2017 Game X: #14 Iowa State (6-3, 4-2) vs. Oklahoma State (7-2, 4-2)
Date: Saturday, November 11th, 2017
Time: 11:00 A.M. CST
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Line: Oklahoma State -6.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Oklahoma State SB Nation Website – Cowboys Ride for Free
Adversity struck last week, as ISU fell into a hole, down 20 on the road to a formidable opponent. The defense was gashed in the running game, and the offense couldn’t produce.
That was when the coaching staff went to work. Campbell and company have been absolutely masterful with their halftime adjustments, and the West Virginia game was no different.
So far on the season, ISU is outscoring their opponents in the second stanzas by a margin of 146-68. Campbell talks time and again about how slim of a margin for error this team has. And this was one of those games where that came into full effect.
I was disappointed by the inability to score touchdowns in the red zone, but was impressed by the leadership and heart this team played with to make the comeback.
Don’t worry folks – that Big 12 Championship is still possible. Just got to take care of business this week.
One game at a time.
When we last left off….
Iowa State lost to West Virginia on the road by a score of 16-20. It was a tale of two halves, as the Cyclones bid for a comeback came a bit short.
The Mountaineers rolled over the defensive line for 218 yards on the ground, and forced the Cyclones into a 4-man front. Ever since the second half of the TCU game, teams have figured out that they can produce yards on the edge, and have taken full advantage. Oklahoma State’s offense starts with the run game, and that matchup scares me.
The offense was who we thought they were. Nothing special, especially on the offensive line. David Montgomery continues to get little push up front from his supporting staff, but still breaks tackles for positive yardage.
Quarterback Kyle Kempt lit it up in the second half, as ISU was able to move the sticks in the short to intermediate passing game. WVU shut down any semblance of the back-shoulder throw, but ISU was able to still move the ball down the field for points. The problem was, when the Cyclones needed to score 6s, and they got 3s. The red zone offense will have to be cleaned up this week.
Oklahoma State Tidbits
That man with the long-flowing mullet is none other than Mike Gundy. He has turned this Oklahoma State program into a consistent top-15 team year in and year out.
This year is no different, as the Cowboys are 7-2, and on pace to finish in the top-3 of the conference. I compare this team to the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL. They have what Coach Campbell called their signal-caller a “Robo-Quarterback” in Mason Rudolph. He is similar to Big Ben Roethlisberger as he is hard to take down, and has the arm strength to complete passes downfield (and efficiently). His counterparts portraying Antonio Brown is WR James Washington, who leads the NCAA in receiving yards per game, and Le’Veon Bell as RB Justice Hill, leader in the Big 12 in rushing yards.
While the offense puts up 45 points per game, the defense allows nearly 29. They are not as bad as you think they are, leading the Big 12 in takeaways, and when you break it down on points per drive, they are still in the middle of the pack for Power 5 programs. Games against Oklahoma State are full of possessions, evident by Oklahoma having 16 last week, (and scoring 62 points).
Oh, and one more thing. The Cowboys are the only Power-5 team to be undefeated on the road this year, (5-0).
Oklahoma State, from the Big-8 days and current Big-12, lead the all-time series 30-18-3. The Cowboys have won five straight, yet the last two contests have been decided by one possession.
Even with their crazy stats and higher rankings, this Cyclone team has matched up well against the Cowboys, and had realistic chances of beating this team each of the last two seasons.
Iowa State Offense
There are some holes in this Oklahoma State defense, and I look for Tom Manning and company to exploit them. Right off the bat, they give up 270 yards through the air per game, but don’t get beat deep. Before that Oklahoma thrashing, they had only allowed all of SIX TOUCHDOWNS through the air, and held opponents to 6.5 yards per attempt.
That’s fine. Kyle Kempt and company can methodically drive down the field, and run the clock. That stat above tells me that Okie State is a bend-but-don’t break defense, who keeps their safeties deep, and lets you play in front of them. ISU has shown the patience to take what is given to them, and we have the horses to move the sticks.
