Well, last week didn't go as planned. I can't sit here and say that I expected to win, but I expected to play better than that. Oh well, the worst is behind us. I can't see many teams making it out of our last three games unscathed, much less winning on the road and taking a top 10 team in the nation down to the wire. Let's hope the emotions of the past few weeks haven't worn us thin, because our homecoming date with the Iowa State Cyclones is a total trap game.
What? Iowa State? Really? Yes, really. If we aren't careful Iowa State can completely and totally shock us, even at home. They dispatched Kansas and Northern Iowa with relative ease, and played Toledo and Iowa, both top 25 teams, very close. Iowa State might get crap flung on them from time to time, but they are definitely no slouch. Sam Richardson is a capable QB, they have a very good receiver who we'll struggle with in Allen Lazard, and they might have found a solid running back in Mike Warren. All the same, slow down, chill out, and let's listen to some delightful tunes that remind us all of Iowa
The Iowa Song - Josh Connor
Where Corn Don't Grow - Travis Tritt
Coming Undone - KoRn
The Corn On The Cob Song - I Have No Idea Who Sings This And Honestly I Don't Want To Know
Iowa State Fair Rap - Eva Anderson
Wanna hear a corny joke? Iowa.
The amount of good jokes in this section is equal to the amount of fun things to do in Iowa.
If there was any more mustard on these uniforms y'all could be easily beaten by Joey Chestnut. I know the thing in Iowa is corn-fed boys, but y'all really went all out with the yellow, huh? After Saturday we're gonna be one step closer to having Ronald McDonald coach his first college football team.
Alright fine all corn-Iowa jokes are bad let's talk some football
OFFENSE: Balanced Spread
Like most teams in the Big XII, ISU runs a spread. Their offense is decidedly average with a few standout players. Allen Lazard, in both size and talent, has the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the Big XII given the right circumstances. Sam Richardson is battle-tested, but it took him until last week to get his first Big XII win. He's a dual threat guy, but in my opinion he's a much bigger threat in the air. Quenton Bundrage is a serviceable wideout, and Mike Warren seems to be having a great season so far as well.
We'll likely see a lot of the ground game, as that's where our current weaknesses lie. This isn't a world-beater offense, but if they can keep drives alive on third downs they could give us trouble. We need our linebackers and Nigel Bethel to play well this week. Lazard is good, but I think Bethel has the speed to keep him contained for the most part. Time will tell us how much our linebackers have improved, but I think that playing ISU is going to be a good respite from playing the likes of Arkansas, Baylor, and TCU.
The Iowa State defense intrigues me. They're 2nd in the Big XII in passing defense, but they haven't really played anyone that airs it out. Time will tell wether it's a skewed statistic or not, but for now i'm leaning towards the ISU secondary being pretty good, but not 2nd in the Big XII good. Dale Pierson is easily the best player in their defense. He has 6 sacks so far this season, and trails only Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State in that category. He doesn't have the traditional size/speed for a pass rushing end, but he gets after it all the same.
This is a defense that I could see giving us a tad bit of trouble. I definitely think that by the simple virtue of being a 3-4 they eliminate or severely wound our chances at screen plays, sweeps, and WR sweeps. I do think we can get a couple of very good inside runs off on this defense though. Expect a heavy dose of DeAndre Washington, and for Patrick Mahomes to challenge the secondary vertically.
WHY I'M WORRIED:
I feel like this is a matchup that we could easily overlook. Iowa State is going to come to play, and if we haven't prepared well, it's a matchup we could struggle in. We already know that we struggle with tall wide receivers, and Allen Lazard is a lite version of Corey Coleman. I'd expect him to beat us at least once this game.
WHY I'M NOT WORRIED:
Iowa State simply doesn't have the speed we have on either side of the ball. They're tenacious, sure, but they don't have the burners we have even without Sadler, Cantrell, and Lauderdale. If we get beat in a footrace this game, something has gone horribly wrong. We also match up well size-wise this week. We looked very small against Baylor last week. That size advantage might swing in our favor in a couple of matchups this week.
HOW WE MATCH UP:
I know we get tired of seeing the read-option make an appearance every week but until we stop it you can bet your bottom dollar we're gonna see it. There's a slight wrinkle this week though: it's not a staple of the ISU offense.
ISU is fairly good at running the ball out of their shotgun-spread look. They don't utilize Sam Richardson as a running threat often, but make no mistake, he absolutely can be. Mike Warren, #2, is the main running threat. He has a little bit of speed to him, and he has above-average vision as a runner. If we're not careful, ISU can control the clock on us.
I'm not so much worried about Iowa State breaking off chunks of yardage as I am them pounding the ball down our throats and controlling the clock. Our defense has proven to me that they can get off the field on third and short every now and then, but they still struggle to do it consistently. I know Mark Mangino is their offensive coordinator, but if he has any brains to him he'll attempt to run the ball more than pass it on Saturday.
ISU's Offense confuses me. Sometimes when I watch them play I wonder what they're trying to accomplish. Let's take the above play for a spin. ISU lines up with doubles to each side. Iowa brings a little bit of a blitz and a D-Line stunt, enough to put a little pressure on Richardson. Richardson finds a tiny window in between... wait... Why are 3 receivers running to the exact same spot? Moreover, how did he complete that while literally half of the defense is in the area? It's things like this that make me look at Iowa State and just say "huh?". It's a great pass, but I can't help but think that against better teams this will never fly. I am not saying that we are one of those better teams, simply observing that it won't.
Allen Lazard is a complete wide receiver. The kid can do it all. He can run slants, he can run posts, he can run fades, but most importantly, he can do this: help his quarterback out while he's scrambling. This is an invaluable trait, and is part of the reason for Sam Richardson's resurgence over the past couple of years. Lazard can get open on dang near anyone in the conference at any time, and when he does he can make the play after the catch. If we don't man him up with Nigel Bethel, in my opinion we've made a mistake. I don't see any other way to cover him. We have to make sure he can't make plays off the scramble. Pete Robertson is fast enough to chase down Sam Richardson when he scrambles, we just need to make sure that Pete gets an honest shot at it.
On defense, Iowa State plays very fundamentally, albeit slowly.
Here, Kansas tried a WR reverse, presumably to light a spark under their woeful offense. The play is made by the defensive tackle shedding a block well, but as we can see, the backside defensive end and linebacker stayed at home. Even if this DT didn't make the play for a huge loss, it wouldn't have gone far due to the backside presence of the defense. ISU attempts to counteract their lack of speed with fundamental play, and it shows on plays like these.
Despite the sack on this play, this play gives me a lot of hope that we can beat ISU consistently through the air. I don't know of any play we have that doesn't have a safety valve in the flats, or at least a blitzbeater route that isn't a running back meandering into the middle flat. The coverage is the exact same coverage that David Gibbs is fond of: Cover 3 Sink. ISU is going to dare us to throw short from the very beginning of the game, and if we take them up on it, I feel confident that the speed of our guys and the subpar tackling of Iowa State can lead to some big gains in the passing game.
ISU isn't as bad as we hoped. That's okay. That just means another challenge in a schedule littered with them. I don't think ISU is as good against the pass as they've shown so far this year, but I do think they'll pose a challenge. Fortunately, we see a defense like ISU's nearly every day in practice. I really think we have the capability to score a bunch of points, and maybe get off the field on a bunch of third downs as well. I'll take Texas Tech in a game that isn't comfortable all the way through, but gets comfortable in the 4th quarter once fatigue and the rowdiness of the Jones sets in.
Texas Tech: 52, Iowa State: 28