2021 Game V: Iowa State (2-2, 0-0) vs. Kansas (1-3, 0-1)
Date: Saturday, October 2nd, 2021
Time: 6:00PM CST
Location: Jack Trice Stadium
Line: ISU (-33)
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website - Rock Chalk Talk
When we last left off....
You ever have those days where you just relive some of your past mistakes and everything just snowballs from there? Well, that was Iowa State’s day on Saturday. The Cyclones cost themselves in Waco with mental errors and special teams miscues. One of the biggest mistakes being a Baylor 98-yard touchdown return, right after the Cyclones grabbed a ton of momentum.
And then - a bad punt, go figure. Baylor was gifted some great field position and converted a field goal from it. Iowa State would have scored with minimal time left in the game but failed on their 2 point conversion after a botched snap. Ultimately the Cyclones would drop the Big 12 opener, 31-29.
Lance Leipold is in his first season as the Jayhawks coach. Leipold was hired in April after the firing of Les Miles earlier in the year. Leipold had an overall record of 37-33 at Buffalo and was previously at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Leipold brought most of his staff with him from Buffalo. Including Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki and Defensive Coordinator Brian Borland. Both have been with Leipold since his first year at Buffalo.
The Jayhawks currently have a 1-3 record on the 2021 season. Their lone victory game over South Dakota where the Jayhawks scored late to win. Their losses came at the hands of Baylor, Duke, and Coastal Carolina.
Currently, Kansas leads the all-time series 50-44-6. Iowa State currently holds a 6 game win streak in the series, the longest of the series. The largest margin of victory in the series is 45 which came in a 45-0 victory for Iowa State in 2017.
Iowa State Offense
Contrary to popular recent belief, the Iowa State offense has steadily improved. You might have to look a little harder, but the improvement is there. Is the improvement fully to the level of 2020? Not yet. Now it’s a matter of finishing drives off. Saturday brings another opportunity for this team and staff to find ways to get better.
First Key to Victory - Find The End Zone
Having some reliable kickers is nice and all, but Iowa State needs to finish drives with touchdowns. Miscues and mental errors in some have kept Iowa State from finishing drives all season long and already have cost them 2 losses on the year. While they are not out of the Big 12 race, if they wish to stay in the middle of it they need to put the ball in the end zone.
Breece Hall had his best game of the season last Saturday, despite the loss. The Cyclone star rushed the ball 27 times for 190 yards and 2 touchdowns. The yards per carry are jumping up as well as Hall has been able to find more space as of late. If Iowa State wants to continue to see this offense steadily improve, Breece Hall is key to that happening.
Though it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the improvement. Iowa State’s offensive line has not played up to the level of 2020 and in some cases they have seemed to take a step back. According to Pro Football Focus, none of the Iowa State starters on the offensive line are rated above 100 at their respected positions. Now you can take that for what it’s worth with Pro Football Focus, but it’s certainly an area of improvement I have noticed Iowa State needs to work on.
If you have a beating heart and at least one functioning eyeball, you have probably scored on this Kansas defense. The only team the Jayhawks could really hold at bay to start the 2021 season is South Dakota and that isn’t exactly something to brag about.
The Jayhawks are allowing over 7 yards per play, just under 6 on the ground and over 11 through the air. Overall defensively they are ranked 128th in the country. This defense just does not have the horse to compete yet and Lance Leipold is going to have a mountain to climb to build this team up defensively.
Kansas has gone nine quarters without recording a sack and has a total of two on the year. Only two other FBS schools have fewer. Iowa State has allowed just five sacks. With the limited amount of pass rush generated by the Jayhawks this certainly may be an opportunity for Brock Purdy to get his game right before the bye week.
The star of the defense is Junior safety Kenny Logan Jr. leads the team in tackles this season with 37. He ranks second in the Big 12 in tackles per game and 23rd nationally. So far this season, he has 23 solo tackles and 14 assists. Logan is the only player nationally who has at least 35 tackles, four pass breakups and multiple forced fumbles on the season.
The Verdict - Iowa State
While the Iowa State offense hasn’t quite been where they want it to be, the Kansas defense is in far worse shape. Iowa State should fire on cylinders and be able to put up some points in this one. They key to watch is going to be the offensive line and how they improve in this one. While we’re at it, let’s get Breece Hall to 200 yards rushing just for fun.
