Down a touchdown, Iowa found itself in frustrating, but not shocking territory heading into the locker room. The Hawkeyes were in need of a second-half rally to avoid dropping its fourth of five Cy-Hawk Trophies.

It wouldn’t have made national news if Iowa lost again to Iowa State. Those games always seem to be close. If Iowa couldn’t get over the hump in the second half that afternoon in Ames, nobody would’ve thought twice about it.

Three touchdowns, one Cy-Hawk Trophy, 11 regular-season wins, one B1G Championship berth and one Rose Bowl appearance later, a lot has changed in a year.

That much is clear.

That was the launching point for CJ Beathard, who rallied the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter and delivered a clutch effort in his second game as a starter. That was when Iowa’s defense rose above mediocrity and established a smash-mouth identity.

Now, Iowa enters Saturday’s showdown as a 15-point favorite to squash its intrastate rival and continue on its path to becoming one of the nation’s top programs. If last year’s game was a turning point, this year’s game should be a distancing point. Iowa has a chance to dismantle Iowa State and move on to bigger and better rivalries.

As much as Iowa fans might not want to admit it, the Cyclones have been competitive with the Hawkeyes for much of the 21st century. Actually, since 1998 — the earliest any current recruit was born — Iowa State holds a 10-8 advantage in the series.

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Before last year, the Cy-Hawk was decided by six points or less in for straight times. Iowa had consecutive double-digit wins vs. ISU once since 1998.

So yeah, it constitutes as competitive. But it doesn’t have to be.

Iowa has all the ammo to fire off one of those long winning streaks like it had from 1984-97. Kirk Ferentz just signed what’s essentially a lifetime deal to stay in Iowa City. But this is about more than a coach. After all, Ferentz technically has a losing record against one of the worst Power Five teams in the country.

It’s about what Iowa can do in recruiting.

The Hawkeyes now have the facilities, the money and the all-important Rose Bowl berth to finally establish some stability and become a yearly B1G West favorite. If that happens, Ferentz won’t have to walk into any living room in the state of Iowa and explain why the Hawkeyes are the premiere program in the state.

RELATED: Iowa opens as 18-point favorite vs. Iowa State

If it were just up to records, frankly, it wouldn’t be close. ISU is 87-132 overall with eight bowl appearances and one top-25 finish since 1998. Iowa, on the other hand, is 132-95 overall with 13 bowl appearances and six top-25 finishes in that stretch.

But for whatever reason, this has always been one of those rivalries in which records don’t matter. Even when Iowa went to the Orange Bowl and ISU won seven games in 2002, it was the Cyclones who prevailed.

That coin-toss perception can all change this year.

Iowa is the team with the All-American defender and the household name at quarterback. Iowa is the team many expect to start off 9-0 for the second straight season. Iowa is the team realistically talking about a return trip to the B1G Championship.

If Iowa truly wants to establish itself as top-tier program, it first must shed this seesaw battle with ISU. This year shouldn’t be another one of those grind-it-out games where a late go-ahead score decides it. It’s no longer acceptable for the Hawkeyes to go into halftime trailing Iowa State by seven.

If that happens this time, it will be national news.