WHO: Colorado State Rams (1-2)
WHEN: 2:30 PM CT (Saturday, September 25)
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City, IA)
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn, or local listings) | SiriusXM Ch. 195
MOBILE: Fox Sports app
TWITTER: @IowaFBLive | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
WEATHER: sunny, highs in the low 70s
LINE: Iowa -23.5 (TOTAL: 43.5)
Colorado State is 1-2 on the season, having lost by almost 20 at home to South Dakota State and dropped a narrow home game to a very bad Vanderbilt team before going on the road to upset a Toledo team that was neck-and-neck with Notre Dame the week prior. Moreover, they beat the Rockets with relative ease, 22-6. How'd they do it?
Defense, defense, and more defense -- and some strong special teams. After averaging 7.7 yards per play and amassing 441 yards against Norfolk State and 5.6 yards per play and 353 yards against Notre Dame, Toledo's offense mustered just 4.2 yards per play and 295 yards of offense against the Rams -- including just 14 yards on the ground. Six quarterback sacks by Colorado State ate into that total, but Toledo's non-QBs ran for just 30 yards on 15 carries. The CSU run defense has been getting steadily stingier as well -- after allowing 240 yards and four touchdowns (on 7 ypc) against South Dakota State, they limited Vanderbilt to just 104 yards and a touchdown (on 2.8 ypc) before completely stifling Toledo.
Will this be a game where Iowa's passing game needs to carry more of the load on offense? Colorado State has been solid, but not exceptional against the pass so far this season, allowing opponents to complete 61% of their passes for around 248 yards per game. They've conceded four touchdowns and forced no interceptions. Petras and the Iowa passing attack looked a bit more effective against Kent State last week, but they may need to show even more production this week if the running game is unable to find early traction against the CSU front seven.
Colorado State hasn't been particularly exceptional on offense, though they do rank ahead of Iowa in every category (not a particularly hard feat to accomplish at the moment, mind). The Rams are 69th (nice) in yards per game (409) but 99th in yards per play (5.2). They're 50th nationally in run offense, averaging 180 yards per game on 4.4 yards per carry with three touchdowns. SR running back David Bailey is their leading rusher (86 ypg, 4 ypc, 2 TD), though quarterback Todd Centeio has some mobility as well -- he's averaging 49 ypg and 4.7 ypc. Speaking of Centeio, their passing offense hasn't done much of note: 229 ypg, 55% completion. 6.0 ypa, 3 TD, 2 INT. Centeio's favorite target -- by far -- is TE Trey McBride, who has nearly half of their receptions on the year (30 of 64) and a team-high 339 receiving yards (though he has just one of their three touchdown catches so far). He'll be a good test for Iowa's linebackers (or perhaps cash Dane Belton) in coverage.
Colorado State also has solid special teams play, although it was stronger than usual against Toledo. After starting the year just 1/4 on field goals, Cayden Camper made 5/5 (!) field goals against Toledo, including two 40+ kicks (42 and 47 yards). He made 7/13 field goals two seasons ago (he didn't play in 2020), so the 5/5 performance against Toledo may be more of the aberration than the norm for him. Outside of Camper's kicks, CSU's only points against Toledo came on a 70-yard punt return score by Thomas Pannunzio. That was only Pannunzio's third punt return of his career, though. And we're be remiss if we didn't mention three-time (!) reigning Mountain West all-conference punter Ryan Stonehouse, who's averaging a career-best 52 yards per kick this season. Iowa has had a decided advantage at punter in their first three games this season, which has helped them win the field position battle on a regular basis and give Petras and the offense shorter fields to work with, but that may not be easy to do against the Rams with a punter of Stonehouse's countering Tory Taylor's precision bombs.
While Colorado State is 1-2, they do things that could make things difficult for Iowa today. Their run defense appears pretty stout and they have an excellent punter to pin Iowa deep if (when?) Iowa's defense stymies them. They're a more physical team than most of the squads Iowa has played so far this year and they're probably going to make this game an ugly grinder. That said, Iowa's defense is excellent and I don't expect Colorado State to have much success moving the ball on them. But it would not shock me to see the offense struggle to get things on track against the Rams this week, especially if Tyler Goodson & Co. are bottled up in the running game. The Iowa defense has scored in every game so far this season; it would be nice if they could extend that streak again this week. I think we'll get a low-scoring game and one that's closer than we'd like for a while.
IOWA 27, COLORADO STATE 10