Leistikow's Iowa football vs. Kent State prediction: Can Hawkeyes get Alex Padilla meaningful snaps?

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Iowa will put a quietly impressive streak on the line Saturday afternoon.

The seventh-ranked Hawkeyes have won 13 consecutive nonconference football games, the second-longest active streak in FBS. When they host Kent State for a 2:40 p.m. kickoff at Kinnick Stadium, it will have been 1,721 days since their last nonconference loss — Jan. 1, 2017, to Florida in the Outback Bowl.

Iowa’s streak began with a 24-3 win against Josh Allen and Wyoming to start the 2017 season and stretched to 13 with last Saturday’s 27-17 road punishing of then-No. 10 Iowa State.

The streak includes three bowl games (beating the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Boston College, the SEC’s Mississippi State and the Pac-12’s USC) and four wins against the Big 12’s Iowa State; one win against FCS Northern Iowa; and five vs. Group of Five opponents.

For perspective, Kirk Ferentz’s previous best nonconference run in his 23-year tenure was eight games (crossing the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons). Hayden Fry’s best nonconference run in 20 years at Iowa was, surprisingly, just six.

Why the recent dominance? Certainly, a lot of credit goes to Phil Parker’s Iowa defense, which during this 13-game binge has held non-Power Five foes to point totals of 3, 14, 7, 14, 14 and 3.

And, hey, it’s worth mentioning that Iowa hasn't lost a nonconference game with Brian Ferentz as offensive coordinator. Ferentz, 38, is 13-0 in non-Big Ten games as OC with a scoring average of 32.1 points.

Those numbers on both sides of the ball speak to good scouting (against non-familiar teams) and good coaching (to implement winning game plans).

Even though Kent State brings a fast-paced offense and turnover-creating defense that presents challenges, recent history suggests the Hawkeyes (favored by three-plus touchdowns) will take care of business. If that happens, Iowa will have recorded its 300th win inside Kinnick Stadium.

Saturday’s possibility of a lopsided outcome also raises another timely topic: Can Iowa get sophomore backup quarterback Alex Padilla his first extended game action?

Saturday's 27-21 win at Iowa State was Kirk Ferentz's 13th straight in nonconference play. He has 170 wins in 23 years as Iowa's coach.

Kirk Ferentz said this summer he would feel comfortable with either Spencer Petras (the unquestioned starter, with eight straight wins) or Padilla running the offense. In the spring, Padilla showed some good zip and accuracy with his right arm and an ability to make off-script plays with his feet.  

While they wouldn’t say this publicly, it’s something coaches should be discussing behind the scenes. They know that Padilla in two seasons as the No. 2 has only 21 mop-up snaps — all with leads of 28-plus points — and three pass attempts (one was complete, for 12 yards) to his name.

Ideally, in one or both of the next two games — vs. Kent State (No. 109 nationally in total defense) and Colorado State (No. 94) — coaches should have a predetermined plan to get Padilla under center before garbage time.

Up 17 points in the third quarter? Give him a series to run the first-team offense against a first-team defense.

Up three scores to start the fourth? Give Padilla the keys for the rest of the game, with Petras and the first-team defense on standby, and let him throw it five to 10 times.

Heck, there's merit to giving Padilla a series in the first half. Given Iowa’s national positioning (No. 5 in the Associated Press poll), there needs to be some big-picture thinking amid the one-game-at-a-time approach. The Hawkeyes do it with offensive linemen all the time, so why not at football's most important position?

If Petras got knocked out with an injury Oct. 1 at Maryland or Oct. 9 vs. Penn State or Oct. 30 at Wisconsin, you wouldn’t want Padilla's first "real" snaps to come in a scrambled situation.

At media day, quarterbacks (from left) Alex Padilla, Spencer Petras and Deuce Hogan are shown.

Iowa wins if …

The defense goes "25 under 25" — its FBS-best 25th straight game allowing under 25 points. Kent State averaged 606.5 yards and 49.5 points in a COVID-shortened 2020 season and brings nine offensive starters back. Iowa's defense needs to stay disciplined to slow a rushing attack that leads the FBS with 360 yards a game. Iowa has scored at least 25 points in eight straight games for the first time in school history. 

Kent State wins if …

The Golden Flashes' best chance is to catch Iowa flat-footed off its rivalry win and race to an early two-score lead, then try to capitalize on a defense that has created nine takeaways in two games. The Hawkeyes have been playing from ahead for most of the last year. Getting behind early would be an unfamiliar feeling. 

Kent State (1-1) at No. 7 Iowa (2-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Time, TV, Tipico Sportsbook line: 2:40 p.m., Big Ten Network, Iowa by 22½ points.

Prediction: Iowa 41, Kent State 17. … Tyler Goodson and Ivory Kelly-Martin combine for 200 yards rushing as the Hawkeyes get their ground game going in Kyler Schott's return.

