Iowa State Game Preview Part 3

In the final part of our preview for Iowa State, we look at how the teams compare statistically, some keys to the game and our always timely prediction.

Saturday cannot get here quick enough for these two teams looking to end losing streaks and improve their chances at playing deeper into the season. Let's take a look at how they match up in some advanced statistics, our keys to the game, and get a little prediction going!

Statistical Comparison –

Baylor

Iowa State

FEI Rank

40

21

F/+ Rank

54

25

S&P+ Rank

43

33

GE Rank

54

66

AVERAGE

47.75

36.25

According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Cyclones are the better team in all but one metric; game efficiency. They have an average rank of 36.25 in the four big rankings while the Bears have a ranking of 47.75.

Baylor O

Rank

Iowa State D

Rank

FEI

0.988

1

-0.309

30

F/+

23.80%

1

12.70%

17

S&P+

121

19

129.5

10

Rush S&P+

135.9

9

123.9

16

Pass S&P+

122.3

28

147.9

8

Standard Downs S&P+

125.3

12

130

8

Passing Downs S&P+

152

14

167.4

4

Success Rate

52.8%

3

40.3%

49

As you can see, this is a game of strength vs. strength, as we discussed in the second part of our series. One area we did not speak about was success rate, and the Cyclones struggles with it. Success rate is the defined as obtaining a certain percentage of needed yards to get a first down (50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down).

The Bears have an elite level offense in that regard, converting 52.8% of their downs successfully. The one area where the Cyclones are pretty average at is they only stop teams 40.3% of the time, so they are allowing a very high rate of successful plays. With the Bears being one of the better teams in the nation at successful plays, the Bears have an excellent chance of keeping the ball and converting a high percentage of 3rd downs (something they struggled to do against Texas).

Baylor D

Rank

Iowa State O

Rank

FEI

0.959

124

0.023

56

F/+

-21.8

123

-1.1

67

S&P+

85.4

99

93.3

78

Rush S&P+

89.6

93

98.7

75

Pass S&P+

88.6

88

102

68

Standard Downs S&P+

93.2

87

100

74

Passing Downs S&P+

78.9

108

105.4

67

Success Rate

48.80%

117

36.30%

111

Weakness vs. weakness when the Bears defense is out there, as we discussed in part 2. This is a very bad defense going up against a pretty bad offense. The only offense the Bears have faced that is even close to these ranks is ULM, which has a large variance in their offensive ranks, primarily due to the opposition. ULM's offense is ranked 23rd accord to OFEI, but 96th according to Offensive S%P+. The variance is primarily due to opponent adjustments, but I would still say that the ULM offense is more dangerous than what we will see Saturday.

Keys to the Game –

1. How many times do we have to say turnovers here??? –

I am not going to beat around the bush on this one, and not put the most important key to this game and every game for the Bears this year. Turnovers have been the breaking point in all 6 games; you don't need advanced stats or anything like that to see it. When the Bears force a turnover, they are 3-0. When they don't they are 0-3. When the Bears win the turnover margin battle, they are 3-0. When they don't, they are 0-3. Anyone saying that this is not the most important thing for the Bears right now is fooling themselves.

2. Force Iowa State into 3rd and 7+ -

As we spoke about above, Success rate is defined as gaining certain # of yards depending on the down. If you are in 3rd or 4th down, you have to convert them all. The Bears have struggled to stop anyone on any third downs this year, allowing a FBS worst 68.97% conversion rate on 3rd down. As you would expect, the Cyclones get MUCH worse when forced into more than 3rd and 4 to go.

ISU Offense TOTAL Third Down Plays

Rushing Situation

Att

1st

%

Yards

Avg. Yards

% Run Plays

% Pass Plays

3rd Down

105

36

34.29%

473

4.50

32.38%

67.62%

3rd Down, 1-3 To Go

24

17

70.83%

159

6.63

70.83%

29.17%

3rd Down, 4-6 To Go

29

9

31.03%

88

3.03

10.34%

89.66%

3rd Down, 7-9 To Go

22

7

31.82%

93

4.23

36.36%

63.64%

3rd Down, 10+ To Go

30

3

10.00%

133

4.43

20.00%

80.00%

The Cyclones gain an average of 4.5 yards per 3rd down play, and covert just 34.29% of those plays into first downs. They prefer to pass, 67.67% and especially on 3rd and 4 to 3rd and 6 where they pass 89.66% of the time. The Bears have shown a complete lack of ability to press the receivers and force tougher throws on 3rd down, so they need to make the Cyclones work harder on 3rd down. This is by far the worst 3rd down offense that the Bears have seen in Big 12 play, so we can't allow them to convert 60% and above. I have the Bears defensive stats ready to show you, but I will spare your eyes. It isn't pretty at all.

3. Don't let Iowa State hog the ball -

The Bears offense has sometimes struggled with rhythm when the other team plays keep away and uses the clock (See TCU this year and Kansas State last year). When teams can effectively hold onto the ball and drive methodically, they force our offense to try and sometimes score too quickly, if that makes sense. This can lead to mistakes but it also leads to a tired defense at the end of the game (see TCU this year as a perfect example of a tired defense).

Surprisingly though, Iowa State is near the bottom of time of possession rankings, averaging just 26:28 minutes of possession, good for 114th in the country. The Bears are 123rd with 24:17. The good news for the Bears is, they score quickly, while ISU usually punts quickly. Iowa State averages 2.2 punts per offensive score, which is 110th in the country. Baylor has the best mark in FBS at .4 (tied with Kansas State). Limiting Iowa State time of possession of course ties into our first two keys, turnovers and 3rd down stops.

4. Keep feeding the beast known as Terrance Williams

Williams is the best wide receiver in the country statistically, and it really isn't even close. He leads the country in receiving yards per game with 168.8 (2nd place is Austin Frankin of New Mexico State at 118). He leads the country in receiving yards despite playing 2 less games than his nearest competition, DeAndre Hopkins. He is tied for fourth in the country for touchdowns with 9 on the season, and is tied for 7th in receptions per game. Williams is by far the best player on one of the best offenses in the nation.

Iowa State has a very good passing defense, though they lack that marquee defensive back. Their secondary works very well together, forcing underneath passes where their outstanding linebackers can make the tackles for minimal gains. Baylor will have to try and stretch those safeties out, and that means depending on Williams to beat one or even two players to the ball.

5. Seriously, turnovers –

No seriously guys, turnovers. This is by far the most important thing for the Bears. Force some turnovers and win the turnover margin. I am not even kidding. If we lose the turnover margin, I give us a 5% chance of winning this game, and that might be optimistic.

Prediction Bears win 42-38

It seems like I say this every week, but this is a huge game for the Bears bowl chances this year. They had 3 winnable games on paper in the first four games of the Big 12 season, and they are 0-2 in them so far. Only one more chance to get one in the bank and try for the 3rd bowl in a row for the first time in school history, and one they cannot afford to blow. I think the Bears offense will do enough and take advantage of a defense built more to stop traditional offenses, and I think the defense takes advantage of a bad offense again, like they did against SMU, just enough to give Nick Florence one more shot to take the lead and get the Bears their 4th win.


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