Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, OK
It really should go without saying, but a guy named Shaky will no longer be allowed to set foot in the state of Iowa. Until last weekend I always thought Shakey’s was a place you go to get second rate pizza on an overpriced buffet. How little did I know. Shaky Smithson accounted for 293 total yards between punt returns, a 61-yard touchdown reception, and a 32-yard touchdown pass. Never again Shaky, never again.
Iowa State now turns its attention to Norman, Oklahoma and the #6 Oklahoma Sooners. Iowa State is an eye popping 5-67-2 all time against Oklahoma with the last win coming in Norman in 1990 by a score of 33-31.
A History: Iowa State vs Oklahoma
The all-time series record is above so not much needs to be stated there. One worthy note is that Iowa State has not beat a ranked conference team on the road since… 1990.
Last 5 Games
2007: Oklahoma 17, Iowa State 7
2006: Oklahoma 34, Iowa State 9
2003: Oklahoma 53, Iowa State 7
2002: Oklahoma 49, Iowa State 3
1999: Oklahoma 31, Iowa State 10
This series has not been close except for the 17-7 defeat in 2007 when the Cyclones were actually leading 7-0 at halftime.
Back it Up: Week 6 Review
Iowa State lost to Utah 68-27. There was really not a bright spot in this game for the Cyclones who were outclassed on offense, defense, and surprisingly, special teams. The only encouraging signs were David Sims (10 tackles, forced fumble, and an interception) and… wait for it… Collin Franklin (4 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown).
Oklahoma had a bye week, which makes them the third opponent in as many weeks to have a bye going into their game with Iowa State. Prior to the bye they beat Texas 28-20 in this year’s installment of the Red River Shootout.
Iowa State Offense vs Oklahoma Defense
This game, more than any other this season, has been increasingly difficult to evaluate as the week has worn on because of my historical Cyclone knowledge. In typical Iowa State fashion they will enter a game against an opponent they have a chance with on paper and then the opponent finds the long lost facet of their team that did not appear at any other point of the season and hammers the Cyclones. In this case, it would be Oklahoma’s defense.
Oklahoma ranks 93rd overall in total defense, which is only 4 spots ahead of Iowa State. Their ranking is the worst out of all undefeated D-I teams and they give up on average 411 yards per game. They rank 79th and 98th in rushing and pass defense, respectively. The lone positive aspect of their defense is the 56th overall ranking for scoring with an average of 22.8 points a game.
On paper Iowa State should have little trouble moving the chains even with Alexander Robinson possibly on the bench. However, this has that classic "feel" of a Cyclone game that has the recipe to go south quickly when the teams step on the field. Years of disappointment to ranked opponents who are not living up to their ranking have made this author question how well he can evaluate this game. Alas, games are not won solely on statistics and factors such as past performance against ranked teams do factor in.
If Iowa State has to go without Robinson do not expect much of a drop off in the running game. Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody have shown to be very capable backs who can help this offense move the chains. What will be key to the running game will be Austen Arnaud’s health and if he is confident enough in his left shoulder to run and take hits. I feel that his health has improved based on some of the shots he took against Utah last week and if his shoulder is close to 100% expect to see the zone read more than any other time this season. Oklahoma had trouble stopping Air Force’s option offense and if Iowa State presents them with a similar look of Arnaud, Woody, and Johnson all being viable running threats at the same time expect things to open up.
The area where Robinson will be missed most in the passing game. Not only is a very adept receiver but his blitz pickups are top notch. Johnson has not had much responsibility for that yet this year and as a true freshman will be prone to mistakes. Woody has shown to be an above average blocker but his lateral quickness does not come close to matching Robinson’s. Oklahoma already loves their blitzes, especially the unconventional second down blitz, so expect to see more of this if Robinson cannot go.
Similar to previous weeks, Iowa State will have to step up in the passing game and threaten to spread the field with quick screens out to Josh Lenz, Jake Williams, and Collin Franklin. Those screens will keep the linebackers from crowding the line of scrimmage and will hopefully open up the running and downfield passing games.
Most Intriguing Matchup: Iowa State’s Running Backs vs Oklahoma’s Linebackers
Reason: Oklahoma is going to test the mettle of our running backs early. As mentioned above, Oklahoma likes to blitz and expect as much when Iowa State is presented with long passing situations. Penalties could very well be the undoing of this offense again if they turn 2nd and 5 in to 2nd and 15. Oklahoma will tee off and nothing has convinced me that Arnaud is capable of exploiting the holes in coverage left by a blitz. Add that to having two freshman running backs in the backfield and this could be a long day for the offense if they do not establish the run early.
