We know what you're thinking ...
When will Iowa State pick up its first conference win of the season?
This weekend against Kansas presents the best chance for that, but the Jayhawks shouldn't be so underestimated, nor should they be written off as an easy win, as many media types have done this week. You'll see at the bottom of this page, Iowa State and Kansas match up very similarly.
Here are three keys for an ISU win.
1. Slow down Kansas' suddenly-burgeoning rushing attack. It shouldn't come as a surprise the Jayhawks are finding success on the ground. After all, they finished third in the Big 12 last season in yards rushing per game — albeit, they had zero passing attack to turn to.
Behind James Sims' 211 yards, Kansas rolled to 315 yards against West Virginia to snap its 27-game conference losing streak. All-purpose back Tony Pierson has been ruled out for the game, and the rest of the season, after a year of injury and disappointment; after gaining 760 yards on the ground in 2012 and 291 via passing game, Pierson managed just 163 and 333. His absence — and before then, his ineffectiveness — is a big blow to the offense, which could use his end-around speed and versatility in the passing game.
Sims is on a roll, putting the finishing touches on what has quietly been a splendid career, needing 393 yards to pass Tony Sands for second on Kansas' all-time career rushing list. The Cyclones will need to be in their places and then rally to Sims, a load to bring down. They'll also be wary of the read-option, run effectively by quarterback Montell Cozart last weekend. Iowa State was no good against the Sooners in that facet of the game Saturday, dual-threat type Trevor Knight engineering a scheme and paced that gashed ISU's front seven.
2. Make the Jayhawks zero-dimensional. Not one-dimensional, no. Zero. This feeds off key No. 1. And it's likely this won't be too hard at a frigid Jack Trice on Saturday. Cozart hasn't yet developed as a passer; you'd figure a night game at an away venue, in awful weather conditions, would not be the time or place for him to become a good one.
In simple theory, the best way to play this:
3. Don't get away from the run game. The Cyclones sliced up Oklahoma on the ground in the first half, carrying 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown, with Aaron Wimberly on his way to another 100-yard showing (nine carries for 45 yards).
And then Iowa State fell behind and they stopped trying to do anything in that department. Wimberly carried four more times and the Cyclones gained a total of 15 rushing yards in the second half.
There are two games left. If Wimberly's at full health — and that's been rare this season — then ride him to the tune of at least 20 carries in the winter weather. Use Jeff Woody and James White, two sturdy running backs who won't be fun to bring down in 10-degree temperatures. And sprinkle in touches to DeVondrick Nealy and Shontrelle Johnson, change-of-pace running backs not suited for workhorse roles.
|Matchup Preview | November 23, 2013|
(3-7, 0-4 Away)
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-9, 0-5 Home)