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2018 Game IV: Iowa State vs. TCU Football Preview

On to the Horny Toads!

TCU v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

2018 Game IV: Iowa State (1-2, 0-1) vs. TCU (2-2, 0-1)

Date: Saturday, September 29, 2018

Time: 6:00 P.M. CST

Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX

Capacity: 45,000 (20k will be there)

Line: TCU -10.5

Television: ESPNU

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

TCU Game Notes

SB Nation Website - Frogs O’ War

I know what you fans are thinking. “That Akron game was anything but impressive, and now ISU has to go up against the Big 12 gauntlet, and will be lucky to win any of their next three games.”

Not so fast says Lee Corso.

The media has beat a dead horse at the inept offense that Coach Campbell has put on the field, and rightly so. Iowa State is dead last in the Big 12 in points, yards, rushing, first downs and 3rd down conversions, and definitely needs a spark if they want to compete in the conference.

Now, hear me out. We’ll see much more of the Iowa State offense against Oklahoma than we saw against ball-control and suffocating defenses of Iowa and Akron. Once Big 12 play opens, the flow and tempo will be turned up a notch, and Zeb Noland will be like a kid in a candy store.

The offensive line has proven to be what we thought it would be – a work in progress. The good thing is they’re at least average in pass-blocking. As the passing windows open up for Noland, so will the running lanes for Montgomery.

Relax Cyclone fans, Campbell has all those nay-saying media pundits right where he wants them…

When we last left off….

Cyclone fans were craving chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream, and instead they got a whole lot of vanilla.

Iowa State started and finished with a very bland game-plan, and that was okay with Coach Campbell. He was working the kinks out, and trying players in new spots - especially freshmen who had not seen the field before.

While the score on the field was Iowa State 26 - Akron 13, the W was all that mattered, not how pretty it looked. Zeb Noland completed 77% of his passes and David Montgomery ran for over 100 yards. The defense only allowed one touchdown, and that was only after an Iowa State fumble and short field.

All in all, we are one-fourth through the season, and Matt Campbell and his coaching staff have the barrel loaded with ammunition for these upcoming games.

TCU Tidbits

The Horned Frogs have one of the best coaches in the conference, if not the country, in Gary Patterson. Since 2008, the only programs to rank in the top-10 more than TCU and Patterson are Alabama and Ohio State. He has built the program to a national power, and it all starts with his wizardry on defense.

TCU plays a hybrid 4-2-5 scheme that combines both man and zone coverage, and thrives on blitzing the quarterback. Thus far on the season, the Horned Frogs have taken down the quarterback 11 TIMES.

While the D is strong, the offense is struggling a bit under new quarterback Shawn Robinson. The heralded recruit and 228-pound signal-caller has been bit with the turnover bug as of late. He accounted for three turnovers in the third quarter last week against Texas, and completely swung the game towards the Longhorns.

TCU is 2-2 on the year, losing their last two. They welcome the Cyclones to Fort Worth, as they haven’t played at home in four weeks, and are undefeated in three of the last four years on their home turf.

The Series

Quite possibly one of the greatest atmospheres I have ever been a part of in my life, Iowa State won last year’s affair 14-7 in dramatic fashion in Ames. It was a defensive battle, as Iowa State’s defense gave up ZERO points to the TCU offense, and forced three turnovers.

TCU leads the all-time series 7-2, and is 4-1 against the Cyclones in Texas.

Iowa State Offense

It appears Kyle Kempt is out for at least a few more weeks, and that is fine. Zeb Noland has been consistently accurate and taken what the defense gives him. TCU will send a variety of blitz packages, so look for Iowa State to give help with an extra blocker or tight end.

First Key to Victory – Put Touchdowns On the Board In the Red Zone

This is the kryptonite to the TCU defense. They are tremendously efficient at not giving up the big play and buckle down when offenses get inside their 20. The difference in last year’s game is Iowa State scored two touchdowns when given the opportunity, and will speak volumes on Saturday if Iowa State wants to pull this one out. The Cyclones have struggled in the red zone thus far on the season, and they may need to scrap the run game and take advantage of their outside receivers – namely Matthew Eaton and Hakeem Butler.

