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2020 Game V: #17 Iowa State at #6 Oklahoma State Football Preview

Coming off a Bye Week, the Cyclones travel down to Stillwater for a Showdown against the #6 team in the Country!

TCU v Oklahoma State
Party in the Back, AND Party in the Front
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

2020 Game V: #17 Iowa State (3-1, 3-0) at #6 Oklahoma State (3-0, 2-0)

Date: Saturday, October 24, 2020

Time: 2:30 P.M. CST

Location: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK

Capacity: 55,509, (but only 25% can attend)

Line: OSU -3.5

Television: FOX

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

Oklahoma State Game Notes

SB Nation WebsiteCowboys Ride For Free

This one is B-I-G, folks.

If we are to avenge all those painful pull-your-hair-out losses that our fathers and grandfathers experienced while checking the liquor cabinet for heart pills, this one is it.

Everything is ripe for the taking, and all that stands in Iowa State’s way is…… Iowa State

It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. As long as this team plays Cyclone Football, then the rest will take care of itself. This roster is as malleable as we have ever had – and for the first time, Matt Campbell finally has an offense he has been dreaming about since he took the job in Ames.

Physical. Tough. Ground and Pound. Eat the Clock. Stare your opponent in the face, and DARE them to stop you.

We have been complaining about the ineffectiveness of Iowa State offensive lines for decades, and now that we have one – it has given the Cyclones an identity – one where the running game is complemented by the pass. And not vice-versa.

Add to that one of the top defenses in the conference, and this Cyclone team can go far.

But remember - one week at a time. This time it’s the Cowboys and fighting Gundy Mullets who stand in our way.

When we last left off….

Matt Campbell has been preaching about cleaning up the little things, and has always said there is more to work on. Iowa State was able to escape TCU and OU not playing their best football, but against Texas Tech – they were nearly perfect.

Save for a bonehead blocked field goal (which I still think should have been penalized for using a teammate to jump, but that’s beside the point), Iowa State was flawless.

Going into the fourth quarter, ISU had outgained Tech 459 to 95, and had 28 first downs to their 7. The Cyclones did everything they wanted, and that was even without right tackle Joey Ramos, who was injured early in the game.

His status for Saturday is up in the air, but with freshman Jake Remsburg, the offense didn’t skip a beat. Big 12 Conference rushing leader Breece Hall and his 5.7 yard-per-carry average (for season!) did his thing, and Brock Purdy was a surgeon. He knifed through Texas Tech’s defense with a death by a thousand cuts – completing 16 of his first 17 passes, and his first 300-yard output of the year.

The defense played good sound, fundamental football. Linebacker Jake Hummel played one of his best in a Cyclone uniform, and Will McDonald now has 9.5 sacks in his last 8 games.

Oklahoma State Tidbits

Led by the 2nd longest-tenured coach in the Big 12 Mike Gundy, this Cowboy team has been known for their potent offensive attack, but (just like everything else in 2020), it has been a weird year.

After barely surviving at home to Tulsa in week one by a score of 16-7, OSU looked very underwhelming in their 27-13 victory against West Virginia. Through two games, OSU had scored all of THREE touchdowns, which is remarkable, since they had FIFTEEN in their first two games of 2019.

The main reason is because quarterback Spencer Sanders went down with an ankle injury game one, and true freshman Shane Illingworth is working out the kinks. The four-star recruit from California was kept on a tight leash against West Virginia, but did show flashes against an inferior Kansas opponent in week three. The offensive line had two starters leave in the offseason, and two more have been out with injuries, so the running prowess of Chuba Hubbard has been lackluster.

Surprisingly, it has been the defense that’s carried this team thus far in 2020. Third-year Coordinator Jim Knowles has improved this unit immensely (which needed to happen), as OSU ranks in the top-3 in nearly all categories of the Big 12. Just remember – they have played only Tulsa, WVU and Kansas…

OSU is 3-0, ranked #6 (highest since 2016), and was selected by media members to finish 2nd in the Big 12. Some outside sources had them as a dark horse contender to vie for the crown, but to be honest, the sample size has been small. They are coming off TWO bye weeks since our friends from Waco can’t keep their hands to themselves, and forced last week’s affair to be postponed to December.

The Cowboys carry with them one of the best wide receivers, not only in the Big 12, but the nation, as Tylan Wallace adds his name to the list of great Cowboy pass-catchers at #WideReceiverU. Here is his game-breaking touchdown last year against ISU.

The Series

Okie State leads this long-time series, dating back to the good ole Big 8 days, by a 32-19-3 advantage. The Cowboys have also won seven of the last eight meetings…

Iowa State Offense

You might think the Iowa State defense is the most important unit to slow down OSU, but in my opinion, the Cyclones need to rely on their offensive attack to win a big one on the road.

