The Oklahoma State Cowboys have been victorious in their last five games with the Iowa State Cyclones, that much is true. But the Cyclones gave the Cowboys all they could handle in their last two meetings, and now they’re much more dangerous. Oklahoma State still holds hope that, if things work out their way, they can find themselves playing for the conference title. For Iowa State to make the title game, they need to win out and hope for a little help.
DATE & TIME: SAT, NOV. 4, 11:00 AM CT
LOCATION: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
FORECAST: Cloudy and 40 degrees, slight chance of a rain shower
BETTING LINE: OSU -6.5
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (7-2, 4-2)
OSU was firing on all cylinders and had won four games in a row before their disappointing loss in the Bedlam showdown against Oklahoma last Saturday. The Cowboys offense once again did all it could in putting up 52 points, as they have scored over 40 points in seven out of their nine games this season. Quarterback Mason Rudolph threw for 448 yards and five touchdowns in a valiant effort. Despite two costly turnovers last week, offense, is the least of the Cowboys concerns heading into Ames.
It appeared that the Cowboys defense was starting to come together, looking rather impressive in spots. Well, don’t look now, but the OSU defense has allowed 101 points in its last two games. Last week, the Pokes put Baker Mayfield back into the Heisman race with 598 yards and five touchdowns, two of which went to receiver Marquise Brown to go along with his 265 receiving yards. They also allowed 196 rushing yards on the day. Ouch.
The Cowboys defense will need to shore up this week, that’s no understatement. Though ISU isn’t blessed with the offensive tools of the Sooners, they will still provide a stiff test. Cyclone receivers Hakeem Butler (6-6) and Allen Lazard (6-5) are both taller than all of the OSU defensive backs, and are only two of the six players with 20 or more catches on the season for ISU. Though the OSU defensive line doesn’t have the big name playmakers of the past, it does have valuable depth which can help neutralize the Cyclones attack.
Oklahoma State’s offense, ranked first in the Big 12 in scoring, is a formidable obstacle for the Cyclones to overcome. ISU’s defense, as goods it has played, will find it a very difficult task to maintain coverage against this bevy of receivers. Once the Cowboys offense has Rudolph clicking and Justice Hill running the ball effectively, there’s very little a defense can do to make up the margin for error.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR OSU
BE AGGRESSIVE – The Cowboys own the most potent attack in the conference. Coach Gundy should be aggressive early and use his offensive weaponry to try to put Iowa State into an early hole. The Cyclones will try to confuse Rudolph with various looks on defense, he’s one of the best and can overcome this. The Cowboys can then continue to run a balanced offense while allowing their defense to put pressure on ISU, who will be desperate to claw their way back into the game.
LONE JUSTICE – Iowa State’s defense ranks an impressive 34th against the run, just one spot below OSU, and allows just 3.72 yard per carry. Justice Hill ran for 228 yards and two touchdowns a week ago. Establish the run early with Justice Hill and become two-dimensional, allowing Rudolph to bomb away to James Washington and the crew.
BACK FOR THE ATTACK – The Cowboys defense must establish consistent pressure on Kempt and keep him from entering a zone of comfort. Every threat that the Cyclones pose offensively is predicated on Kempt performing sharply. Disrupt this process and ISU will struggle to keep pace.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES (6-3, 4-2)
After reeling off four straight wins of their own, including huge wins against the Sooners and Horned Frogs, the Cyclones finally fell at West Virginia last week. All is not lost, with the aforementioned wins over Oklahoma and TCU, the Cyclones still have a good shot at making the Big 12 Championship Game if they can get back to their winning ways. Iowa State was down 20-0 to the Mountaineers before scrapping back to a one score deficit in the fourth quarter. However, the recently lethal Cyclones offense uncharacteristically stalled at times last week, often within very close striking distance.
Offensively, Iowa State had scored 38, 45, and 31 in consecutive games before scoring a combined 30 points in their two last efforts. Sure, that’s not exactly the kind of trend you want heading into a game against the hottest offense in the Big 12. Heading into this matchup, you might be inclined to think that the pressure would be mounting on quarterback Kyle Kempt. Considering what he’s already been through in his career just to get to this stage, I think that’s hardly the case.
After surrendering 20 first-half points to the Mountaineers last Saturday, Iowa State’s defense didn’t give up another point. Iowa State is currently ranked second in the Big 12 in total defense, an impressive feat especially considering their opposition of late. The Iowa State defense, second in Big 12 scoring defense, has been opportunistic in creating turnovers all season long. In order to combat a prolific offense, the Cyclone defense will need to limit OSU’s opportunities and make some of their own.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR ISU
GET A GRIP – The Cyclones must win the turnover battle. It’s as simple as that. The Cyclones are a good team, but when they win the turnover battle they’re great. If afforded with extra possessions, ISU can really avoid some of the pressure of playing keep up. On the flip side, Oklahoma State is extremely efficient, and providing them with any extra possessions is a sure recipe for disaster.
DON’T HANG AROUND – The ‘Clones have to put forth a stalwart defensive effort against Mason Rudolph and the incendiary Cowboy offense. Getting the OSU offense off the field ASAP, and thereby preserving defensive stamina, is a must. Rudolph must feel pressure and throw passes sooner than he’d like. Losing the majority of third down clashes against this team isn’t going to put a W in the record books.
TAKE THE BALL AND RUN WITH IT – We know that Kempt has huge targets in Hakeem Butler and Allen Lazard to help establish a healthy passing attack. Adding the benefits of a solid running effort are twofold. Maintaining a balanced attack on offense will allow the Cyclones the opportunity to win the Time of Possession and keep the Cowboys offense on the sidelines. Running back David Montgomery provided 115 rushing yards in last week’s loss at West Virginia, and is heading to his first 1,000-yard season performance. In conference play, the Cowboys are allowing close to 134 rushing yards per game.
It’s perceived that Oklahoma State possesses the more explosive offense, and perhaps rightly so. But Iowa State is one tough customer, one that is much harder to deal with in Ames this season. The Cowboys must aim to be efficient and mistake-free against the opportunistic Cyclones on offense, lest they provide Matt Campbell’s team with any extra opportunities and momentum. After last week’s defensive performance, one has to wonder exactly how many points the Cowboys can afford to surrender this week.
Though the Iowa State offense hasn’t scored in bunches the last two weeks, it was still good enough to defeat TCU and put a late scare into West Virginia. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and you can expect Kyle Kempt to be prepared to lead his team down the field. The Cyclones have already gone 12 rounds with the likes of the Horned Frogs and Sooners and have walked away victorious. There is a lot on the line, but nothing the Cowboys bring to the table will intimidate Iowa State.
The Cyclones will be able to score against the Cowboys defense, of that I have no doubt. Will the Cyclones defense be able to stop Mason Rudolph and his cache of running backs and receivers? As much as Iowa State has impressed this season, it’s difficult for me to pick against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys seem to have an unlimited amount of artillery at their disposal, even if James Washington doesn’t play due to injury. I like the Cowboys to win a single-digit game with under five minutes remaining in what should be one helluva game.