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2021 Game VII: Iowa State Vs Oklahoma State Football Preview

A colossal matchup in Ames this weekend between two elite defenses.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Game VII: Iowa State (4-2, 2-1) vs. #8 Oklahoma State (6-0, 3-0)

Date: Saturday, October 23rd, 2021

Time: 2:30PM CST

Location: Jack Trice Stadium

Capacity: 62,500

Line: ISU (-5.5)

Television: FOX

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

Oklahoma State Notes

SB Nation Website - Cowboys Ride For Free

When we last left off....

Iowa State went into Manhattan and beat the wheat right out of Kansas State in the annual Farmageddon matchup. Iowa State controlled the game right from the start off Breece Hall’s 75 yard touchdown run on the opening play from scrimmage. Iowa State would never look back en route to a 33-20 victory over the inferior farming school.

Breece Hall rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Brock Purdy threw for 208 yards, with one touchdown pass to Sean Shaw. Iowa State beat Kansas State down with balance on the offensive side of the ball which included a 10 minute drive in the second half.

The Iowa State defense showed a few holes as Kansas State rushed for 136 yards and Skylar Thompson had a decent day throwing the ball. The important part was keeping Kansas State out of the end zone when it mattered.

Oklahoma State Tidbits

Oklahoma State comes to Ames 6-0. Then Cowboys have had their fair share of tests and and closes games but nonetheless they find themselves in the AP top ten. This is the second time in 10 years Oklahoma State has come to Ames ranked in the top ten.

The most recent win came over Texas down in Austin, as the Cowboys came back from a 14 point deficit in the first half to win 34-24. Oklahoma State did most of their game in the fourth quarter where the offense gained 170 yards and scored 16 points. The Cowboy defense shut out the Longhorns and held them to a single yard in the final quarter.

Oklahoma State’s defense fun fact: the Cowboys have allowed fewer than 100 yards of offense in a half in each of its past five games. The Cowboys limited Baylor to 99 yards in the first, Tulsa to 89 yards in the first, Boise State to 64 yards in the second, Kansas State to 84 yards in the second and Texas to 92 yards in the second.

The Series

This game is the 56th meeting between Iowa State and Oklahoma State, with the series dating back to 1926. Oklahoma State leads the series 33-19-3 all-time series advantage. The Cowboys even hold the advantage in Ames with a 15-12-1 record. Oklahoma State Head Coach Mike Gundy is 11-3 against Iowa State.

Iowa State Offense

The Iowa State offense has finally started to take a turn towards their 2020 production, moving up their statistical rankings over the past few weeks. Iowa State is now ranked 12th in the country in points per game. So what was a bit of an Achilles heel for Iowa State finishing drives has seemingly started to heal, and they are finding the end zone consistently.

The Cyclone offense had one of the most balanced attacks that we have seen from a Matt Campbell team yet. The run game complimented the passing game and vice versa all night long, which allowed the Cyclone offense to control the game from the start. Did I mention it was a 75 yard touchdown run and basically drove a wood stake into the chest of the Kansas State fans? Glorious.

Iowa State v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The Cyclones ran for 210 yards and threw for another 208 yards in the balanced effort. The balance was showcased most during a 10 minute drive in the third quarter which essentially sucked the remaining life out of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The drive ended with one of the best throws from Brock Purdy this season, and Sean Shaw made a great catch. Iowa State is going to need more of that going forward.

First Key To Victory - Replicate Manhattan

Iowa State faces another defense this week that can give them fits all over the field, but a well oiled balanced attack may be the key to taking that down. Though I do think the pass may have to be the one to open up the passing attack. If there is an area where Oklahoma State excels, it’s rushing defense. Brock Purdy will more than likely be critical in this matchup.

Oklahoma State Defense

Oklahoma State’s defense has been carrying the team so far in 2021, which is a complete 180 compared to most Oklahoma State teams we are used to seeing. I mentioned this a bit in the Night Cap, but excluding the two long runs and 185 yards last season in Stillwater, Oklahoma State had one of the most effective game plans on Breece Hall last season. The defensive line of Oklahoma State controlled the line scrimmage for most of that game and gave Iowa State fits all afternoon.