First Key to Victory – Win the Time of Possession

This is always a very underrated statistic, as teams get too caught up in putting points on the board, and playing field position. The fact of the matter is, Iowa State’s offense IS their best defense. If the Cyclones can continue to manhandle the line of scrimmage and create manageable third downs, then we will see a successful day. My goal is for the ISU to get to 33 minutes of time of possession. And if we want to take that next step – Convert on Fourth Down!

That means another big day out of Breece Hall and his electric running style. The sophomore has been a joy to watch in his second season, and has really started to click on all cylinders behind an aggressive and talented offensive line. He leads the Big 12 and ranks second nationally in rushing AND rushing touchdowns.

The Cyclones did a good job of adding Brock in the run game against Tech, and only puts more pressure on the defense to help in run support. Look for our vaunted three tight-end look, as it has been the most successful formation all year.

That will open up the play-action pass, which allows Xavier Hutchinson to get fed. The JUCO transfer is really coming into his own, and you can just tell he has another gear no one else does. Tarique Milton will continue to ail his broken collar bone, and will be sorely missed in the deep passing game. Look for Landen Akers to get those touches, and for Charlie Kolar to get more and more looks as the season progresses. OSU only carries with them two linebackers, so if he is matched up on a safety – I would throw the ball to Charlie every, single, time.

Oklahoma State Defense

The Cowboys were once the perfect example picked on by national media pundits as: The Big 12 Doesn’t Play Defense. Well I got news for you folks, this unit ain’t bad. And neither are most other Big 12 defenses. Maybe the SEC just finally realized what it was like watching good offense. (I’ll save that for another day).

Anywho, Jim Knowles’s unit returns 87% of last year’s tackles, 95% of tackles-for-loss, and 95% of all sacks from 2019. This 4-2-5 scheme has been solid thus far, with few mental lapses, a very stout rush defense, and sack parties against both WVU and KU.

They have given up 9 points per game, and an amazing 16% of third down conversions. It has come in a multitude of ways, but mainly due to the effectiveness of the front-six. The defensive line is not only experienced but deep, and are led by tackle Cameron Murray and rush end Trace Ford, who forced this fumble and scoop-and-score against WVU.

The Cowboys have put up a brick wall against opposing rushers, only allowing 94 yards per game on an impressive 2.5 yard-per-carry average. Their linebackers are some of the best in the Big 12 in Amen Ogbongbemiga and Malcolm Rodriguez. Both had over 100 tackles a year ago, and are conveniently number 1 and 2 on the team in stops.

Then there’s do-it-all Calvin Bundage. He is listed as a linebacker, but is most dangerous as a pass-rush threat, as he leads the team with 5.5 tackles-for-loss and 3 sacks. I didn’t see many all-out blitzes on tape, but Okie State did get tremendous pressure from the outside in their last two contests, namely from Bundage and his blazing speed.

The secondary carries with it an All-American type talent in Kolby Harvell-Peel, as he is coming off a 1st team All-Big 12 season in 2019. The junior helps clean up any dirty work, but so far pass-coverage has not been a problem. The Cowboys best cover corner is Rodarius Williams, who leads the conference with five pass break-ups, and has started every game in the orange and black since the beginning of 2017.

The Verdict – ISU

This is going to be the best matchup of the day, as the battle will be won in the trenches. Iowa State has proven time and again that they can play smash-mouth football, and well, I still think Okie State’s sample size is small.

Iowa State Defense

What’s great about this side of the ball is its musical chairs for weekly game balls. The TCU game will go down as the “Jaquan Bailey” game, the OU game was all Mike Rose, and last week it was Jake Hummel. This unselfish unit will continue to do their jobs, as no one is playing for stats or glory, just good fundamental team defense.

Jon Heacock’s unit is firing on all cylinders, and while Isheem Young will be suspended for the first half, I expect Arnold Azunna to step right in and fill his shoes. Greg Eisworth may slide over to the STAR spot just in case, but either way I’m sleeping just fine at night.

Cornerback Anthony Johnson, Jr. has graded out as one of the top defensive backs in the Big 12, and has been tremendous at open-field tackling. Even though ISU doesn’t move corners, expect him to be matched up on Tylan Wallace as much as possible, especially in the red zone.

Second Key to Victory – Slow Down The Running Game

The first two lines of defense will have their work cut out for them as the Cowboys pack a powerful 1-2 punch out of the backfield. If Spencer Sanders were to play (and it sounds like he will), he is as slippery as they come. Iowa State will see a wide array of runs – with counters, sweeps, quarterback reads, and even a shotgun formation with 3 backs in the backfield. These running backs are just as strong as they are fast, and it will be important for our linebackers to close the gap at the first line of defense.

Now for Sanders. I’m sure his ankle is not 100%, but he can scoot, and I expect a spy on him at all times, especially on third downs. ISU has done a valiant job at delay-blitzing linebackers on passing downs, and they will need to hold on for dear life if they want to get #3 on the ground.

The Cyclone defensive line has been one of the best units all year, and I expect the same output on Saturday. OSU is still working out the kinks with their front-five, so look for our big boys to hold their own. We did just fine shutting down Chuba a year ago, but it was those 1 or 2 big plays that killed us.