I see a big day in the underneath routes and simple comebacks. Enter in Trever Ryen, Marchie Murdock (who has seen a bigger role as of late), and of course Allen Lazard. This team has big playmakers who can be possession receivers and move the chains.
First Key to Victory – Keep Tempo in Your Favor by Running the Ball
ISU can’t win in a shootout, it will be won by winning time of possession. The DM Train is up to the task, as he has continued to break tackles at a record pace, and I could see him racking up 30+ carries on Saturday. What this does is keep ISU’s defense off the field and shortens the game.
Oklahoma State Defense
The Cowboys run a hybrid 4-2-5 look, but have also recently played with a 3-man front against passing teams. I see them sticking with the 4-man line, as they have been relentless against the run, only allowing 3.4 yards per carry.
They are led up front by interior lineman DeQuinton Osborne, who has 3.5 sacks on the year, and has been disruptive. Their edge rush comes from end Jordan Brailford, who has 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 4 sacks, and has speed to get around the outside.
Chad Whitener leads the linebacking crew, as the senior has 29 starts to his name, and is second on the team in tackles. This defense prides itself on getting takeaways, and leads the Big 12 in turnovers forced and interceptions.
They have also been stout in the red zone, only allowing 6 touchdowns through the air once teams get inside their 20. The cornerbacks are young, with two new starters this year (a freshman and sophomore), but the safeties are veterans.
Safety Tre Flowers, a Pre-Season All Big-12 selection, leads the team in tackles, and pass breakups. His counterpart Ramon Richards is a former cornerback, who has 10 interceptions in his career, and is a ball hawk.
The Verdict – EVEN
This is my way of calling out the offense. They went 8 quarters without scoring a point against TCU/WVU, and need to start strong against the Pokes. There are matchups here where ISU can exploit the Cowboys, especially with our receiving corps.
Iowa State Defense
ISU has held Big 12 opponents to 19.92 points below their average scoring outputs. They have done it by playing team ball, and as one seamless unit. Last week, there were a few mental errors (mostly by our safety) in deep coverage, and it came back to burn the Cyclones.
Let’s start there – the secondary will need to play a flawless game. Keep the ball in front of you, and don’t let this guy get in one-on-one coverage down the field.
The Cyclones have the talent, and the depth to play with Oklahoma State in the passing game. D’Andre Payne and Brian Peavy have both been excellent, not only in pass coverage, but also in open-field tackling. I’m excited for this matchup.
Look for ISU to stick with their 3-man front, along with 3 safeties on the field, adding Evrett Edwards or De’Monte Ruth in the back end. Okie State will spread you out with 4-wide sets, and the more speed and defensive backs this team can put on the field the better.
Ray Lima must not be 100%. Ailing from back spasms since the TCU second half, this defense has been gashed up front in the running game. If that continues to happen, I foresee Vernell Trent coming in alongside Lima with a 4-man line. It changed the game last week vs. WVU, and look for Heacock to continue to give the opposition multiple looks.
I don’t see the linebackers blitzing as much, as they need to stay back in coverage. Joel Lanning will most likely be responsible for the spy on Rudolph, as the big guy can tuck it and run.
Oklahoma State Offense
Mason Rudolph is one of the best in the business, as the 6-foot-5 prototypical quarterback has all the tools to play at the next level. The senior out of Rock Hill, SC, is top-10 in the country in NINE separate categories, most notably #1 in passing yards.
He likes a clean pocket, and gets it the majority of the time with his impressive group of linemen. The Cowboys line doesn’t skip many meals, averaging 314 pounds per starter, and have only given up 13 sacks on the year.
Second Key to Victory – Contain the Rushing Attack
What most people don’t realize is that this offense starts with the running game. In fact, so far on the season, Okie State has ran the ball (52%) more than they have passed it. They are led by stud sophomore Justice Hill, and his Big-12 leading 1,064 rushing yards. The Cowboys have also run for more than 200 yards in four of their last five games. ISU needs to stay sound in their gaps and wrap up at the point of attack.