The Oklahoma State defense rose to the occasion and was vital in the Cowboy’s comeback in Austin last Saturday. Oklahoma State allowed 9 yards total over the last seven drives and completely shut down the Longhorn offense. Before the last seven drives Oklahoma State was trailing 24-13. They Cowboy defense did this and lost in the all this shuffle was a Jason Taylor II 85 yard interception return for a touchdown.

Oklahoma State allows 4.7 yards per play which is 36th best in the entire country. Where they really shut the competition down is against the run. The Cowboy defense allow just 3 yards a rush and they tend to not allow a 100 yard rusher. The similarities in philosophy for both Oklahoma State and Iowa State defensively this season continue to be apparent on film. Shut down the run and pin the ears back on blitzes while you force opposing quarterbacks to win the game on their own.

The two main studs for Oklahoma State are linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez and safety Kolby Harvell-Peel. Rodriguez has 59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, eight QB hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to start of the season. He is a physical linebacker that is not afraid to get in your face and make you pay for coming his way. Harvell-Peel sits third on the team in total tackles, but he has two interceptions as well. If Iowa State has trouble running the ball, he will be Brock Purdy’s biggest threat.

The Verdict - Even

Oklahoma State’s defense is really good. It could even tip in their favor that their defense could be a touch better than Iowa State’s offense at this current time. But, Iowa State has begun to find their footing on offense, mixing in a little balance along the way. I do expect this matchup to be a dog fight, and a good one at that.

Iowa State Defense

Iowa State’s defense put up another impressive showing against Kansas State last weekend. Skylar Thompson was mildly efficient, completing 65% of his passes, but outside of one long TD completion to Phillip Brooks, the Wildcat passing game was largely a non-factor.

Even Deuce Vaughn struggled to make a significant impact. He tallied 87 yards on 18 carries, but a decent chunk of that was gained late in the fourth quarter as Kansas State was picking up solid yardage on the run while Iowa State was content to sit in deep pass coverage to avoid the big play.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Add in a couple strip sacks by Will McDonald and an interception by Greg Eisworth, and you have a game that Iowa State is going to be able to win more times than not. Was it perfect? No. TJ Tampa missed an interception which turned into an unlucky deflection - directly in the K-State receiver’s hands for a touchdown - but that’s a play he’ll make more often has he gains experience.

Speaking of Mr. Tampa, it would seem as though he’s taken a firm hold of that second corner spot, and has played well. Teams are picking on him a little with Anthony Johnson locking up one side of the field, but he’s largely passed those tests with flying colors. His emergence bodes extremely well for the future of that position group.

We’re also starting to see an uptick in turnover production for the defense over the past few weeks, and continuing that trend would go a long way to neutralizing an already struggling Cowboy offense.

Oklahoma State Offense

To put it kindly, this Oklahoma State offense is...inconsistent. Gone are the days of the high-flying Cowboy offenses we’ve grown accustomed to seeing with Mike Gundy in charge, and in comes a very good defense with an offense that can run the ball occasionally, but is extremely inefficient in the passing game. Outside of Kansas, this may be the worst offensive unit in the Big 12, which is startling to say.

Many of the offense’s struggles revolve around the passing game, where senior QB Spencer Sanders seems to have grown very little over his time at Oklahoma State. Sanders is completing just 57% of his passes on the season, with only 63% being counted as on-target (compared to Brock Purdy’s 71.2% completions and 79% on-target rate). He’s also a tad interception-prone, registering a 6-to-5 TD/INT ratio.

It also doesn’t help that Sanders’ lacks the elite stable of receivers at his disposal that he’s enjoyed in previous seasons. Washington State-transfer Tay Martin has been solid this season, averaging about seven catches and 90 yards per game, but there’s not really anyone behind him that has been a consistent threat for the Cowboys. Brennan Presley and Rashod Owens can be counted on for a few catches each, but production drops off significantly after those three.

