1. What's been the biggest surprise so far of Tech's thus-far successful season? Defense? Coaching? We've all been pleased by the progress on the defensive side of the ball. Frankly, I'm not sure Tech fans could've handled another disappointment there given our past failures. The other revelation has been the success-rate of the recent JUCO/FBS/FCS transfers. It's extremely rare when you feel like 90% of the new players are doing exactly what was expected of them, and it appears like that's the case here. Coaching-wise, I had felt like Kingsbury was turning the corner, but after managing to lose at West Virginia by double digits (when we were up 18 in the 3rd quarter) I'm unsure how I feel about the coaching. This game against Iowa State will show fans what the staff is made of.
2. What's been the primary catalyst behind the significant improvement of the defense? We can stop the run. Outside of Oklahoma State, nobody has had much success on the ground and that's due to Mych Thomas and Broderick Washington being the most underrated defensive tackles in the Big 12. These guys hold up blockers and allow the linebackers to clean up at an elite level. It truly has been night/day from previous seasons to this season, and we'll face another huge challenge against ISU. The other contributor has been our ability to turn teams over. Whether that means 4th down stops, interceptions, fumble recoveries, etc. this group appears to have the mentality/talent to make plays happen. Because of this development on defense, some would say our 4-2 record is exceeding expectations thus far.
3. Who are some players on either side of the ball that Iowa State fans may not know about, but should keep their eye on this Saturday? I'm obsessed with the development on Eli Howard at defensive end. He's big, strong, fundamentally sound, and has a great motor. Against Kansas, he deflected four passes at the line of scrimmage, which is unreal. That's a challenging task against air...
Offensively, TJ Vasher had a breakout performance against WVU, and Quan Shorts has worked in at starter. From a talent perspective, these guys have all the physical skills to be stars. Should ISU successfully take away Coutee, or Canrell, I wouldn't be surprised if we worked it to these young guys a bit more.
Lastly, Justin Stockton, who's been around forever, is having a great senior season. The light finally is on with him, and he's running hard between the tackles, to go along with his elite top-end speed. If he's rolling, the offensive is at it's peak.
4. What are some weakness on the Tech defense that the Cyclones should look to exploit if they want to have success?
You'll catch us in soft zone coverage a bunch, so if your quarterback can take what we give him, and is accurate - the passes from 8-12 yards will mostly be there. Our defensive backs also have good size, but from a speed perspective I think it's a matter of time until someone can beat us over the top. A guy like Allen Lazard could cause us major issues, so it'll be interesting to see how we cover him.
5. How about the offense?
If Shimonek gets flustered, and has to exit the pocket, he's been subpar. Also, if teams can stop our running game with five players in the box, and can find a way to only rush three guys - we're sunk as well. This is the blueprint that Oklahoma State ran very well, and we were never able to get in a rhythm. Against WVU, we flat out didn't execute. Shimonek missed easy throws with no pass rush, penalties doomed us, and questionable play calling.
6. Let's talk West Virginia. What happened?
160 yards of penalties, abysmal kicking, and the decision to inexplicably stop running the football. What's crazy is that despite those mistakes, we still had a chance to overcome it all and win the game. If we duplicate those mistakes against ISU, we're in for a very rough day indeed.
7. Currently, Vegas has this game at Tech -4.5. Were you expecting the line to be that close?
You guys beat OU in Norman, made quick work of Kansas, and had extremely competitive losses. Meanwhile, we found a way to snag defeat from the jaws of victory against WVU. I'm sure Texas Tech will get a late bump, and it settles around 7 or 8 points. Personally, I'd tell everyone with common sense to stay far away from this game. I could see the Red Raiders winning by 28, or losing by 28.
8. Best fast food burgers? Corn fed or grass fed beef?
I'm supposed to stay Whataburger, but I'm not their biggest fan. Lately, I got a new grill so I prefer my own burgers - but if I'm picking it up....I'll rotate between Freddy's, Shake Shack, or PTerry's (local Austin, TX ripoff of In-N-Out). Probably grass fed, but I could be sold on corn fed.
9. Corn or Flour Tortillas?
I'm under the belief that a homemade flour tortilla can overcome a lot of shortcomings - so definitely flour.
10. Prediction Time: I don't think this game will be close, and I do feel like the winner wins by double digits. Since it's a toss-up in my eyes, I'll always slant towards the Red Raiders. 42-31 Texas Tech.