If the Cyclones (1-9, 0-7 Big 12) are going to win a conference game this season, now's the time, against Kansas (3-7, 1-6). Get caught up to speed on everything you need to know before tonight's 7 p.m. game at Jack Trice Stadium (FS1).
Weather: 10 degrees at gametime, nine by 10 p.m., with no chance of rain, winds from the northwest around five mph and a windchill that will make it "feel like" one degree.
Vegas line: Iowa State (-4).
Keys to a 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.
Three players to watch, besides James Sims
Fun with stats
The two teams have each played 10 games. Iowa State has run 748 plays, Kansas with 679. That number is low.
It looks worse when you consider Kansas and Iowa State are eighth and ninth, respectively, in possessions per game, Encyclonepedia
And then: the Jayhawks run the fewest plays per possession (4.57) of anyone in college football, while Iowa State is No. 17, with 5.06.
A lot of three-and-outs, people.
Game notes, courtesy of ISU media relations
With newly-minted starter Montell Cozart engineering the offense in the win over West Virginia, the Jayhawks reeled off five straight Sims runs, many on options where Cozart could have kept the ball and ran or kept and thrown a screen, as the fake followed most handoffs.
This isn't good news for Iowa State, which had serious problems last week against Oklahoma's read-option game, sparked by backup quarterback Trevor Knight
Here we have Willie Scott cheating inside, leading to a long run by Knight. The sad thing for Iowa State here is nobody else was off their blocks in the middle, meaning a handoff could've also picked up big yards. But Scott crashes ever so slightly inside and, well, you can see how he's caught off balance by the speedy Knight when he pulls the ball back.
"We're going up to Ames, and it's going to be a chilly night. They have a great crowd up there, it'll be raucous and it'll be senior night and they've had some tough losses, especially at home this year. They have a tough loss against Texas and a tough loss against TCU. Almost every week there's a lot of similar patterns that I see his year, where they've been close in game for quite some time, like they had Oklahoma in the ropes for a half last week, and gave up some big plays. I think coach Rhoads is the lifeline in that place, grew up ten minutes away and you can see that the team plays with the same toughness that he has."— KU head coach Charlie Weis.
F/+: ISU, 24.4-16.7 (with a 71.8 percent chance at winning).
BCF Toys: ISU, 19-15.
RealTeamRPI: ISU, 24-18.
Massey: ISU, 27-21.
AllCyclones.com: ISU, 17-14.
|Matchup Preview | November 23, 2013|
(3-7, 0-4 Away)
|Iowa State Cyclones|
(1-9, 0-5 Home)