Stadium: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Game Time: 2:30 PM
There is not a whole lot to say about last week's effort that already hasn't been said here, here, and here. Iowa State looked thoroughly over matched on offense for a majority of the game and it started up front with the offensive line. The defense showed it will keep the Cyclones in nearly every game this year but one has to wonder how they hold up as the conference season wears on.
We now move into your typical Paul Rhoads game coming after a momentum lessening loss, going on the road, and playing a ranked opponent. The last two years when this happened good things came to Iowa State with wins over Texas and Texas Tech.
When We Last Left Off...
When Steele Jantz wasn't running for his life he was fumbling in the open field and overthrowing receivers in a 24-13 loss to Texas Tech. Other than A.J. Klein's 87 yard TAINT the lone bright spot for the Cyclones were the rushing averages of James White (6.3) and Shontrelle Johnson (4.9). Sadly between the two of them they rushed only 18 times.
TCU had almost as many penalty yards (140) as total yards (156) while playing in a monsoon in their 24-16 win over SMU. Casey Pachall only managed to go 10 of 26 for 107 yards and two touchdowns and the Horned Frogs only gained 54 total yards on the ground.
Iowa State vs TCU: A History
Everyone remembers the 2005 Houston Bowl debacle against TCU when Bret Meyer first started the phantom fumble phenomenon for Iowa State, but these teams actually played twice before that.
Last 3 Games
2005: TCU 27, Iowa State 24
1998: TCU 31, Iowa State 21
1995: TCU 27, Iowa State 10
A Look at Iowa State's Offense vs TCU
This part of the preview is going to be rather brief as we all know that things were bad enough against Texas Tech that this team has a lot of room to improve at every spot on offense. First and foremost, Steele Jantz never found the ability to make Texas Tech pay for their aggressiveness. His throws were off, he seldom had time to throw, and some of his decisions with his feet were questionable at best.
Despite the praise I heaped on White and Johnson earlier they can stand to always do more. Whether it be finding that right crease to break through or picking up blocks there is always room to become a more complete back. However, my ire really rests with the offensive line and the receivers.
As I mentioned above, Jantz was running for his life most of the time on Saturday and this was without Texas Tech bringing much in the way of pressure. Things were so bad in the 2nd half that Texas Tech would bring three and they would still find a way to pressure Jantz. At the same time through both play calls and checks at the line, Steele wasn't doing enough to get the ball out of his hands quickly. You stem this tide with a few halfback screens and quick hitting underneath throws to soften up the defense.
Of course that is only possible with receivers who can get off the line and create space even while being jammed. Iowa State has few, if any, of those receivers. The best match up problem the Cyclones have is Ernst Brun and we saw on his touchdown catch that he can be hard to handle. His fumble/interception in the 4th quarter was a slight fluke in how it shot into the air, but his ability to go up between two defenders and come down with the ball should not be lost in the end result.
So what does the offense do in Fort Worth this weekend? Well hopefully not suck, that's what. I have a lot of faith that everyone involved in the offense, staff and players both, will look at the game film and realize their performance was abysmal and unacceptable for a program trying to take the "next step". The first step to righting the wrongs of last weekend is simple: execute.
Every man needs to beat his man and win his battle each and every play. This starts especially up front where the offensive line was lucky to hold the line of scrimmage on running plays and usually pushed yards back at a time when blocking for the pass. Iowa State did generate some success with simple plays where the line could down block and drive their man off the ball, but these were few and far enough between (and coincidentally happened on our two best drives) that simplifying the run game could be what this offense ordered.
Second, this team needs to find a way to make something out of nothing. Whether that be Jantz stepping up in the pocket and getting a few yards when no one is open, or checking to a play to eat up a few yards at a time based on the defensive alignment; something must be done to keep the chains moving.
TCU's front four is not what it has been in the past and this has forced them to bring more pressure to generate a pass rush. If TCU goes into press coverage like Texas Tech then the middle of the field should be open enough to at least make TCU rethink their strategy. My concern is that TCU will mix up what they have done on tape, and since this staff struggles with adjustments, we see a repeat of this past Saturday.
