Good Cop — Sam Stuve
There’s a lot of hype around this Iowa State football team, and for good reason. Iowa State returns the entire starting five from the offensive line from last season, sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy is back and the Cyclones have four defensive players that are on the All-Big 12 preseason team.
However, the Cyclones cannot afford to overlook Northern Iowa. The Panthers are arguably one of the best teams in the Missouri Valley Conference and are the 18th ranked team in the Football Championship Series.
The big question mark for the Panthers is how well can redshirt freshman Will McElvain can perform against the Cyclones.
McElvain is a Des Moines native who was a star at Des Moines Lincoln High School. The Cyclones know a lot about him.
For Iowa State, the biggest thing to watch for is how the skill players contribute on offense.
The Cyclones' return senior Deshaunte Jones and sophomore Tarique Milton from last season and Arkansas transfer La’Michael Pettway will be the other starting receiver.
With Purdy throwing the ball, Iowa State should be able to run away with the game in the second half.
Running back will be a position to watch as freshmen Breece Hall and Jirehl Brock, sophomore Johnnie Lang, junior Kene Nwangwu and senior Sheldon Croney Jr. all are quality starting running backs. For the opening game, Croney Jr. is listed as the starter.
Northern Iowa will get a couple of scores but Iowa State should win this game handly.
Prediction: Iowa State 38, Northern Iowa 14
Bad Cop — Jack Shover
In Matt Campbell’s tenure at Iowa State, the team is 1-1 against in-state opponent Northern Iowa after not playing the Panthers last season.
Despite a new quarterback and the Panthers having to replace their top running back, Iowa State also has a host of question marks on the offensive side of the ball.
Brock Purdy was good in his freshman year, but against Northern Iowa -- expect Purdy to struggle as he learns to play without the safety nets that were Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery. Northern Iowa could very well be the beginning of a sophomore slump for Purdy, which would severely handicap the Cyclone offense.
With five players in contention for the starting running back spot, lookout for any one of the players to take themselves out of contention with a costly fumble.
Overall, Iowa State will be sloppy on the offensive side of the ball and give the young Northern Iowa offense plenty of opportunities to score. With so many opportunities to score the ball — and a wide open play book — the Panthers will throw the kitchen sink at the Iowa State defense and surely convert in the end zone, but despite a turnover bonanza by Iowa State, the Cyclones will still win narrowly -- albeit horribly.
Prediction: Iowa State 16, Northern Iowa 14