The saving grace for the Cowboy offense has been the emergence of Jaylen Warren at running back after transferring from Utah State. The dude runs hard.

In my opinion, Jaylen Warren is more impressive on tape than Chuba Hubbard was, even if Chuba was the better stat accumulator. He runs with an anger we just didn’t see from Hubbard, and is more capable of being productive behind OSU’s offensive line- which can be shaky at times - especially if they aren’t supplemented with a tight end or H-back.

Oklahoma State has always done a good job of attacking Iowa State’s weak spots with the run game, especially at the seam, where Cyclone linebackers are forced to make a decision to either push the run to the outside or funnel everything to the middle. A good running back with a little blocking can exploit that spot and Warren is plenty good enough.

Scheme is where Oklahoma State has held the edge against Iowa State in the Matt Campbell era. Typically Iowa State fans have left this game feeling like it was an opportunity lost after the Cyclones self-inflicted wound after wound due to poor scheme adjustments or play-calling (looking at you, 2019 Tom Manning and your 62 pass attempts while Breece Hall was sitting in the backfield), rather than feeling overwhelmed by OSU’s talent.

If Heacock’s group can essentially keep doing what they’ve been doing all season, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t, then they should be able to put the Cyclone offense in a great position to win the game.

Second Key to Victory - Get off the field on third down

This is good advice to follow against every team, but it remains especially true. For all of Spencer Sanders’ struggles throwing the football, he can still be effective runner, especially on scramble situations outside the pocket. Not allowing Oklahoma State to convert third-and-long situations on broken plays via a quarterback scramble or a (very uncharacteristic) broken tackle can pay enormous dividends when it comes to field position, one of the few areas Iowa State has really struggled this season.

The Verdict - Iowa State

Iowa State possess one of the top five to ten defenses in college football (depending on what metrics you want to look at and who you talk to) that’s capable of putting a lid on virtually any offense thrown at it.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State’s offense currently ranks near the bottom of the Power Five in many metrics, especially in the passing game, where Spencer Sanders still remains a far more effective runner than passer. Jaylen Warren is cause for concern, but he’s not substantially better than any running back Iowa State has seen and bottled up before.

This matchup skews heavily to Iowa State, and could be the key to the entire game if they can limit OSU’s scoring.

Special Teams

If you can believe it, Iowa State won the special teams battle in Manhattan. Andrew Mevis drilled four field goals, kept the ball out of Malik Knowles’ hands. All while Kansas State missed and field goal and an extra point. Take that, special team gods. We can do cool things after all!

Oklahoma State has switched place kickers in recent weeks. Tanner Brown a transfer from UNLV has gone 5-for-5 since taking over the place kicking duties. On punting duties for Oklahoma State is a 31 year old junior, Tom Hutton. He is native of Australia much like Corey Dunn. Must be something in the water for older kickers coming to play college football from Australia.

Oklahoma State kick returner Brennan Presley averages 33 yards per kick return to start this season. So take that information and do whatever you need to do with it.

Third Key To Victory - Don’t Mess It Up Again

The Verdict- Even

Iowa State had a great day in Manhattan, but it certainly still sits in the back of our head that something may go horribly wrong. I want to see Iowa State put back to back weeks together on special teams before I feel anywhere remotely comfortable.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

You know, the further south you go the amount of great Cowboys goes down the tube. We all know the best Cowboy to ever live came right out of Winterset, IA.

On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being the Dallas Cowboys and ten being John Wayne. I give the Cyclones a “Billy The Kid” chance of winning this one.

Final Analysis

This is going to be a tight one all the way through. Iowa State’s offensive line will have to win up front if the Cyclones want to take this one. Both defenses will make the plays they will need to. It’s just going to come down to the offensive side of the ball.

Final Score

Iowa State - 24

Oklahoma State - 21

Let’s us know your predictions below!