I noticed Butler was in a wide array of spots on the field last week, and created mismatches for the defense. Look for that to continue. If TCU moves their top corner to a guy like #18 in the slot, that creates an advantage for someone else on the field. Texas’s wide receiver Collin Johnson dominated last week against the Horny Toads, and “Hakeem The Dream” can step up and do the same this week.

We have seen what Butler can do, but is time for players like Deshaunte Jones, Tarique Milton, and especially Matthew Eaton to step up. Chase Allen is questionable to play, but ISU needs last year’s version of Robin (Marchie Murdock) to perform next to Batman.

Second Key to Victory – Win Time of Possession

Here is an interesting stat – in Gary Patterson’s tenure, TCU is 19-1 when winning the time of possession battle. The Cyclones dictating the tempo of the game will give a huge boost to their chances. David Montgomery was given a few more creases to run through last week, but against this defense that will prove to be difficult. Iowa State has to slow this game down, and they can do that if they get the ball to DM Train in space.

The line started Colin Olson at guard last week, but look for Josh Mueller to take his job back after sitting out with an injury. TCU’s rush will be a large task for the offensive front to communicate up front and will be a make or break game for freshman center Colin Newell. Amon G. Carter Stadium has never really been known as an intimidating atmosphere, so that bodes well for the boys in cardinal and gold.

TCU Defense

This is the Horned Frog’s calling card, as they start five seniors on defense, and have a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism. While the front is small in stature, they make up for it with production, only allowing only 3.3 yards per carry. They have held all opponents below their season averages in both yards and scoring so far, including Ohio State.

Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Ben Banogu is a 6-foot-4 senior defensive end that can get to the quarterback with a variety of defensive moves. Combined with defensive tackle Corey Bethley, this combo has combined for 5.5 sacks, and ranks 11th in country as a unit.

Hybrid DE/LB Ty Summers has spent the last few years filling up the stat sheet at linebacker, as he has 287 stops in his career. He’s since made the switch to the three-point stance, and is a Swiss Army knife for Patterson. The Horned Frogs are led in tackles by converted safety-to-linebacker Garret Wallow and middle linebacker Arico Evans.

Notice a trend here? – TCU has traded size for speed, as their ends weigh an average of 242 pounds, and linebackers 209. This allows them to cover all parts of the field, while also being fundamentally sound in the running department.

The Horned Frogs are best in the conference at 3rd down defense, only allowing opponents to convert an insane 28% of the time. That all starts with their secondary, and they are led by junior safety Innis Gaines, who is tops in the conference with seven pass breakups. Free safety Niko Small is a household name, as the senior has 27 starts, but is doubtful to play with an injury.

The Verdict – TCU

Iowa State has struggled in this category to start the season, but I have faith in Noland’s arm and our playmakers to move the ball. The difference in the scoreboard will be whether or not ISU can create better situations to convert on 2nd and 3rd Down and also in the red zone.

Iowa State Defense

Jaquan Bailey played his best game of his career last week, accounting for 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, and was a terror off the edge. Matt Leo has impressed me, and so has Jamahl Johnson. The fact that defensive coordinator Jon Heacock has the latitude to bring in subs is a true testament to the success of this program. TCU has run the ball on 52% of their plays, and no one will be more important to stop it than Ray Lima. The underappreciated redshirt junior is up to the task.

A successful defensive line will clear more space for our linebackers to roam, namely MLB Mike Rose and weak-side linebacker Marcel Spears, Jr. Spears came into his own last year against TCU, and will be called on again to stop the third-best running attack in the conference.

Third Key to Victory – Win the Turnover Margin

Nothing proved this stat more than in last year’s game. Iowa State has yet to really bring pressure, but look for the defense to create confusion for an inexperienced quarterback and gain a short field for Noland and company. I foresee more blitzes, and trading a linebacker for a fourth linemen, especially on passing downs.

It is safe to say we have found our nucleus at the safety spot. Junior Braxton Lewis has firmly supplanted De’Monte Ruth at the STAR position, and Lawrence White and Greg Eisworth have played outstanding ball. Eisworth has lit it up thus far, leading the team in tackles in back-to-back weeks.

