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2017 Game VII: Iowa State vs. Texas Tech Football Preview

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The Menu for Saturday - Tacos, and lots of em

Texas Tech v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

2017 Game VI: Iowa State (4-2, 2-1) vs. Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2)

Date: Saturday, October 21st, 2017

Time: 11:00 A.M. CST

Location: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX

Capacity: 60,454

Line: Texas Tech -6

Television: Fox Sports 1

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

Texas Tech Game Notes

Texas Tech SB Nation WebsiteViva the Matadors

When was the last time Iowa State was tied for 2nd place in the Big 12 after playing the two biggest brands in the conference (Oklahoma and Texas)?

The Cyclones stand at 2-1, and have a legitimate shot at finishing in the upper half of the conference standings when all is said and done.

Coach Campbell told the media he doesn’t enjoy bye weeks – he just wishes the team could play every Saturday.

Well, he gets his wish – as the next six weeks serve as a small step of potential for greatness for this program.

Iowa State can hang with every team moving forward. The defense is playing lights out – having only allowed TEN POINTS in the second halves of their last four games, and Tom Manning has simplified the playbook to utilize his team’s strength – get the ball in the hands of our receivers and playmakers.

One of those playmakers is David Montgomery aka the DM Train. The sophomore ranks fifth in the conference in rushing yards per game, and loves to create pain and punishment for defenses. He continues to lead the country in broken tackles, and will continue to carry the load for the offense moving forward.

When we last left off….

ISU did what it was supposed to do last week – punish an inferior opponent.

How about that defense? ISU completely dominated Kansas, forcing the program’s fourth shutout in Big 12 history, and not allowing KU to cross its OWN 35 YARD LINE until the fourth quarter. They held KU to only five first downs and 106 yards of offense.

Ray Lima needs to start gaining some recognition – he is the MVP of this defense and quite possibly the team thus far. It all starts and ends with the defensive line, and he has come through in shining colors.

Getting third down stops used to be a back-breaker for this unit. But since implementing a 3-man front with 8 defenders in pass coverage against Oklahoma, this ISU defense has been a stonewall for opposing teams. Jon Heacock - we cheers to you with a Natty Lite again.

Kyle Kempt didn’t play the game of his life, but he didn’t have to. I was really disappointed in the lack of push up front from the offensive line, as David Montgomery gained suspect yardage. Tom Manning and company will continue to alter the playbook to Kempt’s strengths and allow him to do what he does best – manage the game.

Texas Tech Tidbits

Texas Tech’s coach Ryan Gosling Kliff Kingsbury was on the hot seat a year ago, when his Red Raider team faltered down the stretch, ending the season with a 5-7 record.

But, this year he has turned things around. Watching tape of this team, I don’t see the gimmicky plays as much as I used to. The offense is still putting up video-game like numbers, but they have also balanced their offensive approach, and learned to take advantage of the clock with a better time of possession.

The Red Raiders are 4-2 on the year, with impressive wins at Houston and against Arizona State. They held an 18-point lead last week versus West Virginia (in the fourth quarter mind you), only for the wheels to fall off, and allow 29 unanswered points to the Mountaineers.

The defense is surprisingly fourth in the conference in rush defense, and they lead the league with a turnover margin of plus-9. Bringing back Defensive Coordinator David Gibbs was the right choice for pretty boy Kingsbury, as Tech has allowed nearly 13 points less and 125 yards fewer per game.

The offensive attack is led by former Iowa transfer Nic Shimonek, who apparently wasn’t good enough for Kirk Ferentz and company. The fifth-year senior is top-10 in country in passing yards, completion percentage, total offense, and passing touchdowns.

The Series

Texas Tech leads the all-time series 11-4, with ISU winning the last one by a score of 66-10 in Ames.

Here are some of those highlights, compounded by a five-touchdown rushing performance by do-it-all Heisman candidate Joel “LANRAM” Lanning.

On top of that this team is riding a three-game road winning streak, and is looking to make it four in a row for the first time since 1960.

Iowa State Offense

Sadly, the Jacob Park missing person search continues. There is no news on his whereabouts, but, according to Campbell, is still on the team.

