AMES, Iowa – The optimism that was building among the Iowa State faithful following its most successful season since 2000 has stalled thanks to a pair of 10-point losses to undefeated teams. The Cyclones hope to get in the win column before jumping back into Big 12 play Saturday when they host Akron.
TV: Noon ET, FSN. LINE: Iowa State -18.5
Iowa State overcame a 2-2 start in 2017 to finish with eight victories and a victory in the Liberty Bowl, but its season opener against FCS foe South Dakota State was canceled, leaving the team in a precarious spot for a couple of rivalry games against Iowa (13-3 loss) and Oklahoma (37-27 loss). The Cyclones also haven't had the benefit of relying on quarterback Kyle Kempt (knee) either, as the sixth-year senior was forced from the loss to the Hawkeyes in the second half and did not play against the Sooners. The Zips' season opener against Nebraska was also canceled due to weather, but they moved to 2-0 for the first time since 1993 after rallying from a 21-3 halftime deficit to stun Northwestern on the road 39-34 last weekend. Akron overcame 15 penalties in the upset by forcing three turnovers, returning each miscue for a touchdown over the final 18-plus minutes of the contest.
ABOUT AKRON (2-0)
Sophomore quarterback Kato Nelson (33-of-54 for 509 yards and five TDs) has thrown for 13 touchdowns versus three interceptions through his first seven career starts and ranks 13th in FBS in passing yards per completion (15.4) this season. He has spread the wealth over the first two games, as Kwadarrius Smith, Jonah Morris and Andre Williams all have seven catches for at least 100 yards. Van Edwards Jr. paces the team with 162 yards rushing and two scores. Junior cornerback Alvin Davis is tied for the FBS lead with three interceptions and was named the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Week after returning two interceptions (97 and 50 yards) for touchdowns in last weekend's upset.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (0-2)
Kempt has already been ruled out this week, paving the way for Zeb Noland to make another start after becoming the third Cyclone quarterback over the past two seasons to throw for more than 300 yards after passing for a career-high 360 yards and two TDs against the Sooners. Hakeem Butler was the beneficiary of both of those scoring tosses (51 and 57 yards) en route to 174 yards receiving - the 10th-highest single-game total in school history. The 6-6 junior has scored 11 career touchdowns - six of which have covered more than 50 yards - while his 26.1 yards per catch average this season ranks fourth nationally.
1. Iowa State is 25-5 all-time against Mid-American Conference foes, including last season's 41-14 victory over Akron in the first meeting between the schools.
2. The Zips are 10th in FBS in rush defense (81 yards per game), holding opponents to 2.1 yards per carry (sixth best in FBS).
3. All four of Noland's career TD passes have covered at least 35 yards.
PREDICTION: Iowa State 27, Akron 20