Iowa State @ Oklahoma State
- Game Time: 11:00
- TV: FX
- Sirius Channel: 117
- The Spread: Oklahoma State -14.5
The Lowdown: There isn't a team in the Big 12 that has been tougher to get a read on through the first half of the season than Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys have been forced to play two quarterbacks after Wes Lunt with down with a knee injury. The defense has been hot and cold. The running game has been great, until it struggled against Kansas. They should of/could of beat Texas which was good, but maybe the Longhorns aren't all they were cracked up to be. They also lost to Arizona by 21 who has since lost three straight.
The simple fact is, this is a team that has the potential to be very good, but at the same time, it wouldn't be surprising to see them struggle over the second half of the season. How's that for sitting on the fence?
There's been no word on who will start at quarterback for the Cowboys against Iowa State. Lunt's knee injury has been improving, but whether he's been able to do enough in practice yet to warrant serious playing time is a bit of an unknown given OSU's new policy of not discussing injuries to any great extent (except sometimes they still do).
“I like to bet, but I don't know whether he's going to play or not,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “I really don't. I'm hopeful that he's capable of playing and give us an option.”
Even if Lunt is able to go this weekend, people can't lose sight of the fact that the kid is still a true freshman who has really only played one full college football game, that being the Cowboys loss to Arizona. He didn't play long against Savannah State and was hurt on the sixth play of the game against Lafayette and has been out ever since.
As for the Cyclones, they've lost two of their past three ball games after starting the season 3-0. Iowa State has played musical chairs at quarterback, as well, although it was by choice rather than necessity.
Following their loss to Texas Tech in which the offense gained all of 189 yards and turned the ball over four times, they sat Steele Jantz down and, as they did last season, turned to Jared Barnett. He led them to a solid road win against TCU in his first start of the season and followed that up with a rather pedestrian performance against Kansas State.
Barnett isn't as dynamic of a player as Jantz is, but he's playing for one reason and that is he takes much better care of the football. I get the sense ISU would rather play Jantz, but they simply couldn't continue to live with his turnovers if they expected to win many games the rest of the season.
Offense aside, the Cyclones are a team build around their defense. They have the best set of linebackers in the Big 12, their secondary is solid, and the defensive front has finally been able to generate pressure on the quarterback. Iowa State already has 13 sacks on the season after finishing all of last season with just 17.
Iowa State, Keys to the Game:
1. Run the ball. This is no secret. Iowa State coaches know it and so does Oklahoma State's defense. In ISU's two losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State, the Cyclones rushed for a total of 181 yards on 62 carries (2.9 yards per carry). In their win over TCU, ISU ran for 152 yards and averaged over four yards per carry. If Iowa State hopes to leave Stillwater with a win, it has to have success on the ground.
CycloneFanatic has some excellent stats this week that bares out the importance of ISU's ground game. They are 0-6 when rushing for less than 100 yards under Paul Rhoads and 4-31 over the past decade including 16 straight losses when they don't reach 100 yards.
While cracking the century mark doesn't guarantee a win, getting there certainly helps their chances.
The Cyclones won't be helped by the fact they'll be without running back, James White, for the second straight week. That means Shontrelle Johnson is going to have to carry the load. After opening the season with 120 yards against Tulsa, he has had just 126 rushing yards combined over the next five games. If the Cyclones win on Saturday, it's likely Johnson will be a big reason why.
2. Slow down Joseph Randle. If Kansas can hold the Big 12's top running back to 80 yards on 29 carries, there's no reason Iowa State shouldn't be able to have the same type of success. Sure, the weather played a factor in the Cowboys only scoring 20 points in Lawrence, but limiting the Pokes ground game means a freshman quarterback is going to have to beat you. If Randle has a big day, everything in the playbook opens up and that is something ISU must avoid.
Oklahoma State, Keys to the Game.
1. How about a few turnovers? Much has already been made this year about the Cowboys lack of ability to create takeaways. The Cowboys are -5 in turnover margin so far this year having only came up with four takeways all season. That's a drastic reduction from last year.
Maybe the best way the Pokes can ensure their offense has success on Saturday is if the defense can give them a few short fields to work with. The Cyclones have been better taking care of the ball with Barnett at quarterback, but that doesn't mean their now immune to the turnover bug, either. Iowa State is tied for the Big 12 lead with 14 giveaways.
2. Quinn Sharp. It's not all that exciting when your kicker is a key to the game, but the Cowboys happen to have one of the best kickers in the country on their sideline. Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 in net punting and when the Pokes offense stalls, Quinn's ability to pin ISU deep is going to be rather important.
Outside of a couple big pass plays against TCU, Iowa State's offense has lacked big play ability and the longer the field is for their offense, the more they'll struggle putting points on the board. ISU has the second worst third down conversion percentage in the Big 12 (39.1%) and you can count on them having trouble keeping drives alive when they start with poor field position.
On paper and what we've seen through the first half of the season, these teams look to be about even. Other than the game being in Stillwater, I'm not sure what makes the Cowboys 14.5 point favorites. Not that Paul Rhoads and Iowa State care all that much.
Rhoads has made a living in Ames winning games as the underdog which is something Oklahoma State knows all too well. The Cyclones were 28.5 point underdogs last season to OSU and won the game outright as well all know.
This is a new year, however, and this a fairly experienced Iowa State team that has already had success on the road winning at Iowa and TCU.
Can the Cyclones make it two in a row over OSU? Absolutely. Will they? No.
Iowa State simply won't have enough offense.
The Cyclones defense will keep Iowa State in it all the way, but it won't be enough as Iowa State's offense struggles, yet again, to put together enough consistency to pull out a close game. Yes, Iowa State got it done on the road against TCU, but they were also helped by five turnovers. Oklahoma State won't be so generous.
Oklahoma State gets it done, barely. Cowboys 28 Cyclones 21.