2020 Game III: Iowa State (1-1) vs. #18 Oklahoma (1-1)
Date: Saturday, October 3, 2020 (We have entered Brock-Tober)
Time: 6:30 P.M. CST
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Capacity: 61,500, (but only 15,000 can attend)
Line: OU -7
Television: ABC, First time under the lights as Premier Game w/ ABC since…….
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – Crimson and Cream Machine
After a melt-down in game #1 of the much anticipated 2020 season, this Cyclone team re-grouped and put together a quality win on the road against a much tougher TCU opponent than I expected. Don’t be shocked if TCU makes a splash this year –ending up in the top-half of the league, and upsetting a few teams they shouldn’t.
The Cyclones did not play their A game, nor even their B game, but they still had enough juice and fire power to win their NINTH conference road game in the last 3.5 seasons. That is truly a feat. It took all of 12.5 Iowa State seasons before that to win their previous nine on the road…
.@CycloneFB is an impressive 9-7 in their last 16 Conference Road Games under @ISUMattCampbell. How long did it take ISU to win its previous 9 Conference Road games do you ask? You have to back track all the way from 2016-2004, as it took FIFTY-FOUR games in 13 seasons to do it— Josh Williams (@jwillyISU) September 29, 2020
Now we enter into the month of Cyclone legendary lore – BROCK-tober! ISU is 10-1 in the month of October since 2017, including four wins versus ranked opponents.
What better of an atmosphere is this – Jack Trice Stadium, under the lights, on Prime-Time ABC Television for all the country to see?
When we last left off….
ISU went from nearly falling off a cliff, to all of a sudden finding its foothold and beginning to climb the mountain that is the Big 12 Conference. We are tied for 1st in the Conference, and 1-0 is all that matters moving forward, as ISU can create its own destiny.
The Cyclones started off slow in Fort Worth, but picked it up in the 2nd quarter behind a 75-yard touchdown run from Breece Hall. As the league leader in rushing, the sophomore had himself a day, with three TDs and a splendid 8.6 yards per carry, running behind two backup guards and tremendous blocking from underrated tight end Dylan Soehner.
Some naysayers seem to think Brock Purdy has taken a step back, and to them I say – Not So Fast, My Friend. In years past, Brock carried the load of the entire offense on his shoulders, but now he can simply pick his poison and become a game manager. The statistics may not be there, but the overall balance of our offense will create dividends for the future. A good offensive and defensive line allow a football team to beat anyone, anywhere, anytime. My friends, ISU has both.
The defensive pressure against TCU was one of the best I have ever seen (and that was with primarily THREE rushers). Jaquan Bailey proved to us he is worthy of all-time ISU greatness, picking up 3.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and much deserved Big 12 Defensive Player of The Week Honors.
A lot to be excited about, as ISU has plenty of bullets left in the chamber. We haven’t even seen the best of the receiving corps, and our All-American Tight End is still no better than 80% healthy.
It is TIME for the Black Uniforms!
The Sooners were picked to win the Big 12 Conference (again) after winning five straight conference crowns. Coming back is offensive savant Lincoln Riley, but for the first time in his coaching career – not a veteran quarterback. The past three years under Riley the signal-caller has been a transfer with seasons under his belt. This year they have a redshirt freshman in Spencer Rattler. And don’t get me wrong, the stats are there, but the poise and experience is not.
That was evident in the fourth quarter against Kansas State last week. After blowing a 21-point lead (and completing 26 of his first 29 passes), Rattler was unable to rally the troops. He finished the game 4 for 12 (with only 1 of those completions downfield), and a game-sealing interception for K-State.
I was waiting for the Bob Stoops paint to wear off, and now that Riley is in his fourth year, maybe that is happening. (What do I know, I’m just a hack blogger. Haha). Needless to say, this team is stacked with young talent (51% of the roster are freshman and sophomores), but they only have SEVEN ACTIVE Seniors. You can have all the talent in the world, but to win in football you need leadership and experience.
OU has beaten ISU worse than The Harlem Globetrotters have throttled the Washington Generals. In fact, OU’s .917 winning percentage against ISU is the best in FBS history. The Sooners are 76-6-2, with ISU’s last victory coming in 2017.
I hope the sad, sorry Sooners aren’t taking their covered wagons to the game…
Iowa State Offense
ISU has not had an offensive line this good since, I don’t know - the Ennis Haywood and Davis brother days? Needless to say, this has been a foundation that Campbell has carefully crafted since his arrival in Ames five years ago. Finally, the concrete has been poured, the bricks have been laid, and the Cyclones have a rushing attack.
