Iowa State (1-5, 0-3) hosts No. 19 Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1) Saturday morning at Jack Trice Stadium (11 a.m., FOX Sports Net).
Here's this week's preview.
Forecast: High of 49, low of 27, 10 percent chance of rain.
Spread: Oklahoma State (-12.5), over/under 55.5.
Here's a look at how Iowa State matches up with Oklahoma State.
Iowa State pass offense vs. OSU pass defense
It's been two consecutive forgettable games for ISU quarterback Sam Richardson, who's 1-7 as a starter in his career. Richardson was pulled in the second quarter against Baylor and replaced by Grant Rohach, but it's Richardson who'll start Saturday. Last week he completed 50 percent of his passes, still better than his clip against Texas Tech (39.5). Most troublesome has been his yards per attempt the last two games, 4.4 and 4.9, putrid numbers even in an offense that dinks and dunks.
He's going against the eighth-best passing defense in the conference, but steer clear: The Cowboys make opposing quarterbacks pay for bad decisions, with 12 interceptions.
A matchup to watch is ISU wide receiver Quenton Bundrage against cornerback Justin Gilbert, a playmaker in both facets of the game.
ISU run offense vs. OSU run defense
The Cyclones would like to get what they can out of Aaron Wimberly but it's been hard with an offensive line that can't pull its own weight. Watch that discombobulated unit Saturday and it's no surprise the Cyclones have yet to start the same bunch of five. Lapses in protection are rampant.
Combine ISU's inexperience up front with OSU's stoutness — second in the conference in run yards allowed per game (117) and third in average (3.22) — and there's cause for serious concern.
ISU pass defense vs. OSU pass offense
The good news? Oklahoma State is suffering from a similar set of offensive problems as Iowa State? The Cowboys have taken to shuffling around their parts to correct a distressed offensive line, but it hasn't paid off much, and they too are unsettled at the quarterback position. Head coach Mike Gundy hasn't said who will start between J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf, Walsh being a risk-reward player while Chelf has a steadier hand.
Whoever's quarterback has a buffet of easy passing options. The Cowboys utilize a heavy screen game — especially to quickster Josh Stewart. They'll also look to exploit zone deficiencies in the middle of the field.
The Cyclones have the worst pass offense in the conference in terms of yards given up per game, but that number is skewed a bit as they're one of only two teams to have faced both Texas Tech and Baylor.
ISU run defense vs. OSU run offense
Again, more good news for Cyclones fans, as the Cowboys have also struggled to run the ball, seventh in yards per game (136) and average (3.9) among conference opponents. Running backs Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland haven't lived up to expectations — Smith excelled the last two seasons as a No. 2 option but hasn't done a good job carrying the burden of a No. 1 back — while the offensive line, as mentioned above, is not very good.
Iowa State, however, has struggled against the run, giving up 4.81 yards a carry, so this could well be the game the Cowboys get going.
Against Texas, Iowa State saw a bit of the diamond formation but will see more of it against the Cowboys.
Three keys to a win
1. Get going early. At this point the Cyclones ought to just skip their first offensive series. They've gone three-and-out on three of their six offensive series and six-and-out twice. The last time they made a serious opening drive was against Northern Iowa, capped by a missed Edwin Arceo field goal.
A combination of uninspired play calling, lethargic tempo and poor execution have undone Iowa State on early drives and, usually, most of the game. Iowa State's offense has been at its best when attempting a late-game comeback, snapping the ball quickly and stretching the field from sideline to sideline with the pass.
It is a mental burden for the Cyclones' defensive players to take the field early and often in the game with the expectation they have to get stops because their offense can't move the ball.
2. Compensate for a beat-up offensive line. Nobody outside the program should expect Iowa State's offensive line, a unit under construction, to play well against the imposing d-line of Oklahoma State. It'd be surprising if Sam Richardson had more than 2.5 seconds in the pocket on obvious passing downs, so offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham needs to call quick-hitting plays while leaving in extra protection — here's a vote for Jeff Woody — without compromising the things he wants to do offensively. Which, you ask, is what?
In his utopia, Messingham operates an offense built on power-run schemes — pulling guards, centers and tackles — while exposing defenses with play-action plays. You can gather how a poor offensive line makes doing that impossible.
3. Make plays in the secondary. Goodness, the number of dropped interceptions is a major problem. Of Iowa State's two picks — only three FBS teams have left — one came courtesy of a middle linebacker, the other off a tipped pass that hung in the air and floated back to earth like a struck dove.
Oklahoma State's quarterbacks, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf, have a shared 2/1 TD/INT ratio, so there will be bad balls for the taking. Iowa State's defensive backs need to convert those into turnovers.
Fun with Stats
The results have not totally panned out. The Cowboys have been around or near the top 10 in total offense during Gundy's tenure (2005-present). For instance, the Cowboys were No. 7 offensively in 2007, No. 6 in 2008, No. 70 in 2009 — an aberration — No. 3 in 2010, No. 3 in 2011 and No. 4 in 2012.
This season Oklahoma State is No. 50 with its lackluster offense missing its usual pop. The Cowboys are still No. 31 in scoring offense, posting 35.7 points a game, but that number has been dramatically boosted by contests against UTSA and FCS Lamar, games in which the Cowboys dropped 56 and 59 points, respectively.
Against everybody else — Mississippi State, West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU — the Pokes scored an average of 24.75 points.
An unsteady quarterback situation has hurt the numbers of wideout Josh Stewart, one of the more gifted players in the conference. Stewart has 31 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns. Nothing at all to scoff at but not totally indicative of his talent.
Quote to Note
"We've gone 19 series without a first down in last two weeks. That's awful offensive football." — ISU head coach Paul Rhoads.
AllCyclones.com: OSU 24, ISU 17.
FEI: OSU 29, ISU 14.
F/+ has OSU with a 77 percent chance of winning.
Massey Ratings: OSU 34, ISU 27.
RealTimeRPI.com: OSU 44, ISU 24.
GoPokes.com: OSU 31, ISU 10.
|Matchup Preview | October 26, 2013|
|#19 Oklahoma State Cowboys|
(5-1, 1-1 Away)
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-5, 0-3 Home)