IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Iowa had one of its most encouraging starts in years.
Iowa State had avoided yet another opening night embarrassment with a blowout win.
The Cy-Hawk rivalry, derided all offseason for losing its luster, suddenly looked like it might be fun again.
Then tragedy struck, casting a pall over the most talked-about sporting event in the state.
The Hawkeyes and Cyclones were stunned Tuesday by the news that former Iowa star Tyler Sash - a native Iowan whose three-interception game at Iowa State in 2009 was a signature moment in a century-old rivalry - was found dead at just 27.
''To lose one of our own, it's a tough thing,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
But the games must go on - and what a big game it is for the present and future of each program.
Here are some of the key factors to consider when the Cyclones host the Hawkeyes on Saturday:
HUGE IMPLICATIONS: Season-opening wins took a bit of heat off of Ferentz and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. But one of them has to lose Saturday - and neither of them can really afford a defeat against their rival. Ferentz, who hasn't won more than eight games since 2009, will likely again draw the ire of Hawks fans if he suffers a third defeat in four tries to the Cyclones. For Rhoads, a bowl bid seems crucial. A home loss against Iowa would make a postseason bid much tougher to earn.
LINES IN THE SAND: Perhaps the most anticipated 1-on-1 matchup will be Iowa end Drew Ott against emerging Iowa State tackle Jake Campos. Ott was a monster in a 31-14 win over Illinois State, with two sacks, a forced fumble and loads of disruptive plays that didn't make it into the box score. Iowa's new starting tackles, Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, also looked strong against the FCS Redbirds. But Iowa State's defensive line, led by end Dale Pierson, played as well as it has in recent memory last weekend. ''Jake certainly has to be motivated because Ott is one of the absolute best in the country. Jake's going to have his hands full,'' Rhoads said.
CATCHING HEAT: Iowa's top unit might be its secondary. Iowa State's best position group is its wide receivers, so expect the Cyclones to attack the Hawkeyes on the perimeter and hope their talented quartet - which Dondre Daley joined with a brilliant start - can break the game open. But keep an eye on Iowa junior cornerback Desmond King, who is slowly becoming the kind of player that opponents simply avoid throwing at.
RUNNING WILD: There's no question Iowa has the advantage in the running game, with starter LeShun Daniels and change-of-pace Jordan Canzeri combining for 241 yards of total offense last week. Iowa State's three inexperienced backs were up and down as expected, and Rhoads is hoping that the old adage that the most improvement comes between weeks 1 and 2 will apply to that unit. ''He hit a couple of holes hard and fast and picked up a lot of yardage before defenders were able to get to him,'' Rhoads said of Daniels. ''They've got a great 1-2 punch in the backfield.''
START ME UP: Saturday will be just the second road start for Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard, and the first came at Purdue behind a crowd to beaten down to make much of a ruckus. How Beathard handles a tough road environment - and yes, Iowa State fans are always up for the Iowa game, especially with a new bowled-in end zone -will be huge for the Hawkeyes.
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