A Look at Iowa State's Defense vs TCU
Total yardage may say otherwise, but this defense quite possibly could be the best in Iowa State's recent history. It will certainly be the best that Casey Pachall has seen this season. The Cyclones have made a commitment to stopping the run again this year and with the performance of the defensive line it has happened. Through four games the defense is only allowing 3.03 yards per carry compared to 4.54 in 2011. The defense has also forced six interceptions and only given up five touchdowns through the air. Even the yardage, which can be a large misnomer for any defense, ranks the unit 18th nationally (TCU is 7th).
With Waymon James out for the season with an injury the ability for TCU to run the ball has taken a significant hit. And now with Casey Pachall out due to his arrest we will see what backup quarterback Trevone Boykin has in store. The plus side is Boykin has had little time to prepare for the Cyclones, but on the flip, Iowa State has had little time to prepare for Boykin. Boykin has wheels and my immediate concern is how this defense contains him and limits his explosive plays. Say what you will about his youth, but Jerome Tiller and Jared Barnett won their first career starts in Big XII contests as redshirt freshmen and did it on the road.
Pachall's arrest throws both teams' game plans effectively into the shitter so we'll see how Iowa State schemes against a new quarterback. As with any football game this is going to be about creating 3rd and long chances for the TCU offense but there has to be a focus on contain more so now than there was Sunday when the first pieces of the plan were being pieced together. One large positive is Boykin's inexperience may prove helpful in 3rd and long situations if Iowa State disguises their plays.
A Look at Iowa State's Special Teams vs TCU
For the love of everything holy please make a kick Edwin Arceo. The extra point yips have returned and if they continue there's no doubt that we see freshman Cole Netten this year. Zach Guyer did not light it up last year but I bet Rhoads is wishing he redshirted him when he had the chance.
In other news, Kirby Van Der Kamp is still a stud. Oh, and I suppose we should limit kick return opportunities from a guy like Skye Dawson so this game doesn't flip because of a special teams mishap. Sadly, this is going to get us sooner rather than later due to Arceo's lack of a strong leg.
WRNL Lead Pipe Prediction (2-2): My oh my did I miss last week (misdirection/triple option vs aggressive defense) but would it have been nice to see. Iowa State moves the pocket more to exploit TCU on the boundaries and get Steele Jantz comfortable early.
50/50 Prediction (0-3): Missed awfully bad here too. Unfortunately I think Boykin is going to prove to be a bigger threat then we would like and he finds the end zone at least twice on Saturday.
Reason for Impromptu Dumpster Burning (2-2): Pretty easy one here. If Rhoads goes on the road and beats a ranked team in their own stadium for the 3rd year in a row it warrants throwing some matches in a large, random trash receptacle.
Trendy upset picks always worry me when it comes to Iowa State. Until last year there was a lot of talk about how the Cyclones would upset this team or that team and it would never come to fruition. The upsets over Nebraska, Texas, and Texas Tech were all shockers in the sense that everyone wrote the Cyclones off before the game. Only did I feel with the Oklahoma State game did we do what people in a few circles said we would. That game was the easy pickings. Friday night, only game in town, #2 team in a trap game. It had the makings of an upset and it finally came true for the faithful in Ames.
Does that signal a change in the program? One would hope but even an optimistic person such as my self was shaken to the core after last week's abysmal offensive performance. I have been an Iowa State fan too long to not think that the best defense this school has seen in at least seven years could be wasted by the trappings of a poor offense. As a Cyclone fan you just wait for the other shoe to drop, so it's inevitable when David Ubben again puts Iowa State in his potential upset column you just know it's going to not work out the way you want.
With Pachall out this has become another en vogue upset pick for Cyclones fans and some in the national media, but this author just does not see it yet. The offense was too bad last week to turn around and have the performance they need to in order to beat the #15 team on the road. I have faith the offense will turn it around but it's going to be a process and the process just isn't going to be quite there yet on Saturday.
Iowa State 16
PPS - As always, leave your predictions below and look for the AHF shirts in Fort Worth. NormanUnderwood and I will be sporting ours.