The first game after the bye is always an interesting one to watch, especially with the momentum Iowa State seems to be building. Given the importance of this matchup, I figure the Cyclone to watch is probably one of the veterans holding down the middle of the field.
Iowa State: Linebacker - Gerry Vaughn
Iowa State did a tremendous job in Cincinnati at containing the run and a lot of that falls on the linebackers. Vaughn has probably been one of the more critiqued defenders this year and at least against Kiner and the Bearcats, he answered every question. 8 total tackles finished 2nd on the team only behind Beau Freyler, and he even had a nice tackle for loss thrown in there.
If Iowa State is going to continue this trend of great defense, they’re going to have to contain a trio of running backs. Gerry Vaughn is going to be key this weekend, and I expect him to have another big game on the road.
I’d also like to include the rest of the linebackers in here. Caleb Bacon, Will McLaughlin Jack Sadowski, Carson Willich, and Zachary Lovett. Willich and Lovett specifically in the “QB spy” role. While opposing QB Blake Shapen isn’t known for his speed and athleticism, he’s a guy who can move the pocket and take off if he needs to. Shapen has 3 touchdown runs on the year and he’s always got one nice run in him every game it seems like. The linebackers for Iowa State will be key to keeping the Bears offense honest.
Baylor: Linebacker - Matt Jones
Let’s stick to the middle of the field, shall we? Baylor is led on the defensive side of the ball by senior and 3-year starter Matt Jones. #2 in the middle of the field while the Bears are on defense will be all over the field on Saturday, and that’s where everyone should be watching. He’ll be tasked with slowing down an Iowa State running game that is slowly but surely picking up the pace while also keeping an eye out for the shorter crossing and slant routes that Iowa State like to run.
Matt has been excellent this year, leading the Bears in tackles (50 total), while also being great in coverage, leading the team with four passes defended. He’s also tied for second on the team with a pair of sacks.
Watch out for #2 to make an impact in every way for the Baylor defense.