Kyle Kempt has been serviceable at quarterback, and has done a fantastic job of not forcing throws. Kempt’s stat line last week was 13 for 20 for 122 yards and one touchdown. Nothing exciting, but he also wasn’t called upon to make the big play. The walk-on senior’s decisions will be crucial in this one.

First Key to Victory – Take Advantage of Downfield Throws

Texas Tech gives up the most passing yards in the Big 12, and has been decimated in the back end on long throws. West Virginia took full advantage of the jump ball in the red zone – and Allen Lazard is just what the doctor ordered.

Here we see a GIF where WVU did a great job of matching up their outside receivers in one-on-one coverage, scoring in the red zone.

Not only will Lazard benefit with his size, but so will 6-foot-6 playmaker Hakeem Butler, who will thrive in the pseudo tight end/slot role. Texas Tech primarily runs a 3-man front on defense, with a hybrid defensive end in a two-point stance and a weakside linebacker on the line to help in run support. This creates a gap in the second line of defense and room to get our inside receivers the ball in space.

Trever Ryen, fresh off his Special Teams Player of the Week accolades, will continue to rack up the catches as Manning will get the ball to #19 in the bubble screen. I’m excited to see what Kempt can do against this defense. Manning needs to keep the playbook simple and allow Kempt to successfully throw to his primary reads.

David Montgomery leads the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns, and is one of five players on the team with 200 receiving yards. ISU will need to run the ball to make the defense honest, but if that doesn’t work then get the ball to the DM Train in the passing game. He is a horse, and I pity the defenders who have to try and tackle him.

Texas Tech Defense

Again, this unit is one of the most improved in college football. Their defense was as porous as a spaghetti strainer a year ago, but they have added a ton of fresh faces in the secondary.

In fact, five of the ten defensive backs transferred into the program, and a sixth came over after playing wide receiver. They are led by hard-hitting strong safety Vaughnte Dorsey, who is fourth on the team in tackles. Freshman cornerback Demarcus Fields leads the team with four pass breakups and a 95-yard interception return for a score.

For all the yards given up, the defense has been great at forcing turnovers. They are 11th in the country in forcing 15 takeaways, with 8 picks and 7 recovered fumbles. Tech does dial up the blitzes every once in a while, but with the inexperience in their secondary, it can break the top off with big throws.

If any of you have watched the Netflix hit show Last Chance U, then the name Dakota Allen should sound familiar. After getting kicked off the Texas Tech team in 2015 for an alleged break-in and gun theft, the linebacker spent a year at Eastern Mississippi Community College. He has since come back to the program, and is now a force to be reckoned with, leading the team with two interceptions and fourth on team in tackles.

The defensive front is led by the only two senior starters – in Zach Barnes and Mychealon Thomas. Both have formed a brick wall for opposing offenses, allowing a salty average of 3.4 yards per carry.

The Verdict – ISU

This Cyclone team is different with Kempt calling the plays, but they matchup very well against the Red Raiders. Tech’s inability to stop the passing game will pay off huge dividends for our bevy of skill-players on the outside, and I see Kempt having a big day through the air.

Second Key to Victory – No Turnovers

The pass rush doesn’t scare me, but the fact that Tech is so aggressive in the secondary is volatile for a quarterback only making his third start. ISU can mitigate that risk by continuing to call the simple horizontal screens, take advantage of our tremendous blocking from the wide receivers, and dump it to the DM Train so he can create in space.

This team has plenty of skill players – Kempt just needs to get them ball and let them create.

Iowa State Defense

Coming off their best performance of the year, this defense has their work cut out for them. Texas Tech spreads you out and uses every inch of the field in the passing game. Again, this plays right into the strength of this unit.

The 3-man front only works if the nose tackle can thrive, and so far, Ray Lima has come to play. Campbell has continued to talk about “multiplicity” and giving opposing offenses different looks. ISU will continue to disguise its defense, and most likely play with more speed on the field. Since the second half of the Oklahoma game I can’t remember the last time this defense gave up a conversion on third-and-long.

Northern Iowa v Iowa State
Lima LOVES Taco's!
Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

In all three Big 12 games, ISU has held opponents to at least 10 points below their season average. They have done so by stuffing the run, and playing fundamental defense in the back end. The secondary has depth, and we will see more of Evrett Edwards, Demonte Ruth, and Lawrence White on the field. So far, this defense is second in the conference in pass defense, and I hope we can continue to right that ship of momentum against this vaunted passing attack.

