Last year when these two teams met up, Sam Richardson had a career-high 351 passing yards on a whopping 53 attempts leading the Cyclones to a seven point victory in Ames. However a lot has happened since last year. The confidence level of these two teams is further apart than the 585 miles separating Toledo and Ames. Toledo waltzed into Little Rock last Saturday a 23-point underdog, and scrapped out a 16-12 victory against the then 18th-ranked Razorbacks. On the other sideline, Iowa State suffered a brutal loss to the rival Iowa Hawkeyes last week fueled by giving up 14 points in a little over a minute late in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets look to knock off another Power Five foe in back to back weeks. Toledo will have to avoid a letdown by looking to get Hunt a lot of work against the ‘Clones. More on that in just a little bit though.
Key Players for Toledo
Kareem Hunt – If you want to find the last time Kareem Hunt didn’t hit the century mark for yards in a game you’ll have to do some digging. In fact you’ll have to go all the way back to November 2013. Iowa State has given up 386 rushing yards in two games so there will be some opportunities for him to run wild which, after sitting out last week’s big upset, you better believe he’ll be ready to do.
Phillip Ely – How sweet the Arkansas win must have been for the Crimson Tide transfer quarterback turned Rocket. Ely went 21/38 for 237 yards and one TD in last week’s tilt. He also had zero picks. It will be very interesting to see if the Toledo QB can keep a level head and take care of the ball after such a big win.
Toledo’s Keys To The Game
Settle Down – Hangover. Let down. We’ve heard the terms a million times. Anytime a 23-point underdog rips a victory away from an SEC bully in their own backyard, the risk factor soars for a let down the following week. This is especially true when you’re favored by 6.5 against a Power 5 opponent as Toledo is against the ‘Clones. Head coach Matt Campbell and his staff will have the challenging task of using the Razorback victory as fuel for momentum going into this week’s Big 12 match-up while, at the same time, not letting their guy’s egos ride too high.
Catch The Ball – Since the Rockets have played only one game this year, it’s hard to tell if the high number of balls that bounced off Toledo receivers’ hands last Saturday is an actual problem or if they were just having an off day. Either way, the odds of beating an SEC and a Big 12 team in consecutive weeks with dropped passes have to be extremely low. Toledo had at least two drives killed against the Hogs because of dropped balls. That can’t happen against a disgruntled Iowa State team.
Clean Up The Penalties – Specifically with the inexperienced offensive line. Coming into this season, Toledo’s five starting O linemen had a combined three starts. Oh by the way all three of those starts were by one guy, Storm Norton. The Rockets had eight penalties for 55 yards against Arkansas which would have hurt them more if Arkansas hadn’t themselves had 9 yellow hankies for 85. If Kareem Hunt snaps off a few big runs only to have them called back by undisciplined holding calls, that can take the wind out of an offense’s sails. Quickly.
What Rocket Fans Want to See
Early execution. When a team is wound up and excited from a big upset the week before, it can be easy for them to come out with little penalties like false-starts, illegal formations and off-sides. A penalty-free and crisp first quarter will be a great sign for Rocket fans.
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State looks to get back into the win column this week after suffering a loss to their in-state rival Hawkeyes last Saturday. I have to think the stress level in Ames has gone up a bit after their last game. Given the Rockets unexpected win in Little Rock, this game for Cyclone fans has gone from a fairly confident notch in the win column to a very real possibility of starting the year 1-2. Which would not be good for head coach Paul Rhoads future in Ames.
Key Players For Iowa State
Sam Richardson – On top of coming off of a tough loss to Iowa last week, Richardson also took a lot of pressure and got beat up by the relentless Hawkeye pass rush. The Cyclone QB ate turf four times and was hurried many more. Richardson will have to get rid of the cobwebs as Toledo surely smells blood in the water after seeing last week’s Cyclone/Hawkeye game film. He can expect more of the same against a defensive front who held their own last week against the biggest offensive line in the nation (Arkansas).
Tyler Brown – Brown is the Cyclone’s leading rusher so far for 2015 with 20 carries for 87 yards (4.4 avg) and no TD’s. Not exactly dazzling on paper, however Brown has shown sparks. On his first carry of this season Tyler broke loose snapping off a 34-yard scamper. Since then, though, State’s rushing game has been struggling with only 140 yards in two games. This would be the perfect day for Brown to get back on track and take some of the load off of Richardson.
The Entire Offensive Line – As a unit, this group needs to step up and will play a big role in this game. They need to open up some holes to get Brown to the second level of the defense while limiting Richardson’s sacks. The Cyclone’s generated only 66 yards in the second half last week while also posting a goose-egg on the score board. If they can stay on their blocks against Toledo, there’s enough talent in the backfield to put up enough points to come away with a win.
Iowa State’s Keys to the game
Settle Down – Quite the contrary to their opponents, the Cyclones are coming off of a loss they’d soon forget about. And they need to. While 31-17 isn’t a pretty score, it’s still a deceiving one. Even with the aforementioned abysmal second half, the ‘Clones were still in the game well into the 4th quarter thanks to their defense. If they can look at the fact that they played that poorly for a half of football and still had a chance to win, then that’ll be a good start to beating Toledo.
Let Richardson Win – In two games, Sam Richardson is 40/64 through the air for 480 yards (62.5%) with 4 TD’s and only 1 pick. And those numbers include a half against the Hawkeyes where he was running for his life. He can win this game for State but the Cyclone’s offensive staff needs to figure out a way to get the ball out of his hands faster. Especially if the O line continues to struggle.
Specialize It – Whether it’s a big hit on the kick-off unit, or a four-tackle-breaking zig zagging punt return, a well-timed big play on special teams can inject a huge shot of confidence and swagger into a team. Especially one who is having trouble putting points on the board. Trever Ryen had an 81-yard punt return against UNI. A duplication of that beauty would be just what the doctor ordered for the ‘Clones against the Rockets.
What Cyclone Fans Want To See
Their team finish. It’s easy to forget the Cyclones had a 17-10 halftime lead against Iowa last week. As I mentioned before, Iowa State’s offense pulled a disappearing act in the second half. Regardless if State is ahead or behind at the half, ‘Clones Nation would love nothing more than to see their team keep their foot on the gas in the second half and pull away from the favored Rockets.
The hangover doesn’t kick in for the Rockets and Toledo ends up winning this one. There are too many questions on the Cyclone’s offensive line and the lack of running game is just too much for Iowa State to overcome against the confident Rockets who are at home in this one. The Cyclone’s passing game isn’t good enough for Iowa State to be one-dimensional and still pull out a win. Toledo gets their back-to-back Power 5 wins.