Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Iowa State's Jack Trice Stadium is dwarfed by Big Ten monoliths in Ann Arbor, State College and Columbus.
But when the Iowa Hawkeyes come calling, it becomes just as raucous, if not more.
A.J. Edds has been to Ames only once, in 2007, when Iowa fell 15-13 to an Iowa State team that won only three games that fall. Though Iowa is the state's flagship football program and Iowa State barely registers on the Big 12's radar, the Hawkeyes have dropped four of their last five games in Ames.
The Cy-Hawk rivalry resumes Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, and Edds knows what will be waiting for him and his Iowa teammates.
"The Iowa State fans show up in force, without a doubt, for this game," the senior linebacker said. "It’s the one game that whenever we’re playing in Ames, the Iowa State fans always seem to take an extra interest in, fighting for the state bragging rights and all of that.
"Ames turns into a very, very hostile atmosphere when we go over there. And we know that."
Surely it couldn't be more inhospitable than Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin?
"It’s as rowdy, if not more, as anywhere else that we play," Edds said. "It gets loud, it gets intense. It definitely compares with some of the most hostile Big Ten stadiums."
If the atmosphere in Ames doesn't get the attention Iowa's players -- and it should -- two other factors will. Iowa State is once again projected to finish last in the Big 12 North, but the Cyclones return a lot of veterans and have found a capable quarterback in junior Austen Arnaud.
Iowa has typically held the Cyclones offense in check, allowing more than 24 points just once in the teams' last 10 meetings. The games themselves are often low scoring -- the teams have combined to score only 50 points in the last two meetings -- but Arnaud could change things this year.
"The last couple years, offensively they’ve had a new scheme in place," Edds said. "They’ve been trying to feel out who the quarterback’s going to be and what they’re going to do. But you look at them now, they know Arnaud’s their quarterback, they know what they’re doing on offense.”
A bigger incentive for Iowa is to jump-start its own play. Most of the recent news from Iowa City hasn't been favorable, as the team lost running back Jewel Hampton to a season-ending knee injury, barely survived the opener against Northern Iowa, tumbled out of the Top 25 and will be without star left tackle Bryan Bulaga (undisclosed ailment) on Saturday.
For a team that faces a brutal Big Ten road schedule, a slip-up in Ames could prove costly.
“A win’s a win, but we’ve got to get it headed back in the right direction with doing things we normally do, make plays that we normally make that we probably didn’t make this past Saturday," Edds said. "Across the board, the defense needs to get better. We need to work on being more consistent. We play well for two or three plays, and then we let our guard down for a bit, and that’s when they convert on third-and-long, something like that."
A statement win against Iowa State, especially with the rushing attack and the offensive line shorthanded, could really boost Iowa's confidence before a tough two-game stretch (Arizona, Penn State).
"It's a huge game for both sides," Edds said, "and we've got to be able to match whatever they bring."