A sneaky big game for the Cyclones tonight right out of the gate as Iowa State tips off their season down in Columbia, Missouri tonight. The Cyclones face a Missouri team that should be an upper-echelon team in the SEC this year. This should not only be a big test for a new-look Cyclones team but also a big opportunity.
We'll preview the Big 12 Conference in the last spot of the Three Count today but I think the conference is going to be pretty competitive. I think it has two great teams (Kansas/West Virginia) and then a bunch of good teams. WIns are going to be hard to come by in the conference season. So if Iowa State has dreams of returning to the NCAA Tournament with their inexperienced group, they will need to pick up some non-conference wins and some signature wins to fill out their tournament resume. This game is as good of an opportunity as they are going to find this year.
Missouri should have a great season this year in the SEC. They also have a young squad with loads of talent, led by Freshmen stud Michael Porter Jr. As Missouri figures things out throughout the season and get into conference play, where wins are a little easier to come by in the SEC, they will rack up some wins. But it may take some time. Which is why if Iowa State can put a W next to Missouri on their schedule it would be the type of win you use to bolster your resume come Tournament Time. The Tigers seem like a team you'd much rather play early in the season compared to late.
I'd think Missouri ends the year in the Top 20 this season, if not higher. That should make them the best non-conference team Iowa State sees this season (It's going to shock you but I'm not that high on Iowa this year). But I don't think the Missouri team the Cyclones see tonight is a Top 20 caliber team yet. So the opportunity to "steal" a qualityy win, on the road as well, is there for the taking.
Not saying the Cyclones will actually get the win but the opportunity is there. I wasn't overly impressed with the Cyclones in their exhibition on Sunday night. Similar to Missouri, they have a lot of work to do on their end as well. And despite Terrence Lewis being reinstated to the team for this game, Cameron Lard still is not. And Hans Brase will still be out with an injury. Should be tough for a young team to travel on the road against a quality opponent and win without their full compliment of players. So it's definitely a tall task for the Cyclones tonight, but also a golden opportunity.
Fairly important football game being played in Madison, Wisconsin tomorrow. The Heartland trophy is on the line and the Badgers have their first true test of the season. Coming into the contest with a 9-0 mark and eyes on the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoffs, the Badgers have back-to-back home games against Iowa and Michigan standing in their way. I have made my thoughts on the University of Iowa and their sports programs fairly clear in the past....so this should be a fun one. Here's my thoughts and prediction for the game.
I think the key stat to look at on Saturday will be Wisconsin turnovers.
Zero Badger turnovers on Saturday and I think they win easily.
One Badger turnover and Wisconsin wins but its close for awhile before the Badgers pull away in the 2nd half.
Two Badger turnovers is when it starts to get dicey for Wisconsin. Two turnovers and the game goes either way.
Three Badger turnovers and Iowa probably extends the road team winning streak in this series to seven on Saturday.
Wisconsin is the better team, playing at home....they should win. And if they play sharp football, they should win. The problem for Wisconsin, however, is they have been unable to play 4 quarters of consistent, solid football all season. Largely in part to turning the ball over too often. Whether that is fumbling from the Running Back position or their Quarterback Alex Hornibrook throwing interceptions that would make even Brett Favre shake his head.
As a Wisconsin fan, it feels like there is a gear there that this Wisconsin team should be able to get to but have been unable to reach so far this season. That could be due to inconsistent play, lack of competition, injuries, or a combination of all those things. But despite being 9-0, I don't think you'll find many Badgers fans that will tell you they've been overly impressed with the Badgers this year.
They have three games to make up for that though.
I do think the injury to their best wide receiver really hurts the Badgers in this game, and for the rest of the season. Quintez Cephus had been having a phenomenal season had emerged as a legitimate threat for the Badgers offense. Losing that weapon could mean Hornibrook may need he has to force the issue more downfield. Which is typically when he has gotten into trouble this season. So that worries me.
I don't have many rules in life. One of them, however, is this: Always Trust Vegas.
Vegas opened up the line for this game at -13.5 for Wisconsin. That's a huge number in a rivalry where games are historically decided by less than a touchdown. I thought the line would open at -8....and I even thought I might be guessing too high with Iowa coming off of their woodshedding of Ohio State last week. But Vegas opened up the line almost a touchdown higher than my initial guess.
Vegas is BEGGING you to take the Hawkeyes here. BEGGING. Which is good news for the Badgers. They have an elite defense this season. And Iowa has scored 10 points in both of their conference road games this season, at Northwestern and at Michigan State. Iowa has played well at home this season. This game isn't at Kinnick though.
Wisconsin 31, Iowa 13.