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2017 Game VI: Iowa State vs. Kansas Football Preview

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After that OU beatdown, Bring on Bama! But, I guess we will take Kansas

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Kansas Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Game VI: Iowa State (3-2, 1-1) vs. Kansas (1-4, 0-2)

Date: Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Time: 11:00 A.M. CST

Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Capacity: 61,500

Line: ISU -21

Television: Fox Sports Net

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

KU Game Notes

Jayhawk SB Nation WebsiteRock Chalk Talk

Wow. Just Wow.

If you saw that one coming – you need to drive to Vegas right now and put your life savings on a game of roulette.

I was shocked at the efficiency of ISU’s game plan against OU – most noticeably the defensive effort. The man no one is mentioning in the press (and has been underrated since he got here), is Defensive Coordinator Jon Heacock. He called a whale of a game against the number one offense in the country, slowing down Baker Mayfield and slamming the door on any opportunity for downfield throws.

To you, Mr. Heacock, we toast with an ice cold Natty.

This completely changes the dynamic of the whole season – and an opportunity to go bowling. Throw in probable wins against KU and Baylor, and all it takes is one more upset for ISU to get that pivotal sixth victory.

My biggest surprise in that game – was our poise.

From the words of Jamaal Tinsley – “Just another gym.”

And to this team – it was just another win.

Taking care of business. One week at a time. All those clichés. This team went down to Norman, OK and expected to win. Trust the game plan the coaches prepared for you; go out and execute – and they did.

Matt Campbell said it best in the locker room after the first win against a top-5 team on the road in school history.

“I refuse to allow this to be the end of our story. I can not wait to go on this journey with you, don’t let this be the maximum.” – Matt Campbell

Hop on for the ride Cyclone fans – I haven’t been this excited for the future of an ISU football program in my life.

When we last left off….

Iowa State was named FWAA National Team of the Week after beating #3 ranked Oklahoma in Norman. Joel Lanning was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, and Kyle Kempt Offensive Player of Week.

Next on the list of accomplishments a Heisman Trophy winner. I kid, I kid.

Or do, I?

Coach Matt Campbell ran laps around Lincoln Riley in the Xs and Os department last Saturday. In fact, this staff has done a fantastic job of making timely halftime adjustments (which was something the Rhoads staff never could quite do).

The Cyclones are averaging 20.4 points per game after intermission, and outscoring their opponents by a 105-54 margin in the second half. That is just flat out kicking ass in the coaching department.

Kansas Tidbits

Kansas is the laughingstock of college football. They are the runt of the Big 12 litter, and have been a graveyard for coaches.

Head Coach David Beaty is a helluva motivator and recruiter, but he is below average in teaching the fundamentals. KU’s atmosphere in their stadium is the equivalent to a one-room school house in the Midwest – non-existent.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Kansas
I feel bad for this man’s job
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

So far this season, they are right where they left off – bad. The Jayhawks are 1-4, with a loss to Central Michigan and Ohio to add to their poo poo platter of a resume.

Beaty made heads spin in the offseason, bringing in former TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham to the same position, and by also securing commits from multiple high-level recruits (including two 4-stars).

Sadly, the performance on the field hasn’t seen any results. KU is last in the conference (not a good thing) in 5 team categories. They can pass the ball, but their defense, well, is about as good as a pig trying to fly.

The Series

Somehow, KU leads the series, with a 50-40-6 all-time record. ISU has won the last two, and six of the last seven.

Iowa State Offense

I pulled up the stats today, and ISU is last in the Big 12 in rushing offense. Needless to say they have played against two of the best in the conference (Oklahoma and Texas), but need to gain some traction for David Montgomery aka the DM Train.

First Key to Victory – Run, Run and Run some More

KU allows over 200 rushing yards per game, and this will be the perfect game to get Montgomery back on track. He garnered a career-high 169 yards last year in Lawrence, and I see him eclipsing that mark on Saturday.

The offensive line has had its fair share of struggles in the running game, and it appears guard Robby Garcia is back to full health. That will be important, as the majority of runs come from his side (left) along with Jake Campos, who is playing tremendously well.

Allen Lazard had a career day against KU a year ago, and I foresee him padding the stats with another 100-yard effort and at least one touchdown. There are so many options in the receiving corps, and aside from Lazard and the beast that is Hakeem Butler, another player who has stepped up this year is Trever Ryen.

The former walk-on showed blazing speed on this screen play, and led all pass-catchers with 99 yards versus Oklahoma. He has turned it up a notch and adds a dimension we haven’t seen since the Jarvis West days.

P.S. - How good has the run-blocking been from our receivers – especially Allen Lazard? This will increase his draft stock immensely.

Quarterback Kyle Kempt will get the keys to the car for his second start, and coordinator Tom Manning will continue to put him in easy situations on play calls. Manning did a fantastic job of getting the ball out of Kempt’s hands quickly and letting his playmakers make plays in open space.

Kempt doesn’t throw the prettiest of balls, but he also doesn’t make mistakes. He is the epitome of a game-manager and will need to be so if he continues to play for the Cyclones.

Kansas Defense

Welp, this unit is pretty bad. How bad are they?

As bad as Mark Mangino trying to fit in a child seat.

Kansas gives up an impressive 45 points per game, allowing over 500 yards, and have only garnered six takeaways.

They are led by Big 12 Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year Dorance Armstrong. This 6-foot-4 defensive end is a force, with five quarterback hurries and 5.5 tackles for loss on the season. Needless to say, he has underperformed to his standards, attaining his first sack just last week.

