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2017 Game VIII: #25 Iowa State vs. #4 TCU Football Preview

One of the biggest games in School History - Bring on the Horny Toads!

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Game VIII: #25 Iowa State (5-2, 3-1) vs. TCU (7-0, 4-0)

Date: Saturday, October 28th, 2017

Time: 2:30 P.M. CST

Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Capacity: 61,500

Line: TCU -6.5

Television: ABC or ESPN2

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

TCU Game Notes

TCU SB Nation WebsiteFrogs O’ War

If you haven’t guzzled all the kool-aid by now, grab a glass and join the party.

ISU is off to one of its fastest starts in school history, winning three consecutive road games for the first time since 1970, and is deservedly ranked in the top-25 (last time was 2005).

Add to that the Cyclones are tied for 2nd in Big 12 standings (at 3-1), and control their own destiny moving forward.

Their next top-2 conference opponents (TCU and Okie State) will also have to play on our home turf, including this weekend’s matchup vs. #4 ranked Horny Toads.

We haven’t seen this much buzz from the media since the days of Seneca Wallace. Its even caused a circus with Matt Campbell’s future in Ames, with a tweet from College GameDay Host Kirk Herbstreit exclaiming that all Athletic Directors need to hire our man.

From the words of the decrepit Lee Corso – not so fast.

Jamie Pollard then had a few choice words for our friendly members of the press (eh em, Randy Peterson and the DSM Register) in this Murph and Andy Show on KXNO.

To be honest, none of this bothers me. If anything, it gains more attention for this program and sheds a positive light on Matt Campbell.

Keep in mind – he is doing this with a majority of under-classmen and a 3rd string quarterback at the helm. That my friends, is impressive.

When we last left off….

Iowa State went down to Lubbock, Texas and made Kliff Kingsbury wish he pursued a modeling career after college. Campbell ran circles around the Ken doll, as ISU committed ZERO penalties (first time since 1989), and held the fourth-ranked offense in the country to 13 points and 336 yards of offense.

The Cyclone defense is literally on fire – allowing a salty 15.2 points versus Big-12 opponents, and holding all four of them to 10 or more points below their average. It is the epitome of a team effort, and with the implementation of a new 3-man front and blanketed zone coverage, I’m not even sure if Joe Montana could pass against this team.

ADVERSITY - my biggest takeaway was how this team handled it. In fact, they stared it in the face, and said “screw you.”

Here are three specific situations in the game that stood out to me:

  1. In only his third appearance as a QB (you can’t write a movie script any better), Kyle Kempt throws an interception on his first drive. The senior shakes it off and immediately drives ISU down the field for a score in route to 3 passing TDs in the first half. His resiliency and ability to come back from a negative situation speaks volumes for me.
  2. With the 2nd-quarter clock winding down and after what appeared to be a rushing touchdown from Kempt (ala Tom Brady), ISU faced a third-and-goal with a chance to add to their lead. Teams of old would have spent all their time complaining about another bad call, but Kempt calmly stood in the pocket, and zinged a touchdown to Matt Eaton.
  3. Texas Tech just had two long drives and was gaining momentum on another to cut it to one-possession game. That’s when Marcel Spears, Jr. (and his bionic arm) went to work, reading a screen pass, intercepting the ball and returning it 61 yards to pay dirt.

Previous teams didn’t have the leadership, nor the composure to make these plays. This team has continued to buy into the coaching system and play as ONE unit. Winning on the road is not easy in this conference, and ISU is not scared of the challenge.

Now bring on TCU.

TCU Tidbits

Texas Christian is a little brother in the Longhorn State that no one talks about. Coming off a disappointing 6-7 record a year ago, they were picked in the middle of the conference, but have shed all doubts.

They are now 7-0 and the Big-12 front-runner to make the College Football Playoff.

Led by Gary Patterson in his 17th season in Fort Worth, this TCU team carries with it a ton of experience, with 21 seniors on the roster. Nobody runs the 4-2-5 defense better than Patterson, and this year is no different. The Horned Frogs are 11th in the country in total defense, only allowing 81 yards rushing and 211 passing yards per game. They lead the Big 12 in sacks, and have only allowed all of FIVE TOUCHDOWNS when teams enter the red zone.