Breece Hall was the first Cyclone to start the season with back-to-back 100-yard plus games since Haywood in 2001. Think of that – all the cupcake programs (and well, I guess Iowa) we face every year, and its been 19 years? #ThisIsNotYourFathersIowaState.
Speaking of Breece, he will go up against another ultra-fast, yet even more undisciplined defense this week. I was glad we scrapped the outside zones and counters, and kept Hall’s carries between the tackles. The lead blocking from Dylan Soehner has been top notch, and look for Iowa State to tick, tick, tick the clock, keeping OU’s offense off the field.
First Key to Victory – Control the Clock with the RUNNING GAME
This doesn’t mean just Breece carrying the load in the backfield. We will need more designed runs from Purdy, and smart decisions on third down. OU has shut down opponents on 91% of their 3rd downs, so to make the “Money” Down more manageable is ever-so-important.
It would be good for Tarique Milton to get back in uniform, as he can separate from the defense better than anyone on this roster. Look for more deep shots, as Joe Scates is our man down the field, and I see a coming-out party for Xavier Hutchinson. There will be opportunities for big plays, and ISU needs to capitalize. After being bottled up for the first three-fourths of the game, KSU hit home runs four different times, all in the passing game, mostly due to missed assignments and tackles.
Purdy will need to take care of the ball, and take exactly what the defensive gives him. Look for a ground-and-pound approach from Tom Manning, mixed in with multiple play-action passes, and a few doses of trickeration. And when we get in the red zone, we HAVE to put up 7s, not 3s.
From the words of “The Program”: Lets put the women and children to bed, and go looking for f’n dinner.
A much-improved unit from the Mike Stoops days, as defensive coordinator Alex Grinch enters his 2nd year at the helm. To say things have gotten better is an understatement, as OU’s days of ranking in the bottom of the Big 12 in every defensive category turned a 180. In fact, in 2019 OU led the Big 12 in total defense (in yards in conference games).
As most teams have done, the Sooners copied Jon Heacock’s scheme to a T, and run our 3-3-5. Speed and youth are the name of the game for this unit, as SEVEN of the top 10 tacklers were freshmen or sophomores in ’19. Lost is do-it-all linebacker Kenneth Murray (1st Round Draft Pick) and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore.
While OU has played two subpar rushing attacks (yes K-State was replacing all five OLine starters), they have held opponents to an impressive 60 yards per game, and 2.4 yards per carry. In my opinion, when two of your three leading tacklers are safeties, that probably isn’t a good sign, but OU does play their defensive backs aggressively in the box.
Delarrin Yell-Turner leads the team in tackles, and also has a 42-yard interception return. OU showed good pressure up front, accounting for 14 tackles-for-loss and 5 sacks in their first two contests. Their leading sack artist is DaShaun White, who lines up as a middle linebacker, but with OU’s speed is utilized in the blitzing game more than most.
The secondary is full of 4- and 5-star talent, and is probably one of the deepest and fastest units in all the Big 12 (even faster than TCU). But they showed lapses of judgement and inability to make tackles when they needed it most against K-State in week two.
The Sooners have held opponents to an amazing 8.5 first downs per game, and somehow, some way, a 9% conversion rate on 3rd downs. I think the sample size is a bit small, but a few things lacking – a consistent pass rush from the front and the ability to force turnovers.
The Verdict – ISU
Young inexperienced teams who make mental lapses have been terrorized by Manning and Campbell over the years, and this matchup is no different. I look for ISU to take advantage of open opportunities, and do everything in their power to run that clock, keeping OU’s offense off the field.
Iowa State Defense
I can’t say this enough – we have something special with the 2020 ISU defensive line. Jaquan Bailey has shown he belongs in the elite category of defensive players in college football, and Will McDonald- I mean the guy has EIGHT sacks in his last SIX games. This party is just getting started!
They will have their hands full though on Saturday, as OU loves to run misdirections, sweeps to the outside, screen passes, play-action up the seams, and most deadly – the deep ball in one-on-one coverage.
Second Key to Victory – No Defensive Lapses in the Secondary
There is no one better at creating mismatches in space than Lincoln Riley and his wide receivers down the field. If there was one area of the field that was exposed in ISU’s defense versus TCU – it was the secondary. The corners played ok, but the safeties played out of position, and were beat three times too many on downfield throws. It is tremendously important for the likes of Isheem Young, Arnold Azunna, and Lawrence White to keep their men in front of them.
