2014 Game IX: Iowa State (2-6, 0-5) vs Kansas (2-6, 0-5)
Time: 2:30 PM CST
Location: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
Line: Iowa State -3.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Kansas SBN Site: Rock Chalk Talk
Cellar Bowl 2k14 takes place in Lawrence this weekend, and both teams are looking for momentum to end the season.
When We Last Left Off...
Kansas leads the all-time series 49-38-6, but has lost the last four to the Cyclones. Iowa State has beaten Kansas five times in a row only once, from 1985-1989.
Iowa State Offense
Let's keep something in mind about the Iowa State offense: they were still performing at a high level two weeks ago. Oklahoma has unwound quality Iowa State offenses before, and last week's result was more of the same in the history of the series. If there's a silver lining to take out of this it's the fact that early in the game Sam B. Richardson was finding receivers, but they were dropping the balls. The space was there, but the execution and focus were not. That's correctable.
If there's a bright spot to Kansas, it's their defense. Senior MIKE linebacker Ben Heeney leads the unit, and is the equivalent of Jeremiah George on last year's defense. Heeney makes plays all over the field, but just isn't enough to make a struggling Kansas defense that much better. BUCK (stand up DE) Michael Reynolds complements Heeney, but after those two the talent drops off sharply.
Kansas is giving up up 2.1 points per possession on the season, which ranks them as the worst defense Iowa State has played since Oklahoma State (78th, 2.0 points per possession), and will be the worst defense they face until Taco Tech comes to town in two weeks. Conversely, Iowa State is averaging 1.7 points per possession on the season, and will need every bit of that difference to win this weekend.
The Match Up
Teams are running a quarter of their plays on the ground and through the tackles on Kansas, and it's all driven by how light they are up front. It'll be a bit of a reprieve for the Cyclones to not have to deal with big space suckers in the middle for once, and I think this is the game where the running game can get on track early.
A lot of inside zone runs early to soften up the defense and work play action bubble screens in to the mix once the safeties come down for run support. As long as Iowa State hangs on to the ball they'll light up the scoreboard.
Interim Kansas head coach Clint Bowen promoted wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau to co-offensive coordinator last week, and seemingly displaced coordinator John Reagan while doing so. Kansas only posted 16 rushing yards last week, and despite quarterback Michael Cummings throwing for 288 yards, could not muster a consistent enough offensive attack to stay in the game with Baylor.
Cummings was sacked three times last week, fumbled on all three, but lost only one. The offensive line has struggled most of the season and somehow range from massive and pudgy to tall and lean.
Iowa State Defense
Thankfully for the Cyclones the Kansas offense has been struggling to run the ball, but that doesn't mean they won't try. Iowa State is still getting gouged up the middle, but Trevor Knight took it to a new level last week with his veer inspired reads out of the Diamond formation, and it brutalized an already depleted defensive tackles group.
Cummings is no slouch with his legs, and I have no doubt that Kansas will try the same veer concepts with Cummings and running backs De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery. Simply put, Iowa State stopping the run should be the only thing on their mind this week. Kansas' receivers don't pose as much of a threat as the rest of the Big XII, and leaving the secondary on an island to stop the run is what this defense will have to do.
Despite 328 rushing attempts on the season, Kansas is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry. To a layman that looks like just enough to get a first down every three plays, but it's not nearly dangerous enough to sustain for an entire game. On the other hand, Iowa State is giving up 5.6 yards per carry, including 6.1 on first down. Just like above, something has to give here.
The Match Up
Kansas is going to run this damn ball so much we're thinking we're watching a Jim Walden offense. Option, option, option is all that is drilled in to Cummings' head this week, and it should be all that's drilled in to the Iowa State defense's as well. If Wally Burnham wants to salvage this defense, and possibly his job, he'll learn to run blitz on first down and try to keep Kansas behind the sticks.
Definitely a unit that favors Iowa State again, and for our sake, let's hope we see more of Kansas punter Trevor Pardula and not our own Colin Downing.
WRNL Beer Pick of the Week
For those heading to Lawrence be sure to stop by Free State Brewing on Massachusetts Street and sit down with an Old Backus Barleywine, which is in season and on tap right now.
This game intrigues me on a few levels despite the combined 0fer in the conference for these two teams. You have an Iowa State offense that rapidly improved in October going against a sometimes salty defense, and a completely decimated defense squaring off against an offense that refuses to run the ball successfully. Something has to give, and in these situations I err towards talent and coaching, which Iowa State has a higher quality of both. Even if you dislike Rhoads and company.
Plus, we're not fucking losing to Kansas.
Iowa State 37