Stadium: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Game Time: 6:00 PM
Something has to give this weekend. Iowa State enters the game with one of the nations' worst offenses (ranked 103rd) and is going against a Baylor defense ranked 124th (yes, dead last). Neither team seems interested in helping their units that are good. Iowa State boasts the 57th overall defense, which has started to falter against Big XII offenses, but is still holding opponents to double digits less than their season scoring average. While Baylor boasts the 3rd overall offense in the country.
David Ubben got it right yesterday that whoever wins this game is likely bowling and whoever loses is likely headed to a 5-win season. The winner in this one is the one who finally breaks their trend of the year and has an underachieving unit become average for 60 minutes.
When We Last Left Off...
Iowa State scored on two of its first three drives but faltered the rest of the way as Oklahoma State's offense ran away to a 31-10 victory. Jared Barnett started 7 for 12 on the first three drives but went 12 for 27 the rest of the way. The running game still sputtered as the Cyclones hit 101 yards but only 37 of those from running backs (and five from Preview favorite Aaron Horne).
Baylor went down to Austin, assassinated both defenses, and still lost a 56-50 shootout to an injured David Ash. Nick Florence went 30 for 41 for 352 yards and two touchdowns with 10 balls being caught by Terrance Williams for 183 yards and a touchdown. Florence also ran for 69 yards and two more scores. The knock on the Bears here is the 251 yards they surrendered on the ground including 117 yards and five touchdowns to Joe Bergeron.
Iowa State vs Baylor: A History
Baylor won their first ever Big XII road game in Ames in 2005. Fortunately they have won more road games since or the Cyclones would be at risk of being yet another trivia question.
2011: Baylor 49, Iowa State 26
2009: Iowa State 24, Baylor 10 (Florence started this game for an injured RGIII)
2008: Baylor 38, Iowa State 10 (Gene Chizik strikes again)
2005: Baylor 23, Iowa State 13
2004: Iowa State 26, Baylor 25
A Look at Iowa State's Offense vs Baylor
This part of the Preview will return when the offense does. For what it's worth, I think Steele Jantz starts on Saturday.
A Look at Iowa State's Defense vs Baylor
Two weeks in a row this defense will face an offense that not only puts up yards and points, but does so at a blistering pace with exceptional balance. Florence isn't known for his wheels but is just enough of a threat in the running game to create that extra gap in the defense that the Cyclones did so poorly defending against an injured J.W. Walsh last weekend. Florence is not as elusive as Walsh so the pass rush should still be able to fluster him on 3rd downs, something that the Cyclones struggled with last week in Stillwater.
The biggest area of concern will be stopping Terrance Williams this weekend. Williams leads the NCAA in receiving as the only receiver currently over 1,000 yards on the year. He leads the next closest receiver, DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson, by over 160 yards. His average per catch of 21.55 yards is tops for any receiver who has caught more than 20 balls on the year. It will be interesting to see if Wally Burnham matches up Jansen Watson or Jeremy Reeves on Williams. Watson has the size to compete with Williams but Reeves is better at taking his man out of the game. No matter the corner though you can be assured there will be safety help over the top akin to how Justin Blackmon was handled in last year's upset of Oklahoma State.
Despite all this press giving to Florence and the passing game it's actually the running attack that allows the Bears to be so dangerous. At 183.5 yards per game the Bears rank 45th in the country in rushing. Led by Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin, the Baylor rushing attack is good enough to make defenses pick their poison by either stacking the box and leaving receivers one on one or playing soft and allowing Salubi and Martin to run all over.
Burnham has his hands full this weekend with the Baylor offense and is going to have to decide how he wants to limit the explosiveness of the Bears. As always, that defensive line rotation is going to be key to slowing down the offense and a good pass rush can always do damage to a spread team. I expect Burnham to come out and challenge Baylor to run on first and second down by not stacking the box and leaning heavily on his line. Early on he will be content to give up yards and bow up in the red zone where the Iowa State defensive front can hopefully prove to be more physical than Baylor's.
Baylor is averaging 48 points per game and holding them to anything less than 40 will be a minor miracle here. Unfortunately I think to win the defense needs to hold them to two touchdowns below their average. They can do it, but it will take some colossal mistakes by Baylor to allow it.
A Look at Iowa State's Special Teams vs Baylor
Edwin Arceo was quiet last week as the kicking game found solid footing with the lone extra point make and 41-yard field goal. Kirby Van Der Kamp punted nine times for a 47.1 yard average and dropped three inside the 20. The return unit again did not produce as Quinn Sharp boomed kick after kick deep into the end zone.
Baylor's Darryl Stonum averages 20.29 yards per kick return but only has seven returns all season. While his average is not outstanding I still worry about the kick return defense if Arceo fails to reach the end zone.
Surprisingly, Arceo is 22nd nationally in kickoff yardage and is only half a yard on average behind Baylor's kicker Aaron Jones. The largest difference here is Arceo is kicking for touchbacks on 33.3% of his kicks while Jones is getting a touchback on 59.1% of his. With wind predicted to be 5 mph out of the southeast on Saturday, I do not see much a reason that both men cannot reach the end zone consistently.
WRNL Lead Pipe Prediction (2-5): Shontrelle Johnson finally finds the end zone again on the ground.
50/50 Prediction (1-5): Iowa State rips off their highest scoring output of the season and does it on the legs of their running backs.
Reason for Impromptu Dumpster Burning (3-4): These are reaches through and through and I do not have a good one for this weekend. Just win. All I ask.
At this point the program and fans should not be concerned about the "Next Step". Instead we need to be concerned about just getting to another bowl for the third time in four years. The defense is too experienced and too sound to go to waste and everyone around the program knows it.
Baylor is soundly terrible on defense. Worse than Iowa State's offense is at actual offense. Baylor's defenders are seldom at the right spot on the field, tackle poorly, and get an even worse pass rush. This defense is worse than the Tulsa defense that started to fold in the 2nd half of the game in early September. I cannot underscore how bad Baylor's line play is and this is the perfect time for the offensive line to finally gel and have at least one more game where they push people around.
Rhoads mentioned on his call-in show on Monday night that the offensive line has been built and coached to sustain blocks and open up holes rather than blow people off the ball. Occasionally runs have been called that simply get the running backs downhill and let the line give their push, and this needs to be the case on Saturday. Run it until they stop it, and when they do, run it again to make sure it was not an accident.
Despite all this running there will still be the need for pass and Steele has excelled this year when he has been given plenty of time. The offensive line is pass blocking well and Jared Barnett made them look like fools with his throws last week. If Jantz gets the start I expect to see the hot hand on the play action early on Saturday.
All of that can be done though but it comes down to this: I'm sick and fucking tired of losing. If I'm sick and tired then you know those on the team are sick and tired. This team will have plenty to rally around on Saturday. 100th Homecoming, pissed off from losing two winnable games, injuries to key players, and the knowledge that giving anything short of their best will spoil what could still be one of the best seasons in school history.
I'm going to be in those stands full of piss and vinegar and I expect the team to have the same feeling on the field. If those big hog mollies up front get going, this one turns great for us at the end.
Iowa State 41
PS - As always, provide your predictions below.