AMES, Iowa - I was wrong. I thought it was Iowa State's year. After losing five times in a row to its in-state rival, the scales looked to tip in its favor, at least on paper.
As we know, that's not how games are decided. You actually have to play them. What dimwit sports writers think is going to happen often is not what goes down.
Such was the case Saturday here at Jack Trice Stadium. A four-point underdog for wagering purposes and picked to fall by the majority of in-state media, the Hawkeyes proved for the sixth time in a row against ISU that it's a Hawkeye State.
After Caleb Shudak pushed a 50-yard field goal attempt wide ride in the first quarter, the crowd was rocking and it felt like the Cyclones might break through. They grabbed a 3-0 lead and were smothering the Iowa offense.
Then Iowa State did what it's done throughout this six-game skid against its rival - turned the ball over. The Cyclones coughed the ball up four times while Iowa continued its streak without a turnover in the series. The Hawkeyes last turnover against ISU came in 2015.
Take nothing away from Iowa. It's won six in a row against the Cyclones by taking advantage of the miscues. And, let's face it, the Hawkeye defense has been nasty for years and nothing has changed in '21 despite the loss of key players off last year's unit.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell acknowledged earlier this week that untimely turnovers throughout his four games in the series told the story. Nothing changed Saturday despite having veterans all over his offense, including quarterback Brock Purdy, who tossed three interceptions.
While Purdy was stumbling, Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras managed the game. He knew playing complementary football meant living to fight another possession. He took care of the football. There was no shame in punting.
He knows, and so do you, that punting is winning.
Iowa managed just 173 yards, including only 67 rushing with 1.7 yards per carry. Petras completed 11 of 21 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. The unit was 4 of 15 on third downs and managed just 11 first downs.
Conversely, the Cyclones racked up 22 first downs and 339 total yards. In between them, the Iowa defense made them pay for every mistake.
Jack Campbell returned a fumble recovery six yards for a touchdown and his linebacker mate, Seth Benson, added an interception. Cornerback Matt Hankins picked off two passes.
Iowa scored 20 points off a turnovers on Saturday. This season, it's notched 37 points off opponent giveaways.
It's not an accident. The Hawkeyes regularly rank among the nation's best in interceptions.
Last week, all-Big Ten quarterback Michael Penix Jr. of Indiana never got comfortable. The Iowa defense appeared in his face all day. Saturday, Purdy looked like a first-year starter instead of ISU's record-holder in most signal-caller categories. Then he was benched.
Despite the confidence in the Cyclones coming into the game, Iowa showed again that this state belongs to it. With expectations sky high. that stung more than ever here in Ames.
Iowa State now must pick up the pieces. If it dwells on being called Little Brother again for another year, its goal of winning the Big 12 will go out the window.
For the Hawkeyes, they're suddenly positioned for a special season. They'll move up in the Top 10 and should stay there for the rest of the month with non-conference games remaining against Kent State and Colorado State at home. They'll be heavily favored.
National talking heads will pump up Iowa as a College Football Playoff contender, especially with Big Ten titan Ohio State falling on Saturday against Oregon at The Shoe.
The Hawkeyes, winners of eight games in a row dating back to last season, clearly stand out as the West Division favorite after two weeks. They must now deal with the dynamic of being the hunted instead of the hunter.
That's not easy and presents challenges. But it sure beats the alternative. Just ask Iowa State.