There was a time when the Iowa-Iowa State series was not a rivalry. Iowa dominated the Cyclones for a better part of two decades during the Hayden Fry era.
Recently though, times have changed as the Cyclones have moved closer to the Hawkeyes each and every year and no longer go into the game as huge underdogs. And the fact that the game is still being played competitively is good for everyone involved from the coaches to the players and to the fans.
"I think it's great for the entire state," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Especially since we don't have any pro football teams in our state - not minimizing the other teams in the state, there are some great programs - but it's a big game for everybody I think border to border."
Iowa still has a healthy lead in the all-time series at 39-20, but Iowa State has closed the gap. The Cyclones snapped Iowa's three-game win streak last year with a thrilling 44-41, triple-overtime victory. Yet Iowa State has not won inside Kinnick Stadium since 2002.
The Hawkeyes have won 21 of the last 29 games in the series, including the last four contests at Kinnick Stadium. But the rivalry remains competitive because the Cyclones keep the games close and win on their home turf at Jack Trice Stadium.
"In a state where there are no pro sports, it is THE GAME," Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said. "There's great energy, enthusiasm and it's fun to be a part of. We're just trying to do our part in keeping this thing competitive."
Iowa State (1-0) at Iowa (1-0)
Saturday, 2:42 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Rhoads managed to get his first win against the in-state rivals last season in Ames. Steele Jantz threw four TD passes and Jason White sprinted to the corner of the end zone in triple overtime to secure the win for the Cyclones.
It is well-documented that Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg plays much better at home than he does away from Kinnick Stadium. In Iowa's 18-17 narrow win over Northern Illinois on Saturday, Vandenberg completed 21 passes but only ended up with 129 yards as the offense continues to work through the kinks in Greg Davis' new passing system. To beat Iowa State, Vandenberg is going to have to be much better.
"Our passing game wasn't what we wanted it to be, but we'll get better," Ferentz said. "We just have to keep working."
Chances are Vandenberg plays much better at home. He only lost one home game last season during his first year as a starter. And being an Iowa native and playing high school football at Keokuk, Vandenberg knows what the rivalry means to in-state players.
Another Iowa native who enjoys playing against Iowa State every year is junior defensive end Dominic Alvis, who had three tackles and a sack against Northern Illinois last weekend. Alvis, who prepped at Logan-Magnolia, grew up 100 miles closer to Ames than Iowa City but still dons the black and gold for the Hawkeyes.
"We're huge competitors over here, as are they," Alvis said. "It's a trophy game and it's a lot of excitement. We always like to play on our home field. It's a huge advantage playing in Kinnick with our awesome fans."
Alvis is one of the more experienced members of Iowa's rather inexperienced defensive line. He played in last year's game at Jack Trice Stadium and remembers the feeling of coming up short.
"I can tell you, it's one of the worst feelings you can get in football," Alvis said of the loss in 2011. "It feels awesome to win them, and it feels terrible to lose them."
Rhoads and the Cyclones will be playing to a sold-out crowd at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. It will be the first home game for Iowa and the Hawkeyes will be wearing throwback uniforms in honor of the undefeated teams of 1921 and 1922.
"I'd put (ISU's) atmosphere up against any atmosphere, but Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to play," said Rhoads, who admitted to attending more Drake football games growing up than Iowa or Iowa State games. "There is not a ton of room on those sidelines to make adjustments, but one thing we will do is try to simulate the crowd noise with our new speaker system. Hopefully they are working properly that day."
Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson returned from a serious injury last season and rushed for 120 yards in the win against Tulsa last weekend. Johnson knows it will be a tough task to win at Kinnick Stadium.
"You can't hear anything. Guys have to be on their Ps and Qs as far as communication," Johnson said. "It's a tough environment."
There is a new Cy-Hawk Trophy this year after last year's trophy lasted just one season due to constant criticism. Last year's trophy also broke and is no longer in Iowa State's possession.
"I am not so sure that trophy was in good shape when it got to Ames," Rhoads said. "We have no idea where it is now. I know it is not in our possession. We're just proud to be playing for something. It doesn't matter what it looks like. We just want to have it."
The home team in the Cy-Hawk Series game has won seven of the last eight games. Kickoff for Saturday is set for 2:42 p.m. Fans not attending the game in Iowa City can watch the contest on the Big Ten Network.