Oklahoma State Offense

Maybe its just me, or did a lot of the Big 12 coaches read the same book in the offseason? I’m noticing a trend to more of a balanced offensive approach in this conference, allowing running backs more latitude, and defenses time to rest. Okie State has always been a passing team, but with a running back like Hubbard, you’ve got to give the Canadian the ball.

The junior is coming off a stellar 2019 season, where he led the country with 2,094 yards on the ground, was named unanimous 1st Team All-American, and rushed for 100+ yards in 12 of 13 games. 2020 has been weird, as Hubbard’s explosive runs have been non-existent. His longest rush is for 28 yards, and while he still leads the team with 113 yards per game, his patchwork offensive line has not created the holes he’s used to. His backup, LD Brown, is a burner, as the senior broke a 66-yarder versus WVU.

Speaking of that offensive line, they have shifted a few guys around, as both guard Cole Birmingham and tackle Hunter Anthony haven’t played since week one. That forced left tackle Teven Jenkins to move over to his more natural role at right tackle, and brought in a few new faces in 2020. Guard Josh Sills came over from West Virginia as a grad transfer, and besides him and Jenkins, the remaining starters have only 11 starts to their name.

The Pokes are still ranked 1st in the Big 12 in rushing offense at 213 yards per game. The passing game is a different story. Aside from the KU game, OSU only had a total of 282 yards through the air in the first two weeks. There were games in the past where they would put that up in a half!

Third Key to Victory – Limit the Explosive Plays

Their best receiver is Tylan Wallace, who can line up anywhere on the field, and run every route, but is most dangerous down the field and after the catch. He is top-5 in career catches, catches per game, and yards in the nation, and will be someone to watch on Saturday. His counterpart is Dillon Stoner, who plays in the slot, and seems to have played as long as Okie State basketballer Keaton F’n Paige. It will be important for Iowa State to not only limit the deep pass, but also to wrap up at the point of attack.

Now for all the marbles – quarterback.

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Sanders injured his ankle in week one, and has sat out the last two contests. It was said he split snaps prior to KU, and was 80%, but I think Gundy was smart in sitting him. The ultra-talented Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 is a true dual-threat, as he averaged 57 rushing yards per game last year. He can be erratic on his throws, and his decision-making is questionable at times, but he is not afraid to take shots. I expect Sanders to start, and if he looks good, to finish the game.

If he can’t go, or is still ailing that ankle, then true freshman Shane Illingworth has some notable talent. The 4-star recruit is not mobile, but has been serviceable as the option in the last few weeks. Gundy also mentioned in this week’s press conference he expects both quarterbacks to see the field.

The Verdict – Okie State

The fact of the matter is we have two future NFLers on this Cowboy roster, and the potential for a breakout game from either is possible. I actually feel confident that our defensive line can bottle up Chuba, but it is Tylan Wallace and the running ability of Spencer Sanders that worries the bah-jeez-us out of me.

Special Teams

The Cowboys have an accurate kicker in Alex Hale, as he is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals. His Australian counterpart Tom Hutton has also been solid, averaging just shy of 42 yards per punt.

ISU will need to play a solid game of field position, and Joe Rivera is the man for the job. He has been above average thus far. Kicker Connor Assalley needs to continue to kick it right down Ass-Alley, as this game will be close, and could definitely see it coming down to a field goal.

Okie State’s punt returner is average with Dillon Stoner, but the Cyclones have a true weapon with Kene Nwangwu. The Cowboys have only had 7 touchbacks out of 21 kickoffs, so look for #3 to get plenty of shots.

Verdict – OSU

Death. Taxes. ISU under-achieving at Special Teams.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

Ooh boy.

Last year this Cyclone team was riding high on momentum, and the Cowboys punched us in the mouth. There were multiple missed tackles that led to long touchdowns, and Iowa State got away from the running game. Believe it or not, Brock threw the ball SIXTY-THREE times. That simply will not be the case on Saturday, as a balanced attack is just what the doctor ordered.

Now, Vegas has tabbed the Cowboys as a 3.5-point favorite, which means on a neutral field, this one is basically a pick-em. Is Okie State worthy of being ranked #6 in the country? In my opinion, the talent is there, I just haven’t seen it play out yet.

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the Jim Walden 90’s era Cyclones, and 10 the Matt Campbell era, I give Iowa State a Dan McCarney shot at winning.

Final Analysis

In the back of my mind, I think back to all those years where Iowa State broke our hearts, not showing up to play, or worse yet – lacking the mental fortitude to compete with the big boys.

There is just something about this team. They are focused. They are ready. And I really think if we stick to our game plan of controlling the line of scrimmage, then Matt Campbell and the Cyclones can go 1-0 this week.

Call me a Homer, I don’t care. I’m picking the Cyclones in a close one.

Final Score

Iowa State 27

Oklahoma State 24

Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!