I’m not worried about Greg Eisworth, as the senior has stayed healthy and will continue to assert his dominance in this game. Expect for Heacock to run his patented 3-man rush, with a cloud zone coverage, keeping the ball in front of him.
The risk-reward of blitzing Rattler will be tested, as the young freshman has a cannon for an arm, but also forces throws against tough coverage. Look for overloads to one side of the field, and delayed blitzes, as Mike Rose and O’Rien Vance will have to keep their head on a swivel.
I’m expecting multiple substitutions, keeping fresh legs on the field, especially in the secondary. ISU’s defense may not have the highly-touted recruits that OU has, but if everyone plays their role, then this TEAM defense will be successful.
According to OU’s game notes, redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler was listed as the consensus top quarterback recruit coming out of high school. He has a tremendous ability to scramble and create in space, but at times runs out of the pocket when he doesn’t have to. K-State created an immense amount of pressure from their front lines, as OU gives up the 2nd-most sacks in the Big 12.
The offensive front carries with them Preseason First-Team All-American center Creed Humphrey, but the rest of the line struggled to pass-protect in week two. They have played a true freshman quite a bit at the left tackle position, and have taken awhile to gel.
The running back room lost 80% of its production from a year ago, and have yet to find a lead horse. Although TJ Pledger and Marcus Major have started the first two contests, so far the best runner has been true freshman Seth McGowan. He leads the team with 134 yards, yet the entire offensive rush has been pedestrian – with a subpar 3.6 yards per carry.
While many pundits think the Sooners are an air-it-out passing team, that simply has not been the case, as OU has rushed the ball more than they have passed it the last five years (Riley’s regime as play-caller).
Third Key to Victory – The First Quarter is KEY
Oklahoma has simply dominated the first stanza of every game, (and did so against Iowa State last year). In fact, they have outscored their opponents 38-0 in the 1st quarter, and 62-7 in first halves of 2020. While it may not be easy, ISU has to play solid fundamental defense, and limit their mistakes. Bringing a knife to a gun fight is ill-advised, and the Cyclones can not afford to get in a shootout with the Sooners.
That one big-play receiving threat has yet to emerge, but if I were to put money on one guy – it has to be Charleston Rambo, as the 6-foot-1 junior leads the team in catches and yards thus far. The Sooners have a talented tight end in Austin Stogner, as the 6-foot-6 sophomore leads the team with three touchdowns, and a burner in true freshman Marvin Mims.
The Verdict – OU
If history were to prove anything, its that Oklahoma’s offense under Lincoln Riley will be one of the best in the business, and this team has the talent to do it. They may not have the leadership ability and veteran presence in years past to withstand adversity, but on paper this has to go to Oklahoma and the wizardry play-calling of Lincoln Riley.
Week Two was a much better performance by ISU’s special teams, and I even think Joe Rivera should get an honorable mention game ball for his punting prowess. Needless to say, the days of returning punts are probably over, as Greg Eisworth is simply going to fair catch everything…
Oklahoma’s field goal kickers have been some of the best in the country, as they have hit on 87% of kicks since Riley has been head coach (good for 2nd best in country). While they carry a Preseason first team All-American in specialist Gabe Brkic, he has yet to kick field goals, due to reasons unknown. In his absence, Stephen Johnson is 2-for-2, and also made all of his extra points.
The Sooners always have a deadly punt return man, and this year Marvin Mims is the man, already with a long of 34.
Again, ISU can ill afford to have any special teams lapses, and no offense to Connor Assalley, but he needs to shake off the cobwebs and be perfect on Saturday.
Verdict – OU
Until they prove me wrong…
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
There has been a lot of talk about Oklahoma being more motivated to win coming off a loss. I call that bologna. This team is what they are, and it will show their resilience on Saturday. Coach Matt Campbell is about as even-keeled as they come, and he will have the boys ready to play.
The Sooners may have the most talent, but playing them this early (and at home in front of our fans) is a huge advantage for the Cyclones.
I’m going pretty lame here - Call it a coin flip, or picking a Cardinal Red card out of a 52-card deck. Either way, I think the outcome is literally 50/50, with a slight advantage to ISU.
The season is not won nor lost with this game, but it can be special for the 2020 Iowa State Football program if they pull it out.
If I were to add another Key To Victory, it’s simply turnover margin. Easy as meat and potatoes. In Matt Campbell’s tenure, the game has literally been lost or won on turnovers. If the Cyclones win in this small battle, they will win the war.
Give me the ‘Clones in a close one.
Iowa State 34
Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!