After a tough loss at home against Iowa in the Cy-Hawk game a week ago, Iowa State football will face off against Sun Belt opponent Louisiana-Monroe to end the non-conference portion of its schedule.
Iowa State comes into the non-conference finale as 19.5 point favorites, making the matchup seem a one-sided affair in favor of the Cyclones. The last time Iowa State was favored by at least 19 points? The season-opener against Northern Iowa, where the Cyclones won by a slim margin in triple-overtime.
Iowa State is not overlooking this opponent by any stretch and they shouldn't based on how the first two games of the Warhawks' season have gone.
Louisiana-Monroe shares a 1-1 record just like Iowa State and has competed right up until the very end in each of its first two games of the season.
The Warhawks showed their skill level the most in their week two matchup against Florida State.
After beating Grambling State 31-9 in week one, the Warhawks walked into Tallahassee and didn't go down quietly. After being down 21-0 at one point, the Warhawks and their experienced and dynamic offense brought the game back and eventually went into overtime tied at 38 against the Seminoles.
The Warhawks would end up losing to the Seminoles 45-44, but showed head coach Matt Campbell how talented and tough it would be when the Cyclones face off against them this Saturday.
Campbell said the Warhawks will present a good challenge to the Cyclones, even going so far to say they might be the most talented team the Cyclones have faced up to this point.
"To be honest with you, they are probably the most talented team we have played from a skill standpoint," Campbell said. "You are talking about a team that has a senior quarterback who has had an outstanding career and has played really well in their first two games.
"They have a tremendous tailback, an offensive line that is all coming back, so offensively, they are as skilled as anyone we have played."
The quarterback and tailback Campbell praised are worthy of it in the first two games of the Warhawks' season.
Senior quarterback Caleb Evans accounted for 273 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in Louisiana-Monroe's 45-44 overtime loss at Florida State two weeks ago.
Evans finished 23-of-38 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 32 yards and two touchdowns.
The offense doesn't stop with Evans, as the Cyclones will have to contain tailback Josh Johnson, who in two games this season has rushed for 289 yards and three touchdowns.
In his first career start, Johnson ran for 126 yards and scored against the Seminoles.
Johnson's second career start will be quite different, as Iowa State will come into this matchup as a Top-10 running defense in the nation.
Through the first two games of the season, the Cyclones are allowing 73 yards per game, while allowing an average of 2.15 yards per rush. The defense has also given up one rushing touchdown.
The Cyclones' defense has a secondary that has gotten major contributors early this season, with Greg Eisworth, Braxton Lewis and Anthony Johnson all having big plays early in the season.
Johnson said the defense has been playing well but until details are corrected, no one will be satisfied.
"We all are harping the details," Johnson said. "We need to be executing on the field more often."
However, the Warhawks come to Ames with a defense that has received just as much attention from Campbell as the offense.
"They have speed, quickness and explosiveness across the board in their front seven," Campbell said. "They almost remind me of our defense at times because they are always moving on the front seven and are creating pressure constantly."
Campbell said Iowa State's offense will need to dictate the pace of the game throughout because of the athleticism of the Warhawk defensive front. If Iowa State is going to win, the offense for the Cyclones has to be in control, Campbell said.
The offensive line for the Cyclones played well against Iowa, with Brock Purdy facing very little pressure from the Hawkeyes. In a loss, however, mistakes can show brighter.
Interior lineman Collin Olson said Iowa State figured out the small mistakes from the Cy-Hawk game as they head into this matchup.
"We broke the film down and now we know that we have depth and we are more comfortable changing our roles," Olson said when it came to Trevor Downing getting his first career start at center against Iowa. "We just need to fix the small techniques in our game."
Brock Purdy and the rest of the offense did not keep the ball against Iowa in the Cy-Hawk game, as Iowa won the time of possession battle by 10 minutes.
Campbell did not specify if he wants to use his running backs more this week to accomplish the goal of dictating the pace, but expects the offense as a whole to take control as a unit.
Tarique Milton produced in big ways for the Cyclones against Iowa, catching eight balls for 144 yards and a touchdown, but wants the offense to still focus on cleaning up small details, which will allow the Cyclones to play at their best every Saturday.
"I want to help everybody get better," Milton said. "It all starts with the trust with the coaches, and then you get your confidence on the field."
Louisiana-Monroe has an 0-11 record against current members of the Big 12 Conference, but the last thing Iowa State needs to do is overlook an opponent like this one with conference play just around the corner.