AMES, Iowa (AP) — Nothing says more about Iowa State’s place in the national landscape than the fact that it’s playing a Mid-American Conference team on the road this weekend.
It’s a matchup the Cyclones will have to survive if they want to entertain realistic hopes for a bowl bid.
Iowa State (1-1) will face Akron (1-1) on Saturday in its first road game of the season. The trip comes on the heels of a 44-41 overtime loss to Iowa, a game the Cyclones led by 10 points with about 12 minutes left and seven points with less than two minutes left.
“I think you’ll find out a lot about our team next week, how we respond to and handle this loss,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said after the defeat.
The Zips have played in a pair of blowouts, getting drubbed 52-0 at No. 5 Penn State before returning home to pound Arkansas-Pine Bluff 52-3.
Akron was picked to finish fourth in the MAC’s East Division. Iowa State, a 10 1⁄2-point favorite, is in a strong position to move to 2-1 ahead of a Big 12 home opener against Texas on Sept. 28.
But if the Cyclones can’t win away from home, a promising season might be ruined before the end of September yet again.
Here are some of the storylines as Iowa State heads east:
Scouting the Zips
Akron returned 15 starters this fall, led by running back Warren Ball (173 yards, three TDs) and quarterback Thomas Woodson (27 of 44 passing for 237 yards). But evaluating the Zips will be a tough task for Iowa State’s staff considering that they’ve faced one of the nation’s toughest challenges, playing at Penn State, and one of its easiest in hosting Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Campbell has some familiarity with Akron and its coach, Terry Bowden, after spending four years as the coach at rival Toledo.
Iowa State is seeking to score more than 40 points for the third straight game, something it hasn’t done in more than four decades. The Cyclones have also gained more than 400 yards in five straight games dating to last season, tying a school record, and quarterback Jacob Park ranks 12th nationally with 26 completions a game.
In addition to Campbell, Iowa State has seven players from the Buckeye State. Perhaps the best one is sophomore David Montgomery, who has emerged as one of the nation’s most talented running backs. Montgomery is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has three TDs through two games.
Former Akron end Jason Taylor, who went on to star for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL, will be honored during Saturday’s game. Taylor was one of seven people inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s latest class.
He said it
“Details. To me, that’s the difference. … If you’re going to win that game, then you have to be able to make those plays. We’re certainly closer than we were a year ago.” – Campbell after losing to Iowa