Joel Lanning is second in the Big 12 in tackles, and we also get Willie Harvey back at full strength. Tech likes to throw to their running backs still, and if there was one knock on IronMan Joel Lanning, it is his pass coverage.

We will need to continue to see a disciplined approach from our safeties, as Texas Tech likes to throw downfield. Look for Kamari Cotton-Moya to add to his already superb start, as he is 2nd in conference with three interceptions.

Texas Tech Offense

The Red Raider passing attack is again full steam ahead. This system that the great Mike Leach started has never slowed down, as they know three speeds – fast, faster and fastest.

Led by quarterback Nic Shimonek, Tech is fourth in the country in passing offense and scoring. They spread the ball throughout the receiving corps, as four receivers have at least 20 grabs on the year. There is no tight end, as they go four- and sometimes five-wide, and utilize the short and horizontal passing game. Their offensive line splits are as big as a country mile, and there isn’t a throw Shimonek can’t make.

Just when the defense is tired and trying to communicate, Texas Tech runs the ball straight down your throat. They are led by running back Justin Stockton and his impressive 6.7 yards per rush. In fact, the top four rushers all average over 5.4 yards per carry, and Kingsbury has gone from one-dimensional in the passing game a year ago, to a semblance of a balanced attack.

Still, their forte is throwing it and slinging it deep. Keke Coutee leads all receivers, and is fifth in the country in receiving yards per game. The 5-foot-11 speedster can run all routes, as Kingsbury likes to put him all over the field. Dylan Cantrell is the epitome of a possession receiver, and his size at 220 pounds is a matchup nightmare for defenses.

TJ Vasher broke onto the scene last week with two long touchdowns against WVU, as the freshman is their vertical threat.

The offensive line is very young, as they start a true freshman and have no seniors. They have done a functional job of keeping Shimonek’s jersey clean, but do give up over 2 sacks per game.

Third Key to Victory – Bend But Don’t Break

Pulling from the great wizard Wally Burnham’s playbook, the defense has to keep the ball in front of them. Playing on the road can be a hostile environment (yes even in BFE Lubbock), and the game’s momentum can turn in a hurry with a deep touchdown pass. Shimonek isn’t afraid to make those throws, and it will be ever so important for these safeties to cover their areas of the field.

Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne can hold their own, but we do not want to see one-on-one matchups with our safeties downfield.

Verdict – Taco Tech

Shimonek and his cronies are just too good for this defense. They will get their points, but the difference between a 10-play and 2-play drive will make all the difference in this affair.

Special Teams

Look out for Demonte Ruth!!!

Trever Ryen benefitted from a hellacious block by Ruth on this return, hitting pay dirt for the first special teams score of the year for the Cyclones. If there is one thing Texas Tech struggles in, it is special teams play.

While receiver Keke Coutee is the Red Raiders return man, he has been bottled up thus far. The Texas Tech return defense is horrid, as they are near the bottom in the conference. Field position will be paramount for this offense, and nothing is better than to start a drive with a short field.

Look for Trever Ryen to continue his dominance, and for the kick return game to get on track.

Tech’s punter and kicker are just as bad as Kansas, as they are only converting on 50% of their kicks thus far. The Cyclones have a real weapon with punter Colin Downing, as he is playing tremendously well.

Verdict – ISU

The Cyclones handily win this battle.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

For this week, if we were to compare the production of agriculture between states, with Iowa obviously a 10 and Texas a 1, I say the chances of ISU winning are a solid 8.

Final Analysis

I like this matchup for the Clones. This game will come down to the little plays, and coaching. I believe the Cyclones have a far superior CEO on their side of the field, and this team will be prepared.

I foresee a lower scoring game than the media projects, as ISU can slow down this Texas Tech passing game. They will score, but it will take 5- and 6-minute drives to do so. Campbell knows he needs to get the running game going to save the defense’s legs, and he can do that with the short passing game as well.

In all honesty, this game comes down to the play of Kyle Kempt and his ability to convert in the passing game. I think the fifth-year senior is up to the task. Sprinkle in the magic of LANRAM in short-yardage situations, and I see ISU winning its third game in a row.

Final Score

Iowa State 35

Texas Tech 33