2020 Game VII: #17 Iowa State (4-2, 4-1) vs. Baylor (1-3, 1-3)
Date: Saturday, November 7, 2020
Time: 6:00 P.M. CST
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Capacity: 61,500, (only 15,000 will attend)
Line: ISU -14
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – “Our Daily Bears”
The great month of “Brock-tober” has come and gone, and Iowa State’s road becomes a bit rockier. Needless to say, this team has beaten all their conference foes they were supposed to (and even stole one from OU), but if this Cyclone program wants to take that NEXT Step to become Contenders (and not Pretenders), then they will have to take it into a higher gear.
Matt Campbell said it best in the post-game press conference after Kansas.
“I don’t doubt our resilience,” Campbell said. “The next step and the last step for us is a killer instinct. And that’s hard because Iowa State’s never had it. You have to learn how to kill. We know how to fight but it takes a special group to know how to kill.”
Man do I love that quote. It is true – Iowa State has lacked a killer instinct when it comes to Finishing the Season. We take a look back to memory lane, and in 2018 our Clones had a shot to play in the Big 12 Conference Championship, only to lose at Texas.
But this year seems different. The resiliency is there, and so is the intestinal fortitude. I don’t know about you, but I am locked into my seat Cyclone Fans. Enjoy the Ride – this season can be special!
When we last left off….
Iowa State had a work-man-like performance in Lawrence, starting fast, slowing down a bit, and then finishing with a bang. It was evident that offensive coordinator Tom Manning really emphasized getting his other receivers more touches, and made players like Landen Akers, Sean Shaw, Jr. and Joe Scates get their confidence back. That will be huge moving forward.
The defense played very soundly, as Mike Rose was all over the field, Will McDonald was a BEAST, forcing more holding penalties (and getting his patented sack), and Breece Hall did what Breece Hall does best – dominate.
In case you’ve been under a rock, this Cyclone team has over-exceeded all expectations in the running game. It has a been a “Key To Season Success” of mine since Campbell came to Ames, and creates a tremendous balance to our offense. Hall now leads the NATION in rushing yards per game (150), and an absurd 6.7 yards per carry. In years past, ISU was at the bottom of the Big 12 in rushing. Now, they lead all conference foes with 201 yards per game and again, a crazy 5.8 yards per rush.
After a Cinderella-type 2019 season where the Baylor Bears went 11-3 and played in the Sugar Bowl, coach Matt Rhule left for the NFL, and LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda became the Bears’ new coach.
To say the season has been bad is an understatement (stated so eloquently by the Waco Tribune here).
It started off with a lack of internal control (which seems to be a recurring problem), in which Baylor had to suspend their only non-conference game against Houston. Apparently, a few weeks later the Bears couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, and AGAIN were forced to postpone their Oklahoma State game, and shut down their facilities on a three-week hiatus.
When Baylor was playing, it wasn’t much better. They did beat Kansas (who hasn’t), but struggled in their last three games, in losses to West Virginia, Texas and TCU. The defense has been solid, and grades out well (35th in SP+ analytics), but the offense has been abysmal.
Even after returning NINE starters, this Charlie Brewer-led offense is either 2nd-to-last or last in rushing, passing and total offense of the Big 12. Their offensive line has yet to play the same five in consecutive weeks (mostly due to COVID), and Brewer’s lack of arm strength has really limited downfield opportunities.
Aranda is one of the best defensive minds in the country, and carries with him a talented unit, with good fundamental tackling and average speed. He brought in former North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora to coach his offense, and is still working out the kinks in year one at the helm. PS their only first down in the first half against TCU was on a penalty… Woof
Baylor leads this short-lived series by a margin of 10-8, with Iowa State winning two of the last three. The Bears started out fast in 2019, grabbing a 20-0 lead, but was followed by a frantic 21-point comeback by the Cyclones, and ultimately ended with a game-winning field goal by BU.
Iowa State Offense
Iowa State leads the Big 12 (yes even better than Oklahoma) in yards per play at 6.9. That is a testament to not only the tremendous production from #28, but also the offensive line. And honestly, they are doing it without probably their two BEST linemen! Right tackle Jake Remsburg and guard Darrell Simmons, Jr have stepped up admirably, and have become road graders for this rushing attack.
