Matchup: Iowa State Cyclones vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
Line: Northern Illinois +4.5, O/U 51
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Time: 7pm, CDT
TV: FSN (check your carrier)
I am so pumped that football season is here! 36 hours from now, the Cyclone and Huskies fans are going to be locked in, rooting their eyeballs out in what is a big game for both teams.
A lot of Cyclone fans are concerned about this game. At first, I wasn't with them. I mean, we typically hear about how we could get beat on the Thursday night opener. There's just some haters. But with Northern Illinois, I'm legitimately concerned.
Really this is a game where Arnaud needs to show whether he's taken the next step and improved. Northern Illinois is a good run stopping defense, and they are going to force ISU to pass the ball. If ISU can pass the ball successfully, it is going to open up the running game.
On the flip side, Northern Illinois runs the ball well, while ISU's front seven is unproven to say the least. Again, this is Northern Illinois forcing ISU to go to an area where they are weak. Can the front seven stop the run? I'm not sure, and we will see.
What this game comes down to, is how much did the Cyclones improve in their weak areas from last year? Northern Illinois last year only won once in games where their opponents passed for over 220 yards, and only lost once in games where they held their opponents to less than 220 passing yards. It's not a lock for victory, but if Arnaud and the receiving corps can get going tomorrow in those passing situations, I like ISU's chances.
This game is huge for Iowa State. If the Cyclones are going to somehow get to 6 wins, this has to be one of them. On one hand, it kind of stinks they play such a tough opponent, and their season in a way could be determined in Week 1. On the other hand, it's fun to see a game in which two teams are close skill-wise, and you don't really know who's going to win. As a football fan, I like seeing teams that are good, instead of the cupcakes we typically see. If you can't beat good teams, you just aren't that good.
I think Iowa State takes this one 20-16 on a late TD drive in the 4th quarter. It's an ugly game, and Cyclones fans get nervous, but the Thursday night crowd and atmosphere will the Cyclones to victory in a must-win game.