The offense has been efficient, led by quarterback Kenny Hill and his impressive 70% completion rate. TCU puts up nearly 42 points per game and dominates the line of scrimmage, gaining almost 200 rushing yards per game.

The Series

TCU leads this short-lived series by a margin of 7-1. The last time ISU won was in 2012, behind a 3-touchdown performance from Josh Lenz, and a pick-six from the man who legendarily carried a stop sign down Welch Avenue.

Iowa State Offense

This matchup will be a dicey one.

TCU is one of the best at stopping the run, but they have yet to see anyone as elusive as David Montgomery. The DM train likes it rough – as he gained nearly all of his yards after contact vs. Texas Tech.

This game literally all comes down to the play of my man Kyle Kempt. He has to sustain drives and continue to play turnover-free football. So far, Kempt has far exceeded all of my expectations, as the fifth-year quarterback has continued to find the open receiver.

One week its Allen Lazard, the next its Marchie Murdock, Trever Ryen, or Matthew Eaton. This receiving corps continues to shine, and can do it in a plethora of ways. TCU’s calling card is their secondary and abundance of speed in the back end. Tom Manning and company will continue to take advantage of the short- to intermediate-passing game, utilizing downfield blocking with the screen pass, and downfield seams in play-action.

First Key To Victory – Contain the Pass Rush

TCU is one of the best at open-field tackling, and does not get beat deep. They have a potent pass rush, so it will be important for the offensive line to sustain their blocks and communicate up front. One way Manning and company has mitigated this risk is by getting the ball out of Kempt’s hands quick. Also, you can’t go wrong with dumping off to the DM train in the open field.

Even with TCU stuffing the run, ISU can not abandon the running game completely. If they go one-dimensional this game will be over before it starts (see Texas game). The most disciplined offensive approach will win this game, because both defenses are stout.

I see a steady game from Kempt, with a few more men in the backfield to pave the way for Montgomery and the LANRAM package. If ISU wants to continue to move the sticks, they will have to convert on 3rd- and 4th-and-shorts. I think Joel Lanning is ready for the ball, Coach.

TCU Defense

Gary Patterson has designed the 4-2-5 defensive scheme to absolute perfection, and his package thrives in the high-scoring Big 12. It all starts in the secondary, as TCU plays three safeties on the field at all times – with a free and weak safety controlling each half of their field, and a strong safety typically in slot coverage. They have not allowed a touchdown in the last two games.

They run primarily zone coverage, but not your typical drop to a spot type of zone. Defenders read the offense and then play into a pattern-matching zone coverage, which can deceive offenses and create headaches for quarterbacks. You can read more here.

TCU’s best safety is Preseason All-Big 12 Nick Orr, who has started 33 games, and is tremendous in pass coverage. His counterparts are Ridwan Issahuku and Niko Small. Issahuku has scored one of three defensive touchdowns on the year for TCU.

The linebackers are led by do-it-all Travin Howard, who will most likely lead the team in tackles for a third straight year. Howard is one of five seniors on the defensive side of the ball.

TCU’s defensive line is one of the best in the country, and allow only 2.4 yards per rush. Their edge rusher Ben Banogu has 4.5 sacks, and nose tackle Chris Bradley has played in all 46 games the last four years.

Second Key to Victory – Convert on Third Downs

There is nobody better at getting off the field on third downs than TCU. With as good as both defenses are, ISU will have to make the plays necessary to sustain drives and move the sticks. TCU is light up front, but they make up for it with fundamental tackling and no mental lapses.

Get the ball to our playmakers in space and DM Train the ball, and things will come our way.

The Verdict – TCU

The Horned Frogs are number one in the conference in defense for a reason. Look for Manning to keep the playbook simple and not get Kempt out of his comfort zone. Again, we can’t abandon the run. Stick to the gameplan and keep it balanced.

Iowa State Defense

This defense is legit.

And it gets better after second-half adjustments. ISU has outscored its opponents 134-61 after halftime, while only allowing all of 16 POINTS to its last four opponents in the second stanzas. The front has gained tremendous pressure, as ISU leads the conference in tackles-for-loss and is second in forcing turnovers.