Friday’s Big Ten game

Maryland (2-0, 0-0) at Illinois (1-2, 1-0)

Time, TV, line: 8 p.m. CT, Fox Sports 1, Maryland by 7½

Prediction: The Illini gave up 556 yards in last week's loss at Virginia. Oof, Bret Bielema. Hawkeye fans will want to size up Maryland, which has been explosive behind Taulia Tagovailoa (48-for-63, 606 yards). Maryland 38, Illinois 20 

Indiana gets another shot at a ranked opponent Saturday against Cincinnati. Tom Allen's Hoosiers lost in Kinnick Stadium (pictured) on Sept. 4 by a 34-6 margin.

Saturday’s other Big Ten games

(All times CT, lines from Tipico Sportsbook)

No. 8 Cincinnati (2-0) at Indiana (1-1)

Time, TV, line: 11 a.m., ESPN, Cincinnati by 3½

Prediction: A good chance for the Hoosiers, who are 8-2 at home since 2019 and wearing retro uniforms to commemorate old Bill Mallory teams, to show their preseason ranking wasn't a fluke after they were dismantled by Iowa. Indiana 27, Cincinnati 24 

More:Why Mason Richman's switch from defensive line to offensive line is paying off for Iowa football

Northern Illinois (1-1) at No. 25 Michigan (2-0)

Time, TV, line: 11 a.m., BTN, Michigan by 26½

Prediction: A year ago, West Des Moines Valley alum Rocky Lombardi helped Michigan State stun Michigan at the Big House. Now, Lombardi returns as NIU's starting QB after transferring. No such upset this time. Michigan 45, Northern Illinois 10

Nebraska (2-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma (2-0)

Time, TV, line: 11 a.m., Fox, Oklahoma by 22½

Prediction: The game Scott Frost didn't want to play has arrived. This is the old rivals' first meeting since the 2010 Big 12 Championship Game. They'll meet again in 2022, 2029 and 2030. Oklahoma 49, Nebraska 21

More:Examining why Iowa football's hyped-up wide receivers are off to a sluggish start

Michigan State (2-0) at Miami of Florida (1-1)

Time, TV, line: 11 a.m., ABC, Miami by 6½

Prediction: Picked to finish last in the Big Ten East, Mel Tucker's Spartans have gained 500-plus yards in their first two games (Northwestern, Youngstown State). Miami 27, Michigan State 25 

Minnesota (1-1) at Colorado (1-1)

Time, TV, line: Noon, Pac-12 Network, Colorado by 2½

Prediction: Trey Potts (178 rushing yards vs. Miami of Ohio) is the Gophers' new workhorse after Mo Ibrahim's season-ending injury. Altitude and Minnesota's bad defense will be key factors. Colorado 28, Minnesota 24

More:Iowa football vs. Kent State: How to watch on TV, stream and listen online

Purdue (2-0) at No. 10 Notre Dame (2-0)

Time, TV, line: 2:30 p.m., NBC, Notre Dame by 7½

Prediction: The Irish, who have two three-point escapes vs. Florida State and Toledo, have won 25 consecutive home games. If he wins Saturday, Brian Kelly will tie Knute Rockne for most wins as Notre Dame coach (105). Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27

Tulsa (0-2) at No. 11 Ohio State (1-1)

Time, TV, line: 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1, Ohio State by 25½

Prediction: Ohio State has allowed more points (118) than any other three-game stretch in school history. Tulsa is coming off an emotional loss to rival Oklahoma State, and the Buckeyes will be looking to take out some frustration after losing to Oregon. Ohio State 56, Tulsa 21

More:Leistikow: 3 reasons why it's too early to worry about the University of Iowa's offense

Delaware (2-0) at Rutgers (2-0)

Time, TV, line: 2:30 p.m., BTN, no line

Prediction: Rutgers under Greg Schiano is on the "Iowa plan." The Scarlet Knights are No. 1 nationally in turnover margin (plus-8), average 50.7 yards per net punt and allow 10.5 points per game. They'll be 3-0 for the first time since 2012. Rutgers 47, Delaware 8 

Northwestern (1-1) at Duke (1-1)

Time, TV, line: 3 p.m., ACC Network, Northwestern by 2½

Prediction: The Wildcats have 48 one-possession wins since the start of the Pat Fitzgerald era (2006), tied with Navy for most in the nation. Add another one Saturday in Durham. Northwestern 21, Duke 17

No. 20 Auburn (2-0) at No. 12 Penn State (2-0)

Time, TV, line: 6:30 p.m., ABC, Penn State by 6½

Prediction: After last week's stop in Ames, ESPN's College GameDay heads to Happy Valley. Penn State aims to improve a pedestrian 6-6 record in "White Out" games at Beaver Stadium against an Auburn team making its first trip to a Big Ten stadium in 90 years. The Big Ten could use a head-to-head win vs. the SEC come playoff-selection time. Penn State 24, Auburn 20

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.