The cornerbacks will have their hands full with two speedy receivers in Jalen Reagor and KaVontae Turpin. Neither are the possession type, but love to stretch the field with a homerun. It will be ever-so-important for not only Peavy and Payne to keep up, but our safeties to create a blanket over the top of the defense.

TCU Offense

TCU has graduated from Kenny Hill and has entered the Shawn Robinson era. Robinson is bigger and faster, but still has those same turnover problems. The 6-foot-4 sophomore and 2nd best dual-threat QB coming out of high school is boom or bust. He rarely looks through his progressions, and tucks the ball and runs too often. Robinson has completed 61% of his passes, but for a pedestrian 210 yards per game.

His best attribute is running the football, and is more of a North-South runner with his bowling-ball frame. TCU runs the quarterback read often, and more times than not, Robinson is the benefactor, rushing for 6.5 yards per carry and three touchdowns.

His offensive line has been flawless, allowing the least amount of sacks in the Big 12, which is especially impressive since four of their starters from last year are in the NFL. Their only returning starter is guard Cordel Iwuagwu, and he is questionable to play with an injury from last week.

The line paves the way for the third-best rushing attack in the conference, and are led by junior Darius Anderson, who averages an astounding 7.4 yards per carry, including this 93-yarder.

The thunder to Anderson’s lightning is none other than Sewo Olonilua, who at 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds is the short-yardage back. He even plays the wildcat in the redzone, and is tough to take down.

The receivers are copy-catting Art Briles’ Baylor approach, and converting athletes to wideouts. All of them are tremendously fast, but none quicker than KaVontae Turpin, who is second on the team in catches. While Turpin plays out of the slot, their outside receiver Jalen Reagor has come into his own, corralling 15 balls in the last two games.

Verdict – ISU

You mean to tell me Iowa State gets to play against another turnover-prone quarterback in the purple uniform? When TCU rushes for more than 200 yards they are 89-6 with Patterson at the helm. The Cyclones will slow down the TCU running game, and that will leave Shawn Robinson to beat us. Advantage Cyclones.

Special Teams

The Cyclones have found their kicker! Wearing the infamous Mike McKnight #96 jersey (you 20-year olds probably don’t remember how bad he was), our very own Connor Assalley is one of four kickers in the country to make all of his field goal tries (with 7 or more attempts). Although we have yet to test the walk-on for any long kicks, his accuracy bodes well for the Cyclones, especially in a defensive game such as this.

TCU’s kicker Cole Bunce is 8-for-11 in his career, while their punter is dead last in the conference with a 38-yard average.

We saw the return of Kene Nwangwu last week, as the electric sophomore had a 47-yard return.

TCU has their own weapon in do-it-all return man KaVontae Turpin. He has helped bolster the top punt-return unit in the conference, and has already brought one back to the house.

Verdict – EVEN

Mirror images of one another, as each unit has an above-average kicker, below-average punter, and tremendous breakaway speed in the return game.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

Honestly, I feel this game is closer on papers than people think, and for that reason I give the chances of ISU winning similar to that of heads or tails on a coin flip.

Our friends over at College Football Analytics give ISU a 40% chance of winning, but I think it is better than that..

Final Analysis

This game is all about the little things that Coach Campbell preaches. The margin for error is so slim, and the fact that TCU is MINUS-5 in turnovers bodes well for the Cyclones. Neither team is electric on offense, yet both are stout on the defensive side of the ball.

I project some players stepping up and making names for themselves, ala Marcel Spears, Jr. and Matt Leo on defense, and Matthew Eaton and Deshaunte Jones on offense. Again, it will come down to the line play to give Montgomery space, but this TCU defense is so good.

I give the coaching edge to Gary Patterson just slightly, and the fact that they are playing at home is the tie-breaker. TCU wins in a close one.

Final Score

Iowa State 17

TCU 20

Let us know your thoughts below


What are ISU’s Chances of Winning Against TCU?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Shades of Josh Lenz as ISU handily wins in Fort Worth
    (41 votes)
  • 42%
    Its like Roulette, odds are 50/50
    (89 votes)
  • 22%
    Gonna be a Close Game, but the Home team pulls er out
    (47 votes)
  • 14%
    TCU not only beats ISU, but covers the Spread
    (30 votes)
207 votes total Vote Now