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2015 Game V: Iowa State vs. Texas Tech Preview

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The Cyclones make their first trip to Texas this season to take on the Red Raiders in a pivotal game for both.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Cyclones play their first road game in the Big 12, as they travel to Lubbock, TX, to play for tacos, and a game against Texas Tech.

2015 Game V: Iowa State (2-2, 1-0) vs. Texas Tech University (3-2, 0-2)

Date: October 10, 2015

Time: 2:30 PM CST

Location: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX

Capacity: 60,454

Line: Texas Tech -12, O/U 74.5

Television: Fox Sports Network

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

Texas Tech University Football Website

Texas Tech SB Nation Website - Viva the Matadors

Here is an interesting stat for all you fans out there. In Paul Rhoads' six and a half seasons at the helm, when ISU allows 24 or fewer points per game in regulation, their record is 28-4. When the Cyclone defense allows more than 24 points, it is 3-44.

Sit and think about that one for a second.

In order for ISU to have a shot at winning this weekend's game, they are either going to have to hold an offense that averages 50 to half their normal output, or break that crazy anomaly.

When we last left off....

Iowa State played one of the worst teams in Division I football last week, and came out on top, by a score of 38-13. Running back Mike Warren broke a school record for most rushing yards by an ISU freshman, and Sam Richardson had an average day throwing the football.

The defense played stout as always, garnering 5 sacks, and 8 tackles-for-loss. If not for a fluke long passing touchdown and pick-six by Sam Richardson, they would have shutout KU.

I was disappointed by the lack of execution in the first quarter and half, as the Cyclones came out of the gate flat, and took way too long to get the chains moving. This team has yet to play a solid 60 minutes of football, and if Paul Rhoads wants to change the way fans think about him, ISU will have to put together four quality quarters, now that conference play is really under way.

Texas Tech Tidbits

To say coach Kliff Kingsbury is one-dimensional, is an understatement.

Texas Tech leads the nation in passing offense, is 3rd in scoring offense, and 3rd in total yards from scrimmage. Their defense is a different story. They are 120th out of 128 schools in passing defense, 123rd in rush defense, and 121st in time of possession.

Now that comes with a grain of salt, due to the fact they just played TCU and Baylor in back-to-back weeks.

ISU couldn't play Tech at a better time in their schedule in my opinion.

The Series

Texas Tech leads the overall series 10-3, with Texas Tech winning the last three, and those three games were by an average margin of 6.3 points per game.

Iowa State Offense

As KnowDan alluded to in his article, Sam Richardson has hit his ceiling as an ISU quarterback. He has continued to look tentative on his reads, and the only way he can be successful is if we can get this going..

The running game has shifted into a new gear, behind RG Daniel Burton, and redshirt freshman Mike Warren. The Cyclones collected back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances for the first time since 2013. This is huge - as it allows the play-action pass to work (hence the tight ends catching their first passes last Saturday), and with the safeties up in the box, it gives more windows for the receivers to break open.

If ISU is to make this game close, they have to continue to run the ball effectively, especially on first and second downs, to make the third down play-calling manageable.

First Key to Victory - Run the Clock with the Running Game

Paul Rhoads and Mangenius need to ignite their inner Bill Snyder and slow this game down. They want to match Texas Tech score for score, but have to keep the momentum and the tempo in favor of ISU. They can't go up-tempo, but need to sustain long drives, run the clock, and keep Texas Tech's offensive attack off the field. This will all work if Warren and company can run the ball.

Texas Tech Defense

The Red Raiders are on their seventh Defensive Coordinator in SEVEN YEARS! Tech runs a standard 4-3 defense, with a nickel package on passing downs. They are led by LB Dakota Allen and Rush End Pete Robertson. Allen is second in the conference with 9.4 tackles per game, and Robertson leads the team with 5 tackles for loss.

The defensive line carries four experienced seniors, but has been gouged in the run game. They allow a porous 277 rushing yards per game, and have been on the struggle bus all year. Every opponent has run for more than 227 yards, even Sam Houston State with 317. Look for ISU to take advantage.

In the secondary, Tech is not much better. Their corners are undersized, and they start a redshirt freshman and sophomore at the safety spots.

Teams have been able to put up video games stats so far this season on Tech, especially on third downs. The Red Raiders allow an awful 56% conversion rate on third down, and 83% of the time, teams score in the red zone.

The Verdict - ISU

Sam Richardson and company need to play their game, and take what is given to them. They can't get fancy, and try to go score for score. This defense will give holes for Warren to run through, and Sam will find open receivers. He needs to take the yards, move the chains, and run the clock.

Iowa State Defense

In what is probably the strongest defense Rhoads has had in his seven seasons, I think this unit can surprise some people in conference play. This 3-4 alignment will make its first appearance against a strong spread-pass attack, and will give Wally the Wizard more speed to play with.

If Demond Tucker, Trent Taylor and Dale Pierson can hold their own, it will allow the linebackers and safeties to focus on the passing game and contain the quick throws. Exchanging a 275 pound lineman for an extra linebacker is huge, and gives more options for disguises in blitzes and speed on the outside.