Breece Hall is already licking his chops, as Baylor is 2nd-to-last in the Conference in rushing yards allowed per game (big advantage ISU), and the sophomore will undoubtedly gain over 100 yards again on Saturday. Remember, it was against Baylor last year when he pulled away from the pack, and has never looked back.
I was happy to see our other receivers get involved last week, especially Landen Akers, as the slot-man is instrumental in gaining yards after catch, and can separate in space. Xavier Hutchinson will continue to assert his dominance, as he ranks second in the Big 12 with 5.5 receptions per game. Look for Charlie Kolar to get his fair share of touches, as I expect BU to play tough man-on-man coverage on the outside, but nobody can matchup with this All-American tight end.
First Key to Victory – Beat Man Coverage
You know Baylor is going to scheme the crap out of Iowa State, and that will ultimately mean extra safeties in the box to help stop the run, and cornerbacks on their own islands. We have only seen Hutchinson able to create separation, so it will be paramount for others to put in the extra work this week to prepare.
Brock Purdy will see a lot of BU green in the backfield, as Baylor is adept at rushing the quarterback, namely from their second line of defense. ISU’s offensive line struggles to contain on passing plays, but look for coordinator Tom Manning to utilize play-action and roll-outs to his advantage for Brock to get going.
Defense is Dave Aranda’s claim to fame, and his Baylor unit is stout. Gone are NINE starters from last year, but still an ultra-talented depth chart.
They play a pseudo 4-2-5 look with one edge a hybrid DE/OLB on the line, and help over the top with three safeties. So far, they have been able to slow down most teams, but were decimated in the ground game last week versus TCU.
Their back-end unit is much more talented than the defensive front, and are led by the Big 12’s leading tackler in linebacker Terrel Bernard, who averages nearly 12 stops per game. His counterpart Dillon Doyle (yes the Iowa transfer) is second on the team with 28 tackles. He plays the epitome of middle linebacker, while BU likes to shade Bernard all over the field.
Another jack-of-all-trades athlete is playmaker William Bradley-King, who is the best pass rusher on the team, with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss thus far. BU will blitz their linebackers, but have also been able to gain pressure with just four rushers. They have only forced 6 turnovers all year, and have been fundamentally sound at tackling.
Second Key to Victory – Score 7s not 3s in the Red Zone
ISU has actually been pretty solid in the red zone, but with (what I expect) a lower scoring game, these possessions will be paramount for points. Baylor has closed the door before on ISU, and I want to see Campbell and company to step on their throats and “go for the kill” when given their chance.
Yet again, another hybrid (Aranda loves multiplicity) is Jalen Pitre who is ISU’s version of Greg Eisworth at safety. He can line up anywhere on the field, but my guess is he will be no more than 8 yards off the ball against Breece Hall and company.
The secondary has been solid, only allowing 195 pass yards per game, and are led by deep safety JT Woods who has two interceptions. Senior veteran cornerback Raleigh Texada has 24 career starts to his name.
The Verdict – EVEN
This should be the best matchup of the day, as Baylor will do everything in its power to slow down the ISU rushing attack. They have replaced beef for speed, and it has hurt up front, as they don’t have the talent needed on the defensive line to compete in the Big 12. I expect Breece to break a few long ones, but also see a pedestrian-like performance out of Brock Purdy in the passing department.
Iowa State Defense
This Baylor offense is anything but flattering, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. There do seem to be occurrences where Iowa State gets into “lulls,” and breaks down defensively.
One way Baylor can beat ISU’s 3-safety look is to hit them over the top on downfield passes (and they did in 2019), so it will be important for the likes of Lawrence White and Isheem Young to flip those hips and stay deep in space. Speaking of the secondary, I think Anthony Johnson, Jr. deserves some praise, as he should be voted for All-Conference honors. #26 is one of the surest tacklers on the team and has bottled up his receivers every single week.
Baylor carries with it some explosive athletes, but I am most worried about the legs of quarterback Charlie Brewer, especially on third downs. The 4-year starter has regressed in 2020, but still has the ability to scramble on broken third downs, and is a force in the red zone. It will be important to keep a spy on #5, and I expect those honors to go to O’Rien Vance and Mike Rose.