Behind Hill is bruiser J.D. King, who is 205 pounds and is their short-yardage back. When Oklahoma State gets in the red zone, they like to implement their diamond package, with two up-backs (which they call the Cowboy back, how original?) and Hill behind Rudolph. This has worked to perfection, as the offense has scored 19 of their 33 touchdowns in the red zone on the ground.
All-American Wide Receiver James Washington sprained his ankle last week against Oklahoma, and sat the second half. So far his prognosis for Saturday is questionable. Gundy said in his press conference that the Biletnikoff favorite was in a walking boot, and would sit out practice until he is ready.
He leads all NCAA receivers with 125 yards per game, has 9 touchdowns on the year, and is a massive deep-play threat, averaging nearly 22 yards per catch. That would be huge for the Cyclone faithful if #28 was unable to play on Saturday.
In Washington’s absence, LSU transfer Tyron Johnson shined last week, paving the way for a career-best 118 yards and two touchdowns. Big target Marcell Ateman and his 6-foot-5 frame has 732 yards and 6 touchdowns on the year, and Jalen McCleskey plays the slot role to perfection, with 35 catches.
OSU does a fantastic job of putting the defense in 2-on-1 situations in man coverage. Luckily for ISU, they run a lot of zone. Rudolph has a cannon for an arm, as this plays right into his wheelhouse with a ton of go routes down the field. Safeties Kamari Cotton-Moya and Reggie Wilkerson will have to play error-free ball, and make plays for the ball (like this one by Payne last week).
Verdict – OSU
If Oklahoma State was a team of old where they relied solely on the passing game for yards, I could sleep at night. The fact that this team is so balanced will keep me up, and even without Washington at 100% they still have the horses (and QB) to put up points.
Oklahoma State’s special teams efficiency rating (19.3 out of 100) this season is the worst among Power 5 programs since Illinois 2005— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 29, 2017
With as good as Okie State is at offense (and kinda-sorta at defense) their special teams is abysmal. They have a walk-on kicker who has made 13-of-19 kicks, and a punter who is in the bottom half of the league in net punting.
That is only half the story. So far the Cowboys have muffed punts, gotten kicks blocked, punts blocked, botched snaps, and are even worse than Iowa State in returning kickoffs.
ISU has one of the best special team units, with a solid punter and good kick and punt coverage. Look for the Cyclones to take advantage of the field positon battle, and for Trever Ryen to continue to ignite a spark with his punt returns.
Verdict – ISU
Oklahoma State is 130th out of 130 programs in special teams efficiency according to ESPN. Nuff said.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Oh boy - this is a tough one. If you were to compare hair styles, with a 1 being el Presidente and a 10 with Mike Gundy’s fashionable locks of love, I give the Cyclone’s chances of winning at a solid 7.
Its Senior Day folks. I hope you can all make it out for the last home game of the year, to “Pack the Jack” and pay your support to the seniors who have bought into this program and laid the foundation for years to come in the Campbell regime.
I see a lower scoring game than Vegas projects (over/under is 62), as the ISU defense will continue to clamp down and hold OSU to below their scoring average. My biggest matchup of the day is the ISU secondary versus Oklahoma State’s vaunted passing attack. They can give up all the yards they want, just keep the Cowboy playmakers in front of them, wrap up, and force turnovers.
Third Key to Victory – Win the Turnover Battle
This is as simple as bread and butter. In Matt Campbell’s tenure, ISU has a 9-2 record when winning the turnover margin, and 0-10 when tying or losing it. Mike Gundy and his fighting mullets are 64-8 when they force more turnovers than the opposition.
I predict a tight one in Ames for the seniors last hurrah, but too powerful of an offense for ISU to compete with in the scoring column. Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.
Iowa State 24
Oklahoma State 30