Arnaud’s health will be the deciding factor on whether or not Oklahoma’s linebackers play an honest game or spend their time picking on our running backs. If Arnaud can run then those chains will move.
Iowa State Defense vs Oklahoma Offense
This situation closely mirrors the issue above but at the same time is much easier to predict. Oklahoma has yet to get their running game going this year and ranks 90th overall with 121.4 rushing yards per game. Iowa State’s rush defense? 102nd with 201.5 yards allowed per game. Something has to give here and historically it will not go in Iowa State’s favor. Oklahoma’s 17th ranked pass offense will keep Iowa State from keying on DeMarco Murray and the run game so expect Oklahoma to eat up their yards with ease.
An underestimated key to increasing the Iowa State defense’s chance for success is the time of possession by Iowa State. Last week against Utah the Cyclones only had the ball for 24:20, compared to the 35:40 by Utah. No time of possession = no gas for the defense. Let’s not get confused here, Iowa State’s defense is still not good, and will give up yards, but the big players will be minimized when a fresh defense has their chance on the field.
Iowa State’s best case in this game defensively is to let the offense eat up clock, minimize the big play, and keep Oklahoma’s running game in check enough that they cannot find the end zone once they get inside the 20.
Most Intriguing Matchup: Oklahoma’s running game vs Iowa State’s run defense
Reason: I am not as big of a fan of DeMarco Murry as most but he is still a talented running back. Iowa State’s front four are incredibly undersized and Big Game Bob had to have spent most of his bye week fixing his defense and figuring out how to run the ball. Oklahoma will establish the run early, stick with it, and use play action to go for the big play. Iowa State will give up yards but the key will be stopping the running game inside the 20.
Iowa State’s Special Teams vs Oklahoma’s Special Teams
What a god awful miss last week with Iowa State’s special teams being picked over Utah’s. I should have known better. A punt return that went down to Iowa State’s 2 yard line, a kickoff return that went back for 100 yards and a touchdown, and a nearly non-existent kick return team tipped the results heavily in favor of Utah with this unit.
However, we should not forget that this Iowa State special teams unit has not had officially one bad game. Paul Rhoads emphasizes all three facets of the game and nothing will change going forward. The punt coverage issues were more due to Kirby Van Der Kamp out kicking his coverage (his leg is great, but he needs more hang time) and the kick coverage has been suspect all year and got exploited by a more athletic return team. Both issues are fixable and I expect to see a solid special teams unit take the field in Norman.
Most Intriguing Matchup: Kirby Van Der Kamp vs Oklahoma’s punt return
Reason: Van Der Kamp has a hell of a leg, and so far it has been a problem. His hang time needs work to allow Iowa State’s gunners to get downfield and successfully cover the punt. Oklahoma is just as athletic as Utah so allowing them in to space because of a poorly executed punt could spell disaster for the Cyclones. For what it is worth, Van Der Kamp has kicked better each time he has stepped on the field and is more consistent on the road where the wind does not swirl like it does in Jack Trice.
This game is absolutely horrifying for me to pick. Iowa State matches up terribly well with Oklahoma on offense, but just terribly on defense. On paper this game shows the #6 team in the country that has been underachieving on defense and unable to close out opponents who are at Iowa State’s level or slightly better. On paper this is an Iowa State team that has had trouble slowing teams down and executing on 3rd down. Something will have to give and my Cyclone history tells me it won’t be Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is going to come out early and ready to stop the run. 8 in the box, run blitzes, all that jazz. Iowa State will try to establish the run early and it will hinge on whether or not Arnaud is healthy enough to run with any consistency. If he is then 8 men in the box may be irrelevant if they cannot play their assignments. If the run game does not work Iowa State will have to execute their short passing game with hitches and screens to perfection to pull the linebackers out towards the sidelines. Execution is key for this offense and if they can execute on 3rd down (Oklahoma is allowing 41% conversions) then Oklahoma will have their hands full.
On the flip side, the Iowa State defense needs to do three things:
1. No big plays
2. Get off the field
3. Force at least two turnovers
No one expects the defense to shut down Oklahoma but coming up with momentum changing plays will be key to winning this game. The offense has to do their part as well and make sure the defense is fresh each and every time they take the field.
Oklahoma is not stellar this year, but they still have an offense that is going to allow them to win when they get in a shootout. Iowa State may match up well with Oklahoma on paper but the sinking feeling that Oklahoma figured out how to play defense during the bye week is too prevalent to predict an upset.
Iowa State 24