The Cyclone blitz packages should see ample opportunities, as BU gives up 3.5 sacks per game, and I expect Will McDonald and Jaquan Bailey to keep adding to their totals.
Third Key to Victory – Win the Turnover Battle
The only way Baylor has a chance to win is if they flip the field position and force turnovers. The Iowa State defense seems to be at its best when they are playing downhill (and with their hair on fire). That means more blitzes that force errant throws, and fumbles. Its as easy as meat and potatoes – if ISU wins the turnover battle, they win the game.
There has been a quarterback conundrum in Waco, Texas, as Charlie Brewer has lost all confidence. The offense went from run-pass-option heavy to make-Brewer-read-the-defense-and-see-how-it-goes. So far, it hasn’t worked out, as the fourth-year starting senior has been tremendously inefficient. Baylor averages 5.8 yards per pass attempt (really bad), and #5 has been misfiring badly downfield. The strength in his arm all of a sudden disappeared, and many pundits (and fans who yelled in stands last game) have been calling for backups Gerry Bohanon or Jacob Zeno. Coach Dave Aranda has shut the door on that, and to this point has yet to call in the second-stringers.
Will Baylor make a change at quarterback on Saturday? Wouldn’t surprise me, as the offense was anemic last week versus TCU, and needs a spark. That flame has been lit by freshman running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams, who averages 9.4 yards per carry, and has 3 touchdowns on 19 career touches.
While Williams will not start, he will cede the way to seniors John Lovett and Trestan Ebner, who are both completely different backs. Lovett is more downhill, while Ebner has some shake-and-bake to him. Both reportedly “left the team” last week, but after sitting down with coach Aranda, decided to come back. That’s not a good sign…
The Bears’ offensive line has been good at playing musical chairs, as they have yet to play the same starting five two games in a row. Thus far, BU has the Big 12’s worst rushing offense, averaging an abysmal 2.8 yards per rush and 92 yards per game. Eek
The receivers are a plenty, but none have stood out, as R.J. Sneed and Gavin Holmes lead the team with 15 catches. The explosiveness and downfield threat just haven’t been there, but if there was one player to keep an eye on – its Trestan Ebner out of the backfield. The senior scat-back is utilized in the passing game, and can score in a variety of ways.
The Verdict – Iowa State
Baylor has really done a good job of getting in their own way on the offensive side of the ball. This is a great matchup for the Cyclones.
Speaking of Ebner, he can return kicks too. In fact, he was the first player in Big 12 history to score three different types of touchdowns in a game (rush, pass, kick return), and even hit pay-dirt TWICE on kick returns versus Kansas.
Baylor’s kicker is quite bad, and no he is not the singer John Mayer. So far, he is 2-for-5 on field goals, although all of his misses have come from long range.
It will be important for ISU kicker Connor Assalley to gain his confidence back (I feel this is a weekly reminder), and for Joe Rivera to keep doing his thing.
Maybe Iowa State only does drop-kicks on kickoffs. It seems to have worked the best so far. I don’t know anymore, I pulled the white flag on ISU special teams a long time ago.
Verdict – Baylor
Gonna be a struggle, and a big big point of emphasis will be put on kick return coverage this week.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Oh boy. In my opinion, this game will be a lot closer than most think. Baylor has always played tough with Iowa State, and has a very good veteran presence. They are fighting negative demons right now in the locker room, and are really struggling on offense with their ring-leader at quarterback.
I’m a tad bit worried if BU subs in a different quarterback. You would have to think defensive coordinator Jon Heacock has game-planned for that situation, as the mad scientist can pivot in a moment’s notice.
Regardless, I see a much lower scoring affair, and would highly recommend taking Da Bears in Vegas.
In light of the election, on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being one of our worst U.S. Presidents – Andrew Johnson (just look it up, he was pitiful), to a 10 of Ronald Reagan (he won 49 states in the 1984 re-election!), I give the Cyclones a John F. Kennedy shot at winning this game.
We might be sitting in the fourth quarter sweating this one out folks. I foresee a defensive game, with fewer possessions, lots of punts, and probably a lack of excitement.
With that being said, Iowa State is the better team, and they will pull the victory out. It may be ugly, but it’s still 1-0 for the week.
Iowa State 23
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