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2014 Game XI: Iowa State vs West Virginia Preview

Riot Bowl III commences in Ames this weekend, but it's going to be a riot in name only.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Game XI: Iowa State (2-8, 0-7) vs West Virginia (6-5, 4-4)

Time: 11:00 AM CST

Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Line: ISU +9

Television: FS1

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

West Virginia SBN Site: The Smoking Musket

It's literally Senior Day in Jack Trice as this marks only the second time under Paul Rhoads where the seniors went out during daylight (Colorado 2009).  The following seniors will make their final appearance in Jack Trice on Saturday, and regardless of how you feel about Rhoads, the program, or the previous two seasons; show up and give these guys some love.

11 E.J. Bibbs TE 6-3 264 Sr. Chicago, Ill. (Arizona Western CC) (Bogan)
14 Jared Brackens LB 6-1 213 Sr. Mesquite, Texas (North)
97 Tyler Harmeyer DL 6-0 286 Sr. Ankeny, Iowa (Iowa Western CC) (Dowling)
15 Brandon Horbach QB 6-3 198 Sr. Toledo, Iowa (South Tama)
55 Jevohn MillerClick here to hear it LB 6-1 241 Sr. Brooklyn, Iowa (BGM)
58 Cory Morrissey DE 6-4 260 Sr. Ames, Iowa (Iowa Western CC) (Gilbert)
2 Aaron Wimberly RB 5-9 177 Sr. Snellville, Ga. (Iowa Western CC) (South Gwinnett)
74 Tom FarniokClick here to hear it OL 6-4 301 RSr. Sioux Falls, S.D. (Washington)
3 Drake Ferch LB 5-11 209 RSr. State Center, Iowa (Iowa Western CC) (West Marshall)
65 Jacob Gannon OL 6-7 306 RSr. Iowa City, Iowa (West)
93 Brandon Jensen DL 6-5 303 RSr. Ankeny, Iowa (Ankeny)
56 Ben LothClick here to hear it OL 6-6 332 RSr. Chatsworth, Calif. (Crespi Carmelite)
24 Matthew Thomas DB 5-10 165 RSr. Lancaster, Texas (Lancaster)
49 Spencer Thornton DS 6-2 251 RSr. Marion, Iowa (Cedar Rapids Washington)
38 Jared Weaver RB 6-1 225 RSr. Moville, Iowa (Sioux City Heelan)
1 Jarvis West WR 5-7 171 RSr. St. Petersburg, Fla. (Gibbs)

When We Last Left Off...

Iowa State had a late lead against Texas Tech and lost it.

West Virginia rallied in the 4th quarter against Kansas State but lost it.

The Series

The Riot Bowl is only three years old and the teams have an even 1-1 split with the road team taking both contests.

Match Ups via Illustrations

Why waste value words when I can illustrate how far apart these teams are offensively and defensively.  Some quick tips on the following graphs:

  • Blue Line - Offense.  A highly performing offense would be above the NCAA average (y-axis) and should live above the line.
  • Red Line - Defense. A highly performing defense would be below the NCAA average (y-axis) and should live below the line.
  • Distribution by Length of Play - X-axis.  Self explanatory, plays are chunked in 0-3, 3-7, 7-12, and 12+ yards.  These are somewhat arbitrary but do illustrate efficiency at the smaller chunks, and explosiveness at the higher ones.
  • Line Intersection - If both teams are high performing their lines should not cross.  If they do then one team has a clear advantage over the other.  If an offense is below the line, the match up favors the defense, and vice versa if the defense is above the line.
That said, on to the graphs!

As a whole there's not a lot of good here.  Iowa State is below the NCAA average on offense due in large part to their running game, and West Virginia's defense plays in the same area.  Not good.  Now let's look at the rushing game specifically.

And it's worse.  West Virginia's defense has been prone to the explosive running play here and there, but a lot of that came earlier in the season, and given Iowa State's lack of ability in this area, it's going to be a non-issue for the Mountaineers.  Now on to passing.

The 3-7 yard range is what I call an "opportunity zone".  Iowa State excels at those consistent passes and a lot of it has to do with a guy like E.J. Bibbs in the middle catching everything thrown his way.  West Virginia excels at limiting those plays by forcing teams to throw deeper.  So either the Iowa State offense brings that defensive area "up" and beats West Virginia here, or the Mountaineers bring the offense "down" and limits these routes.

To the Iowa State defense and one chart to explain it all!

The intersection isn't so bad given West Virginia's decline once they get past 7 yards, but Iowa State's increase in the same area leads to one conclusion: the 3-7 yard range is lower for Iowa State simply because they can't stop anyone in that area.  Simply put, the 3-7 yard runs the Mountaineers excel at will quickly turn in to gains for 7+ yards as the game wears on.

It's like you can visually see the spirit of the defense, and the fans, breaking.

Special Teams


WRNL Beer Pick of the Week

It's our 5th Annual Shitty Beer tailgate in G7 this weekend, and while some beers are truly awful, some are delectable and awful in name/stigma only.  For the first time, I'll publish the list of beers this year:

Old Style
Leine Reg
Leine Light
Beast Ice
Busch Light
Old Milwaukee
Clear Creek Ice
Rolling Rock
Colt 45
Pearl Light
Diamond Bear
High Life Light

And for any of you who disagree about Rolling Rock's awfulness, well, you can go take a hike.

Here's a challenge to intrepid WRNL readers: A lot of really awful beer is regional, and we're always looking to expand our list each year.  If you run across something you find truly terrible then send me a message and we'll work out a way to get this in to my hands.

Final Analysis

On my podcast with The Smoking Musket (up soon, I swear!) I noticed a strange feeling emanating from the West Virginia fan base: they're worried about this game.


Sure enough, there's a feeling that Iowa State can win this game because of the uncertain quarterback situation in Morgantown and the general disappointment in a team that started hot in conference play and has been in a slow decline since losing to TCU earlier this month.

Sadly, that probably isn't going to happen.  If a one dimensional Mountaineer offense can shred a defense with more playmakers last year, then imagine what happens when an offense that can run the ball goes against one of the worst rushing defenses in Iowa State history.

On the other side, there will be opportunities for Iowa State to score some points but it's going to come in the area they've had the most difficulty with: single safety high, man-to-man coverage.  Richardson needs to get the ball out quick, and get it up for big boy Allen Lazard to go get it.  The Mountaineers employ a 3-3-5 defense that brings pressure from just about anywhere, and the screen game will click.  If they can identify the pressure.

I really, really want the seniors to go out on a high note, and I want to see a victory in Jack Trice Stadium at least once this season, but I think West Virginia has something on defense that we all long to have: athletes.

And that alone makes all the difference.

Final Score

West Virginia 41

Iowa State 24

PS - Tailgate. G7. Flag. Shitty beer.  Stop by for some!