Iowa State Defense
(all stats provided by Sports Info Solutions)
Finally, for the first time the entire season, the Iowa State defense struggled. Well, at least for a few possessions. And by struggle, I really mean “play ultra-conservative as a means to feel out the opposing offense.” Then, the defense very much did not struggle after halftime, allowing just three offensive points and less than eighty total yards.
Essentially this game followed the exact playbook we’ve seen from Jon Heacock since the defensive transformation in 2017. Sit back for a little bit to get a feel for what your opponent is trying to do, make a couple of quick adjustments at halftime, then absolutely ruin the lives of everybody on the other side of the ball.
Last week, Baylor was simply very good at taking advantage of those early possessions through some creative playcalling, outstanding plays by Gerry Bohanon, and their wide zone attack, which is an emerging trend in college football.
The Cyclone defense has been nothing short of elite this season, generating pressure on 38% of passing plays and sacks on 13%, all out of three down linemen front. Obviously, a huge part of this goes to Will McDonald, who continues to draw multiple holding penalties per game, leads the team in sacks, and has now forced a fumble on one of those sacks. He’s one of the most dominant defensive forces in college football right now, bar none.
Beyond the pass rush though, the Cyclones boast a stout 3.0 yards per carry average, 26.3% stuff rate, and just a 7.6% broken + missed tackle rate. Simply put, It’s really hard to run on Iowa State, and they rarely missed tackles. And as you can see on film, most broken tackles are followed shortly by more Cyclones flying to the ball.
(all stats provided by Sports Info Solutions)
To put it simply, Kansas has really struggled to move the ball this season. QB Jason Bean is completing 57% of his passes (with just a 67% on target rate). The running game isn’t much prettier. Kansas averages 3.9 yards per carry, and gets hit at the line of scrimmage on 49.7% of rushes.
Second Key to Victory - Contain Jason Bean
Bean is a true dual-threat guy, leading the team in carries with fifty-five, and averaging around 4.9 yards per attempt. He’s really a boom-or-bust runner that’s reliant on finding space and using his speed to do damage. Bean sports a 14.5% boom rate and an 18.2% bust rate, which looks like an absolute rollercoaster compared Breece Hall’s 8% boom rate and 6.9% bust rate. If you contain Jason Bean, Kansas’ big-play potential goes away pretty quickly.
KU actually does spread the ball around to a few different receivers, with Kwamie Lassier II, Trevor Wilson, and Lawrence Arnold eating up most of the targets, though Trevor Wilson is seeing just a 52.2% completion percentage on his targets (though that makes sense when you account for his average depth of target being 13.1 yards and his drop rate of 13.3%).
The Verdict - Iowa State
This is easily the largest gap between matchups on the field. Outside of Jason Bean or RB Devin Neal busting off a big run, this Kansas team has done basically nothing on offense. In contrast, Iowa State’s defense has been one of the best in the country for the entire season.
I don’t know if we’ll see much in the way of turnovers since Kansas doesn’t actually turn the ball over an unusual amount, and Iowa State doesn’t typically press the issue of forcing turnovers. However, barring something totally outrageous, I would guess Kansas maybe sees a little bit of success early in the game on a few read options, but looks totally lost by halftime.
There just isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest that Kansas is about to suddenly find their stride on offense against the best defense they’ll play the entire season.
Iowa State has some special team issues, still. At this point, I feel like a broken record writing this portion of the game previews because I don’t think in any of our previews to this date we have been overly optimistic about Iowa State having the edge in special teams.
Iowa State had a kickoff returned for a touchdown and a short punt that allowed great field position for Baylor late in the game. Andrew Mevis also missed one field goal on the afternoon. It’s like a bad dream that keeps on happening.
Third Key To Victory - KICK THE BALL FARTHER
The Verdict- Even
Fortunately for this game, I don’t envision special teams playing a huge role in the final outcome. Iowa State should have the edges in special teams here, but I don’t have the guts to make that call. So will make a coward decision on this one. GIVE US SOME SPECIAL TEAMS HOPE!
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Iowa State needs to get back in stride and find its way. Kansas is a team on the opposite end of the field right now and that couldn’t come at a more perfect time.
I am willing to bet the mortgage on this one and risk the house. The Cyclones are taking this one all day and night. Bet ya house!
Night game in Jack Trice and Iowa State fans need another feel-good moment for 2021. Unfortunately for Kansas, I think they are going to be the casualty for our happiness.
Iowa State - 45
Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!