Iowa State's 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh December 28th in the Insight.com Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz., capped a 9-3 season and the first bowl victory in school history. The team's nine wins were the most by an Iowa State team since 1906. ISU finished 25th in the final Associated Press poll, its first national AP poll appearance since 1981. The Cyclones' bowl appearance was the first for the ISU football program in 22 years and the fifth in school history and the 2000 campaign marked Iowa State's first winning season since 1989. It's been a long road for McCarney and Iowa State. It wasn't until his fifth and sixth seasons that the Cyclones made serious strides towards sustained winning. But, now ISU is a formidable foe and the next one for the Bears.
ISU's strength is their offense. The Cyclones are ranked 16th nationally in total offense at 447.5 yards per game and fourth nationally in rushing at 278.5 yards per game. The bulk of those rushing yards come from the tailback spot in the form of Dallas product Ennis Haywood.
Haywood (5-11, 220, 4.5) led the conference last year in rushing and was 10th nationally at season's end. He was a concensus All-Big XII pick last year and is a team captain. So far this year he is ranked second in the nation in rushing with 163 yards per game. Last week against Ohio University he racked up 219 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns. Last year in Waco, Haywood managed an impressive 241 yards I believe. With a new quarterback taking the snaps this year, Haywood is the focal point of the ISU attack.
However, he is not the lone weapon by any means. JUCO transfer Seneca Wallace threw for 250 yards on 15 of 28 passing but did throw a pair of interceptions. Wallace was junior college All-American last season throwing for 22 touchdowns and 3,675 yards. He is also a running threat at 6-1, 184 as he amassed 550 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
ISU's offense has been impressive in two games this season, as evidenced by their stats and national rankings in several offensive categories. However, they have played Ohio University and Northern Iowa, neither of which would be considered Big XII caliber opponents.
The key, is my estimation, to the Bears winning Saturday lies in the defense shutting down Ennis Haywood. He rolled up yards all game long in 2000 and limiting his productivity, especially early in the game, would go a long way towards a win. If Haywood does not carry the offense early, then the pressure falls on a junior college transfer starting his first Big XII game. That could lead to turnovers and mistakes.
John Garrett is expected to be back for the game against the Cyclones, which would provide speed at the linebacker spot to shadow Wallace if he proves to be a running threat. The Bears' defense is allowing eight points per game so far this season and is ranked 18th in total defense, giving up only 266 yards per game. Baylor is ranked 6th in the nation in scoring defense as well as 19th nationally in rushing defense.
While the teams that Baylor has played have not been top 25 caliber teams either, both did boast a decent running threat. Arkansas State's Jonathan Adams has already been selected to the Hula Bowl and New Mexico is ranked 22nd in the nation in rushing offense averaging 194 yards per game. Haywood, though, is on a completely different level from anything either of those two teams threw at Baylor.
Shutting down Haywood will go a long way to stopping the Iowa State offense and a long way towards the Bears moving to 3-0 on the season.