The year is 2005. We Belong Together by Mariah Carey is the number one song in the country. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the highest grossing film of the year. The first iPhone wouldn’t debut for another two years. The Iowa State Cyclones were ranked. That’s right, it has been twelve long years for the faithful from Ames, but they are finally back. The Iowa State Cyclones are ranked for the first time since 2005, currently sitting at number 25 in the AP Poll. The Cyclones will get tested immediately to see if they can hold on to their newly acquired ranking, as they welcome the fourth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs to Ames on Saturday.
DATE & TIME: SAT, OCT 28, 2:30 PM CT
LOCATION: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy and 40 Degrees
BETTING LINE: TCU -6.5
TCU HORNED FROGS (7-0, 4-0)
TCU is a team that is starting to hit on all cylinders, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The schedule for the Horned Frogs is about to enter the toughest stretch to date with three of the next four games being away from Fort Worth. Thankfully for the Frogs though they seem to have really rounded into form the last two weeks, particularly on defense.
Over the last two weeks against Kansas State and Kansas, the TCU defense has allowed six total points and 237 total yards of offense. It doesn’t matter who you are playing those numbers are impressive. The TCU defense also now has four games on the year allowing seven points or less to their opponents, including two shutouts. Notably, TCU has done an outstanding job of getting off the field on 3rd down. Opponents are only converting 28% of their 3rd down attempts against TCU, the 17th lowest percentage in the country.
Offensively, TCU may have unlocked something this past week against Kansas. While the running game has been TCU’s strength this year, the passing game took the driver’s seat last week. Kenny Hill went 19-26 for 278 yards and 5 touchdowns. What really stood out though was that twelve different receivers caught those nineteen passes. That kind of distribution is hard for a defense, because they can’t just key in on stopping one or two guys. Also, Hill’s deep ball looked the best that it has all year, and if he is able to connect deep with consistency then it adds a whole different layer to what this offense can do.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES (5-2, 3-1)
Iowa State is without a doubt one of the biggest surprises in college football this year. The Cyclones came into the season picked no higher than 8th in the Big 12. Right now they are currently tied for 2nd, and have a huge opportunity on Saturday to shock not only the Big 12 conference, but the entire college football world.
On offense, Iowa State has seen a huge turnaround since Kyle Kempt has taken over at QB. After only scoring 7 points against Texas on a Thursday night game, they have reeled off 38, 45, and 31 in consecutive games with Kempt behind center. One of the biggest reasons that Kempt has found success is his ability to not turn the ball over. Jacob Park threw five interceptions in his four games as a starter. Since Kempt has taken over he has only thrown one. As it stands today Iowa State leads the Big 12 in turnover margin, and Kempt’s good decision-making is a huge part of that.
The other side to that turnover margin equation is that the Iowa State defense has been incredibly opportunistic. Over the past three games, the Cyclone’s defense has recovered four fumbles, and intercepted two passes. If TCU doesn’t take care of the ball on Saturday, Iowa State is not the type of team to let you get away with mistakes. A couple of names to keep an eye on for the ISU defense are Marcel Spears Jr. and Kamari Cotton-Moya. Spears Jr. is second on the team in tackles right now, and had a 61 yard pick-six against Texas Tech last week. Cotton-Moya is a 6-foot-2 defensive back who leads the team in interceptions with three this season.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR TCU
ACCOUNT FOR LANNING – Joel Lanning is the rare two-way player in college football today. He mainly plays linebacker for the Cyclones, but they have a package for him on offense, as he was the former starting quarterback. Wherever he lines up, he will be making plays so TCU needs to account for him at all times. He is that good of a player.
PATIENCE – Iowa State’s defense subscribes to the bend, but don’t break mentality. They were content to drop eight against Tech last week, and not give up any big plays. TCU will need to stay patient, and take what the defense is giving them.
ATTACK KEMPT – Against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, Kempt was only sacked once. TCU needs to put pressure on Kempt, and keep it on him all game long. This is only his fourth game as a starter, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he could be rattled with pressure. I’m sure Gary Patterson will be planning some exotic blitzes for this very reason.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR ISU
GET OFF THE FIELD – TCU is the #1 team in the country at 3rd down conversions. Nothing tires out a defense more than long sustained drives with the opposing offense converting on 3rd down. Iowa State hasn’t been great at getting off the field on 3rd down, so this will be a key battle to watch in this game.
ATTACK WITH SIZE – Iowa State’s two leading receivers on the year, Hakeem Butler and Allen Lazard, are both 6-foot-5 or taller. The starting corners for TCU are 6 feet tall or shorter. Iowa State should utilize the size advantage on the outside for success in the passing game.
ESTABLISH THE RUN – Much like I said last week in the TCU-Kansas preview, the worst thing you can do is let Gary Patterson make you one-dimensional on offense. You have to be able to maintain a balanced attack on offense to have success against his defense. TCU is allowing opponents only 2.4 yards per rush. David Montgomery will have his work cut out for him, but his success will go a long way towards an Iowa State upset.
This should be a really interesting game on Saturday. TCU and Iowa State are the top two statistical defenses in the Big 12 right now. Gary Patterson and Matt Campbell are two of the better coaches in the Big 12 right now. Both teams are playing with a lot of confidence.
I think this ultimately is going to come down to who is able to run the ball with more consistency. With the weather possibly dropping into the 30’s, and a slight chance for precipitation, being able to run the ball is going to be imperative. While David Montgomery is an incredible talent, Iowa State hasn’t had much success with other running backs this season. Also Kempt doesn’t give you a running threat like Hill does for TCU.
With the stable of running backs that TCU has, and Hill’s ability to run I think that TCU will win this one, and just barely cover the spread. I think TCU by a touchdown feels spot on.