By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Saturday is the first-ever meeting between the Iowa and Colorado State football teams.
So it begs the question. Who holds the position-by-position advantage on Saturday, at least on paper?
Let’s take a look.
This might be the most underwhelming category. Iowa’s passing game ranks dead last in the Big Ten, but junior quarterback Spencer Petras hasn’t thrown and interception and has led the Hawkeyes to nine consecutive victories, so there’s that. Petras also is completing 58.3% of his passes.
Colorado State’s Todd Centelo has almost 200 more yards passing than Petras, but has completed a lower percentage and has an interception. Hard to argue with no turnovers.
Junior Tyler Goodson leads the Hawkeyes with 307 yards and five touchdowns, three of which came last week against Kent State. Ivory Kelly-Martin has struggled with ball security, but is still the team’s second-leading rusher.
Colorado State’s David Bailey has 259 yards and two touchdowns on 64 carries through three games. His longest rush of the season is 20 yards. Backup Marcus McElroy has two carries for 35 yards on the season.
Iowa does not have a wide receiver with more than 75 yards receiving through three games and Goodson is fourth on the team in receptions. In fact, 22 of Petras’ 49 completions this season have gone to receivers. Junior Tyrone Tracy has struggled to get going, though he did have a decent game against Kent State and had a long reception that was reviewed and overturned.
Colorado State’s Dante Wright has 10 receptions for 146 yards this season, but Colorado State has yet to complete a touchdown pass to a receiver this season.
This one is tough. Junior Sam LaPorta is Iowa’s leading receiver with 13 catches and 169 yards and a touchdown. Luke Lachey has made a couple impressive catches.
On the other side, Colorado State’s Trey McBride leads the nation with 10 receptions per game. On the season, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound McBride has 30 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown. McBride is the top-ranked tight end and the No. 27 overall prospect on Todd McShay’s NFL Draft Big Board. It’s not often Iowa loses the tight end battle, at least on paper.
Advantage: Colorado State
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is arguably the best pound-for-pound offensive lineman in the country. The Hawkeyes also are working senior Kyler Schott back into the rotation and the youth movement has played fairly well.
Colorado State has a plethora of experience with three graduate transfers along its offensive line. Redshirt sophomore Cam Reddy was on the 2020 Rimington Trophy Watch List. Offensive line is always tough on paper, but the Hawkeyes have done their work against a much tougher schedule so far.
Iowa’s defensive line has been a pleasant surprise this season with nine of the team’s 10 sacks, seven of which came against Kent State. The Hawkeyes have consistently rotated eight defensive linemen and have combined for five of Iowa’s 14 pass breakups. Defensive ends Zach VanValkenburg and Joe Evans each have three quarterback hurries.
Colorado State’s Mohamed Kamara has three of the team’s nine sacks. Colorado State is allowing less than four yards per carry to opposing offenses, but Iowa is allowing just 2.5 yards per carry.
Juniors Jack Campbell and Seth Benson have combined for 45 total tackles through three games and sophomore Jestin Jacobs has been a breakout star for the linebackers with 16 tackles and a forced fumble.
Senior Dequan Jackson has a team-leading 29 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Senior Cam’Ron Carter has 14 tackles and a sack.
Senior cornerbacks Matt Hankins and Riley Moss have combined for four of Iowa’s six interceptions. Moss returned both of his for touchdowns in Iowa’s season-opening drubbing of Indiana. The Hawkeyes are allowing less than 200 passing yards per game and safeties Kaevon Merriweather and Jack Koerner have been impactful against the run and the pass.
Colorado State has yet to intercept a pass this season. There’s probably not much more that needs to be said about that.
Iowa’s Caleb Shudak has made 4-of-5 field goals with a long of 51. His only miss was due to a terrible snap and hold. Charlie Jones leads the Big Ten with 25.2 yards per kickoff return and is fourth in the conference in yards per punt return. Sophomore punter Tory Taylor has arguably been Iowa’s MVP this season, averaging 49.7 yards per punt, good for eighth nationally. Taylor also has kicked nine of his 19 punts over 50 yards and dropped eight inside the 20-yard line.
Colorado State kicker Cayden Camper is 6-of-9 on field goals this season. Return specialist Thomas Pannunzio has a 70-yard punt return touchdown this season. Where things get really interesting is at punter. The Rams’ Ryan Stonehouse is the NCAA’s active career leader in punting average and is a two-time All-American. Stonehouse is average 51.9 yards per punt this season.
This one is tough, but Shudak’s accuracy might push Iowa over the top here, though one could argue for it being a tie.