#5 Kansas State @ #25 Iowa State
- Game Time: 11:00
- TV: FSN
- Sirius Channel: 112
- The Spread: Iowa State #7
The Lowdown: After the Iowa State offense stumbled through a 13 point loss against Texas Tech, the Cyclones made the switch at quarterback last week giving Jared Barnett his shot against TCU and the sophomore responded. Barnett threw three touchdown passes, all to Josh Lenz, and gave the Cyclones the spark they had been looking for as ISU pulled out a 37-23 road win.
Iowa State will need the same type of spark from Barnett when they take on Kansas State Saturday at Jack Trice. The Wildcat defense comes in ranked second in the Big 12 surrendering just 15.6 points per game.
If there's been a chink in the Wildcats armor on defense thus far, it's been the inability at times to defend the pass. North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson completed 25 of 28 passes against KSU for 208 yards. Miami also moved the ball through the air (222 yards) as did Oklahoma (298 yards) and Kansas (213 yards).
What does that mean for Iowa State? It means Barnett is going to have to capitalize on his opportunities just as he did against TCU. Barnett hit on first quarter touchdown passes of 51 and 74 yards to Lenz and if can have similar success through the air on Saturday, Iowa State will hang right with the fifth ranked Wildcats all afternoon.
One aspect the Cyclones won't be able to rely on that spurred their victory over TCU is the five turnovers committed by the Horned Frogs. Kansas State simply isn't going to gift wrap anything for the Iowa State defense. The Horned Frogs played with a freshman quarterback making his first ever start and ISU came up with three interceptions as a result. This just in: Collin Klein is no freshman.
That's a nice transition into the Kansas State offense which has been about as efficient can possibly be. They're not going to rack up huge yards, lead the league in scoring, they're simply just going to win games.
Running back John Hubert is second in the Big 12 in rushing averaging 106.4 yards per game. Klein is right behind him checking in at fifth in the league averaging 82 yards per game. As a team, Kansas State is averaging 264.8 yards per game on the ground.
There are very few tricks in the Wildcats offense who instead rely on near perfect execution. Teams know what is coming, yet they still can't stop it.
What makes this matchup so intriguing is that there might not be a defense in the Big 12 better suited to stopping what KSU likes to do than Iowa State. Iowa State features a solid defensive line and the best set of linebackers in the Big 12. Their secondary is sound and often times they don't have to rely on them in the run game given the strength of the front seven. That will be critical against K-State given the Wildcats penchant to toss in a play action pass over the top every so often.
This will be the fourth meeting between Paul Rhoads and Bill Snyder and although Kansas State won all three of the previous games, each was decided by a touchdown or less including last year's 30-23 victory by KSU.
In that game, the Cyclones did about as a good as job of slowing down Klein as can be expected holding him to 86 yards rushing and it took him 26 carries to get there. The game wasn't decided until Hubert broke a 26 yard touchdown run with 4:30 left in the game, and even then it took a defensive stop by the Wildcats with just over a minute remaining to seal the victory.
Iowa State, Keys to the Game:
1. Don't turn the ball over. The Cyclones have struggled in this area which is one of the reasons why Steele Jantz is now holding a clipboard on the sidelines. Barnett has done a much better job of taking care of the ball and that's a facet of his game that will never be more important than it is on Saturday.
2. Sustain drives. Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham described KSU's defense this week as a "bend but don't break" defense. What he's saying is that Kansas State is willing to give up some yards underneath to take away the big play figuring a team will beat itself eventually. What ISU has to do is stay patient, take the yards, and convert them into points when they get in the redzone.
Kansas State, Keys to the Game:
1. Get the passing game rolling. Few teams run the ball more effectively than Kansas State but mark it down, they'll struggle running the ball at times on Saturday. That means Klein will need to move the ball through the air to help keep the Cyclones guessing. That doesn't mean Kansas State has to break out the Air Raid offense, but when they do throw, they need to connect.
2. Pressure Jared Barnett. Kansas State leads the Big 12 with 14 sacks on the year and they'll need to crank up the pressure again on Saturday. Rhoads has praised Barnett's ability to get the ball out on time, but if Kansas State can disrupt that timing, a couple turnovers will likely be the result.
Predicting the unpredictable:
Rain is expected Saturday and a few severe storms may be in the area. Wet conditions on a grass field means this could get sloppy, but given the style both offenses play, it's hard to guess whether or not that gives one team an advantage over another, although if I had to guess, I'd give the slight edge to Iowa State in the bad conditions.
Some have said this is the year that Rhoads gets his first win over Snyder. They have the best defense they've had in years and the offense - outside of the debacle against Texas Tech - has put points on the board. Not to mention winning in Ames is never an easy thing for the visitors.
I'm not seeing it. Why? Simply because Kansas State is the best coached team in the country. Snyder knows the pitfalls ahead and Kansas State rarely loses close games especially when they have equal or better talent which they will on Saturday.
Iowa State will hang around, hang around, and hang around before coming up a field goal short. This will be a dogfight until the final gun with Kansas State breathing a huge sigh of relief on the way back to Manhattan. Kansas State 27 Iowa State 24.