I see more of nickel Reggan Northrup, and backup corners Sam E. Richardson and Kenneth Lynn in this game. Nigel Tribune comes back in a much-needed capacity, as he and Kamari Cotton-Moya lead the third-best pass defense in the conference. ISU needs to play their game, but at times will have to give up beef for wheels, as Tech loves to throw the ball all over the field.

Texas Tech Offense

The Red Raiders are led by Sophomore QB Patrick Mahomes, who completes 64% of his passes, and averages 367 passing yards per game. He makes quick reads and gets rid of the ball quickly. Coach Kliff Kingsbury salivates at one-on-one opportunities, and likes to throw the ball deep. He also likes to go for it on fourth down, and will run plays at a break-neck pace.

Mahomes also likes to spread it around. Nine different receivers have at least 100 receiving yards, and one touchdown on the year, and we are only in week six. Woof. The Red Raiders are led by Senior Jakeem Grant, who has caught 35 passes and averages 96 yards per game receiving. Tech runs a 4-wide attack, and will throw the ball horizontally and vertically all over the field.

The matchup of the day may be in the trenches. Demond Tucker will be going up against a backup left guard (starter out with injury), and Pierson against All-Big 12 Left Tackle Le'Raven Clark. Tech carries four seniors and a junior on their line, and have been opening up running holes for a lifetime.

Running back DeAndre Washington has enjoyed the company of that line, as he has racked up 517 rushing yards and five TDs. He has the speed and elusiveness to break open anywhere on the field, and is a force to be reckoned with.

Second Key to Victory - Wrap up

I watched the TCU-Texas Tech game this week, and boy did I see a ton of missed tackles. Texas Tech's running back is silky smooth, and broke a ton of TCU's defenders' ankles. In order for ISU to keep the momentum on their side, they have to break down at the point of attack. The Red Raiders like to run outside the tackles, and it will be important for the outside linebackers to shred blocks, and for the middle of the defense to stay in their gaps on the cutback.

Verdict - Texas Tech

Texas Tech leads the nation in passing offense for a reason. Tech gets rid of the ball quick, and will try to make this game a track meet, but ISU needs to make tackles and play good fundamental defense to make this a close one. Tech will score, but if they do so in 10 plays on a drive, as opposed to two, that is an advantage for Iowa State.

Third Key to Victory - Force Turnovers

In the Knott and Klein years, Wally's bend-but-don't break defenses worked because they stopped teams in the red zone and created turnovers. So far, this team has forced five in four games. If ISU wants to come out of what used to be a dry Texas county with a victory, then they will have to win the turnover battle.

Special Teams

Cole Netten went 1-for-2 last week, and there wasn't much seen out of the return game. ISU's punters have been below average this year.

Tech brings a weapon to the field with All-Big 12 punter Taylor Symmank, as he leads the Big 12 in punting average. He also has boomed 26 of his 36 kickoffs into the end zone, so I don't see a big day out of the return game for ISU.

Advantage - Texas Tech

ISU is too inconsistent in the kicking game, and Tech carries a flash in the pan in their punter/kickoff specialist. Jakeem Grant is a scary situation in the return game, as he has brought one back to the house already this year.

KnowDan's Beer Pick of the Week

Tomorrow I'm doing one of those parenty things where I take my child to a pumpkin patch so he can roll around in one of those pens full of corn with other grimy children his age. This place just so happens to have an apple orchard as well, so I find it appropriate to finally recommend my first fruit beer ever in the preview.

Just kidding, no one wants that.

Instead go looking for Deschutes Brewery's Pinedrops IPA. At first you see the name and think it'll be a pine bomb of bitterness but it's quite refreshing and citrusy. Some reviewers even called it "crisp" and I couldn't agree more. A great fall beer to open on a Saturday after watching children be evil to each other.

Bonus Beer Pick of the Week: I lied about the fruit beer. I'm giving you a recommendation anyway. New Glarus' Raspberry Tart. Just click the link and bask in its highly reviewed glory.

Final Analysis

Texas Tech's strength is their offense, and ISU's is their defense. This should be a good matchup, and we will see what separates the boys from the men on Saturday. Is this defense powerful enough to bottle up Tech's spread attack? Not completely, but for the first time in Rhoads's tenure he has the horses that can play with the up-tempo offenses of the Big 12. I'm excited to see how the new 3-4 alignment works against Texas Tech.

The defense's best friend is going to be Mike Warren and the offensive line. If ISU can churn out yards on the ground, methodically run the clock, and Sam can make his short to intermediate throws, then the defense will get a much needed rest on the sideline. Look for ISU to put up points, but not like TCU and Baylor did. If they go that route, then the game will be over by halftime.

ISU has the talent to win this game, and again, they are playing Tech at the perfect time. I look for a close one down in Lubbock, and for the Clones to sneak away with the victory!

Final Score

Iowa State 38

Texas Tech 35