. This game kicks off after 10:45 p.m. East Lansing time. And Big Ten teams have notoriously struggled in September in the Arizona desert (see: Iowa, 2004). Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils allowed two yards rushing in their opener. Michigan State should put its best foot forward after an uninspiring Week 1 escape vs. Utah State and a bye on deck. Michigan State 24, Arizona State 23
Last week: 3-5 against the spread (6-2 straight up)
2017 record: 53-41-1 ATS (73-23 SU)
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.