The linebackers have continued to eat up the stat-sheet, as Joel Lanning is second in the Big 12 in stops, and a healthy Willie Harvey corralled 14 tackles last week. Don’t forget the third amigo – as Marcel Spears, Jr. took home Conference Defensive Player of the Week with a pick-six.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

None of that is possible though, without the support of the men up front. Defensive End J.D. Waggoner shined last week, with 2 tackles for loss and a sack. Of course defensive tackle Ray Lima dominated, eating up two blockers and giving free reign to the second line for tackles. ISU has tried multiple schemes, but none has worked better than the 3-3-5 package, where putting more speed (and coverage) on the field has created a huge mismatch.

Open field tackling was key last week, and D’Andre Payne was the man for the job. I remember so many games in the past where missed tackles were back breakers for this unit, but this year they have been fundamentally sound. Brian Peavy continues to be Brian Peavy – and deserves recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the conference.

Third Key to Victory – Flip the Field with Turnover/Touchdown

With this being a field position game, turnovers can change the momentum at any moment. ISU has done a tremendous job of not only keeping teams off the scoreboard, but forcing turnovers. They have recovered fumbles in five straight games, and will need to win this turnover battle again to win on Saturday.

TCU Offense

Kenny Hill is leading the charge at quarterback for the Horned Frogs. The two-year starting senior is having one of his best years for TCU. Hill is completing his passes at a 70% clip, and has 15 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions on the year. He can also run the ball well, and is a load to take down at 212 pounds.

It all starts with the running game, as the Horned Frogs have run the ball on 57% of their plays. They run for nearly 200 yards on the ground, and are led by sophomore Darius Anderson with 532 yards and an impressive 5.8 yards per carry. Last year’s starter Kyle Hicks is just as serviceable. When it comes to short-yardage situations, watch out for 235-pound Sewo Olonilua who thrives in the wildcat package.

This offensive line is led by three seniors up front, and lost a fourth senior a few weeks ago to injury. That forced multiple players to move to other spots, but since then they have not missed a beat. TCU allows the least amount of sacks in the conference.

The receiving corps is not as explosive as it once was, but still has a burner in Kevontae Turpin. The 5-foot-9 speedster leads the team at his slot position with 23 catches on the year. The big play threats are John Diarse and Jalen Reagor, as both have big bodies and can stretch the field.

Verdict – ISU

Kenny Hill does not scare me. He has not played any good Big 12 defenses thus far on the season, and does not have the patience to dink and dunk against ISU’s 3-man zone defense. TCU’s biggest strength of running the ball plays right into ISU’s favor.

Our secondary will hold its own, will not get beat deep, and can tackle in space. This defense is tough as nails and can contain this balanced attack.

Special Teams

TCU carries with it a below-average punter, and right there ISU gains an advantage. This game will be a knock-down, drag-out fight, and there will be as many punts in this game as beers drank in the parking lot. Field position will be key, and the big leg of Colin Downing will give the defense a boost. On the other end of those punts is electric return man Kevontae Turpin, and his blazing speed.

From a kicking standpoint, TCU leads the conference in kick return defense, and their kicker has made 7-of-7 on field goals. Garrett Owens hooked a 40-yarder last week, but I am still confident in him to make the big kick.

Verdict – ISU

ISU has and will continue to dominate in special teams. They’ve also got a punter in Colin Downing that is ready for his battle with Turpin.

“I’ve had this game circled on my calendar. Probably one of the best returners in college football, so its an exciting week for me, because I love a good challenge.” – Colin Downing

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

Honestly, I think this game is so close on paper, the chances of winning are similar to selecting red or black in a game of roulette. According to our friends at College Football Analytics, the Cyclones have a 45.8% win probability.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance!

Final Analysis

Both defenses are rock solid, and will not have any mental lapses. I don’t see any long passing plays, or broken runs, as most scoring drives will come in the clock-eating fashion, with a hit-you-in-the-mouth type mentality. Look for Joel Lanning to play a significant role in short yardage situations, as coach Campbell has shown us that he is not afraid to go for it on fourth down.

This game will come down to coaching and experience. While Matt Campbell is in his second year at ISU, Gary Patterson is in his 17th, and his squad is stacked with upperclassmen and seniors who have been here before.

I think the Clones have a shot to win it late, but the Horned Frogs slam the door and sneak out of Jack Trice in a thriller.

Final Score

Iowa State 14

TCU 20