Linebacker Joe Dineen leads the Big 12 in tackles with 61, and if it wasn’t for him, their defense would be even worse. Dineen has 21 more tackles than any other player on the roster.

The secondary is not any better, allowing a league worst pass-efficiency rating of 171, and over 300 yards per game. They are led by sophomore safety Mike Lee, who is second on the team in stops, and has two interceptions on the year.

The Verdict – ISU by a Wide Margin

If there was ever a need for a slump-buster, this KU defense is ready and willing.

Manning will continue to give Kempt easy targets with swing passes to Montgomery and screen passes to the outside. What I am looking forward to is a good push from our guys up front and a solid rushing effort out of both David Montgomery and Mike Warren.

The Cyclones need up the ante and continue to pound the yards out on the ground. I want to see 250+ rushing yards put up against this atrocious defense, and the ball in the DM Train’s hands.

Iowa State Defense

While all the praise thus far has been given towards the offensive side of the ball, this defense has improved by leaps and bounds from a year ago.

They held their own with a 3-man front against OU last week, and have dialed up the blitzes when called upon. That can’t happen without the strong effort of the man in the middle – Ray Lima. If he hasn’t already, he deserves recognition for all-conference honors this year.

The defensive ends are licking their chops, as KU allows over 2 sacks per game, and ISU is third in the Big 12 with 7 tackles for loss per contest. That means we will see multiple blitzes (similar to Akron game), and opportunities for creating havoc in the backfield.

Linebacker Willie Harvey is questionable to return to the field on Saturday, but if I were the coaching staff, I would rest him for later conference play. Joel Lanning and Marcel Spears, Jr. have held their own, and we will continue to see more two-linebacker sets in the 4-2-5 alignment as the season progresses.

That means more playing time for safety (and flag-planter) Evrett Edwards in the STAR/Nickel spot, creating more speed on the field on passing downs.

D’Andre Payne came back from injury last week and did a fantastic job of making open-field tackles and sticking on his man on downfield routes. The safety play was paramount to success versus OU, with 3 and sometimes 4 on the field, and we will see lots more of that – especially on third down passing plays.

Reggie Wilkerson has been exactly who we thought he would be – an animal. Alongside Kamari Cotton-Moya, this is probably one of the best safety tandems since the Nik Moser and Steve Paris days.

Second Key to Victory – Turnover Margin

This about as simple as meat and potatoes.

In the Matt Campbell era, ISU is 6-2 when winning the turnover battle. They are 0-9 when losing or tying.

The Cyclones will have plenty of opportunities for takeaways, as KU’s quarterback has as many interceptions as he does touchdowns.

Kansas Offense

The Jayhawks brought in former TCU play-caller Doug Meacham and his pass-happy offense to Lawrence. So far, it has paid dividends, as they have improved to nearly 30 points per game and over 458 yards of offense.

KU runs a spread approach, with primarily four receivers and/or a tight end. Their running back has a burst of speed that can go the distance, and Bender likes to throw deep.

The majority of their yards come through the air, as quarterback Peyton Bender averages 275 passing yards per game, and spreads the love. So far on the season, 8 different players average at least once catch per game. Bender is not a rushing threat whatsoever, and likes to get rid of the ball quickly. The only knock on him thus far is his 56% completion rate and throwing eight interceptions.

His beneficiaries are abundant, but the leader of the pack is Steven Sims. The 5-foot-10 junior leads the team with 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight End Ben Johnson is Bender’s safety blanket, as he has corralled 18 balls on the year and averages 50 yards per game.

The running game has had its fair share of ups and downs. In the West Virginia game, running back Khalil Herbert ran wild, putting up 291 yards on 36 carries. So far the speedster averages 7.4 yards per carry and 100 yards per game. He has the speed to break one, as evident by this run.

Third Key to Victory – Slow down Herbert

The offensive line is full of inexperience, with the majority of the hog mollies in their first year starting, but they have been serviceable. Herbert has been a bright spot for this offense, and is fast once he gets to the outside. The Cyclones will need to continue to hold sound gaps and tackle in space.

Verdict – ISU

The Cyclones have been clicking on all cylinders and I see a big day in the tackle column for both Lanning and Marcel Spears, Jr. The Jayhawks are very young and it shows in many of their games through a variety of mental errors and the inability to sustain drives.

Special Teams

If there is one thing going for KU so far, it is the success of their kicker. Gabriel Rui has connected on 8-of-9 kicks on the season. Garrett Owens has been equally as good, connecting on 7-of-8, and has become a consistent performer for this offense.

For as many times as Kansas gets scored on, they have had opportunities for kick returns. So far, they average 20 yards per return. Meh.

ISU hasn’t been much better in that department, but I could see a stellar game out of our return men, as KU is good for last in kickoff coverage.

Verdict – ISU

The Jayhawks are bad at this one too. Lets make it a consensus pick for the good guys!

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

For this week, if we were to compare levels of high blood pressure for Mike Stoops and his fresh new dumpster fire of a hotseat, with 1 being Kyle Kempt’s calm demeanor, and 10 being multiple profanity-laced tirade calls from brother Bobby Stoops, I give the Cyclones chance for a win at 9.9.

And an unemployed Stoops after 2017...

Final Analysis

I see a closer one than the Vegas pundits project, especially with a brand new quarterback. ISU will try to add some wrinkles with their new signal-caller, seeing what he can do outside of his comfort zone. This is the perfect opponent to add to the playbook, but most importantly we need to get the run game going.

I see a workmanlike day out of Kempt, with a heavy dose of David Montgomery and a stout defense that will clean up any dirty work.

Final Score

Iowa State 31

Kansas 14