ESPN's 'College GameDay' crew breaks down Iowa Hawkeyes ahead of Cy-Hawk matchup

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

AMES, Ia. — Cardinal and gold peppered the "College GameDay" set Friday afternoon as the Cy-Hawk hype took another step toward Saturday's afternoon kickoff. Many of ESPN's top personnel had arrived in Ames. They took numerous questions on the city and the Cyclones.

Still, a few Hawkeye assessments came through from "GameDay's" Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and David Pollack, who met with the media before heading off to film "College Football Live."

Here's how they see the Hawkeyes and some of their top stars.  

Rece Davis

On how Iowa is thriving

"Defensive line is a big thing. Veteran quarterback — and just some of the adjustments. I was talking to some people at Iowa this week about Game One to Game Two, some of the different things they’re doing with Epenesa to make sure he’s able to use his skills as a pass rusher and he’s not constantly dealing with double teams or chips or running back help. Maybe create a little confusion and let him do what he does best. Their defense hasn’t been tested like it’s going to be (Saturday) because Brock Purdy is legit.

"But I think Iowa’s got a really strong defense that can lead them to a division championship in the Big Ten West — and at the very least, be a huge challenge to Wisconsin in that division."

On the importance of a veteran quarterback

"When you’ve got a guy like Nate Stanley, who might’ve come in the same recruiting class as Nile Kinnick, he’s played a lot of football. And I think that’s a real positive for them."

Desmond Howard

On trying to stop A.J. Epenesa    

"First of all, I wouldn’t run toward him. I would give help. If I did run toward him, I’d run power plays toward him and try to get him before he gets started. Any passing plays, you’ll have to give him extra attention, maybe with a back or a tight end."

On Iowa's 2019 unit   

"A Kirk Ferentz team is going to be consistent, disciplined, tough up front, want to run the ball. It is what it is with the Hawkeyes. It’s not like they brought in a new OC and are going to go into the spread. As far as I’m concerned, that’s who they are. They want to beat you in the trenches. A mistake-free team that wants to force you to make mistakes." 

David Pollack

On what pops with A.J. Epenesa

"Power. I think he’s got stone hands. You watch him hit tackles sometimes, and tackles go 'ow' — just buckle backwards. He’s got some grown-man, some adult in him. He pops people and has got good hands. He got double-teamed Game One, and they started moving him around some and stunting him.

"I know as a defensive end, when they know where you’re at every play, it makes it very easy to double-team and chip and do all that stuff. But to me, the main thing with him is the power."

On what stands out with Nate Stanley

"Smart, very smart. Big-time arm. He’s got a really good offensive line. He can make all the throws. He’s efficient. I think he’s a really, really good quarterback. He’s not like (Brock) Purdy, going to fly around and make people miss and do all kinds of crazy stuff. But he plays within a system really, really well. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes — and I think you can trust him. He’s been starting for a long time.

"When you come into a hostile atmosphere, that’s the kind of guy you want and can lean on — whether it’s third-and-long, whether it’s third-and-short. He’ll get you in the right play. He’s a really good quarterback."        

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.