The atmosphere will be nowhere near normal for a season opener with no fans in the stands when No. 23 Iowa State plays host to Louisiana on Saturday in a nonconference game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.
“It will definitely be unique,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.
Nor does it figure to be the kind of typical mismatch one would expect from a contest pitting a Big 12 contender like the Cyclones against a Group of Five conference opponent like the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Campbell has a veteran crew back from a 7-6 team that very easily could have been a 10-game winner in 2019 with three of the losses (Iowa, Baylor, Oklahoma) coming by a combined four points.
Junior quarterback Brock Purdy (3,982 passing yards) leads an offense that ranked second in 2019 in the pass-happy Big 12 with an average of 311.3 yards per game through the air. Running back Breece Hall rushed for 897 yards as a freshman, averaging just over 100 yards a game over his last eight outings.
Louisiana is coming off an 11-3 season and returns three huge weapons — quarterback Levi Lewis and running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas. Lewis passed for 3,050 yards last season while Mitchell rushed for 1,147 yards and Ragas had 820.
The firepower from the Cajuns has Campbell’s attention.
“I think in general this is one of the better offenses in the country this year,” Campbell said. “When you have asenior quarterback as talented as what Levi is and then you’ve got playmakers around him, some veterans in the offensive line, and obviously some veterans at tailback you’re talking about an outstanding football team coming in here.
“It doesn’t really matter what conference or what the situation is. When you look at the talent in general this is a really talented football team.”
Campbell compares Lewis to those in the Big 12 he sees on a regular basis.
“Levi Lewis is a talented as quarterback that we’ve seen just in terms of what he has the ability to do,” Campbell said. “We get to play great quarterback in this conference all the time and he’s certainly as talented as what we face week-in week-out in the Big 12.”
The first meeting between the two teams was set up last month after both lost scheduled opponents because of cancellations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cyclones were scheduled to open last week against South Dakota. The Cajuns were supposed to play McNeese State the same day.
“We’re excited about the opportunity and challenge to play what some people think is one of the frontrunners for the Big 12 Conference,” Louisiana’s Billy Napier said.
–Field Level Media