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2023 Iowa State Football Preview: Baylor

Can Iowa State get a rare win in Waco?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Iowa State at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Time Out..

Cyclones frosted away a beauty of a game in Cincinnati, beating the Bearcats by a final score of 30-10. Iowa State is now on a roll, having won three of four conference games headed into their bye week.

Good performances were turned in by all three units in this game, evidencing the growth this young team has shown since a dismal road loss to Ohio earlier this season. The Cyclone offense put up 364 yards and only punted the football twice, finishing drives all game long. Special teams were, well, special, as Jaylin Noel gashed the Bearcats in the return game and Chase Contreraz went 3/3 on field goals plus converted on a fake attempt, and the defense nabbed two interceptions and held Emory Jones to less than 100 passing yards.

On the day, the Cyclone defense held Cincinnati to 214 yards of total offense, and racked up two sacks, 6 TFLs, and two interceptions. Rocco Becht was very efficient with his reads, and even kept the ball a few times on zone-read plays. He would finish 15-of-25 for 241 yards, averaging 9.6 per completion en route to throwing two scores and rushing for a third. Jayden Higgins was a monster, bringing in 6 balls for 172 yards.

Baylor Tidbits

Baylor has found a bit of a stride following their 1-3 start. With 2 wins in their last 3 games, Baylor is feeling better than they have all season, but it’s still not pretty. With ugly losses to Texas State, Texas, and Texas Tech the Bears sit at 3-4 and are looking for more. With that said, Dave Aranda Hot Seat Watch is in full effect. Crazy how quickly things can change for a guy!

Iowa State Offense

The Cyclone offense is starting to shape up into a well-rounded offense as the season rolls on. Rocco Becht accounted for 3 total touchdowns after a shaky start against the Bearcats, but he was instrumental in putting Cincinnati away late in the game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Iowa State at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While things have gone better in a game-by-game scenario, there is still room to improve for this Iowa State offense, mainly in the consistency department. One game they are passing the ball flawlessly and the next they are off a bit through the air, but the run game has come alive during that time. If they can put both of them together at the same time this team can take some significant steps forward.

What has been excellent to see is Jayden Higgins emerging as the big playmaking wide receiver we all assumed he would be. Coming off his first 100-yard game as a Cyclone two weeks ago, Higgins will have the opportunity to keep building on his season and establish himself as a consistent downfield threat.

Baylor Defense

The Baylor defense has struggled this season, which has been a major factor in their rough start. Baylor ranks in the 100s across all of college football in both pass and run defense, which is....not awesome.

Where this game is going to be won or lost for Iowa State is at the line of scrimmage. The Cyclones have done a better job getting push against opposing defenses over the course of the last few games, and this Baylor defensive front is not on the same level as some of the lines that they have faced.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Utah at Baylor Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One they will have to account for is Cooper Lanz. The sophomore is one of the mainstays across the defensive front for Baylor and he can get to the quarterback if needed. The Cyclones have done a good job at projecting the quarterback this season, and Baylor still really struggles to pressure the passer even counting Lanz’s contributions.

Matt Jones is another big name for the Baylor defense. The senior linebacker leads the teams in tackles with 50 on the season. With this Baylor team struggling on defense, if you can put a body on Jones, you virtually eliminate the possibility of their best defensive player making a big splash.

Verdict- Iowa State

I really think Iowa State has the upper hand here. Baylor is struggling all over the place defensively and they can’t stop the pass or the run, while Iowa State is finding their way in both those areas. Chalk this up as another progression game for Iowa State offensively.

Iowa State Defense

The Iowa State defense has started to return to form after a rough stretch against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The tackling has improved and coverage in the secondary has recovered a bit.

Baylor’s offense is very bad at running the ball, so it’s safe to assume they will try to test the Cyclone secondary early in order to open up whatever run game they can cobble together. Iowa State will have to really focus on the line of scrimmage and win the battle there and not give this Baylor outside zone scheme an ounce of light to get going. It is a run scheme that once it is going, it is hard to stop.

Another week for this Iowa State defense to take another step forward and develop more depth.

Baylor Offense

Blake Shapen is the man who makes this offense go, but “go” is sort of a relative term here. This Baylor team averages under 3 yards per rush and just under 8 yards per pass. With Shapen at the point they are passing 57% of the time and it has allowed them to be in games.

One major weakness of the Baylor offense, aside from the running game, is protecting the quarterback, which the Bears are pretty bad at. Baylor allows a sack 8% of every drop back which sits 98th in the country. Seems like a good time to ramp up pressure on the quarterback. The Cyclone pass rush has been better in recent weeks, but they’ll have a big chance to take a step forward on Saturday.

Baylor v Cincinnati Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Monaray Baldwin is the man on the outside the Cyclone secondary will have to stop. Baldwin is the leading receiver for Baylor on the season, averaging over 18 yards per reception with two receiving touchdowns on the season to date.

Verdict - Iowa State

The Cyclones have the upper hand here. The Iowa State defense has been solid against the run and downright elite against the pass, which counters the only thing the Baylor offense does even reasonably well.

Special Teams- Iowa State

When you can use a running back as a kicker you have the ultimate key for success. Cyclones on a special teams roll!

Winning Scale 1 to 10

Thankfully tents are not going to be needed because the scale would be down low! Give me a Chip and Joanna Gaines shot in this one. (Full disclosure, I have no idea what that means but everything they touch turns to money and that’s what I would bet with on the Cyclones in this one)

**EDITOR’S NOTE : I literally have no idea what this means. I tried to proofread it and make sense of it and just couldn’t.

Final Analysis

As I’ve mentioned a few times already, It’s going to come down to the line of scrimmage. If Iowa State can take another step forward in the offensive line progression and just control the game up front, they will be able to control this game. The same goes on the defensive side of the ball and keeping the Baylor rushing attack from having their best game of the season. Take your chances against the talents of Blake Shapen and trust the Cyclone secondary can hold up.

Final Score Prediction

Iowa State - 27

Baylor - 14