Running Against Texas Tech
Iowa State has rushed for 200-plus yards in consecutive games for the first time since the final two games of 2013, and if history is any indication, it could be on its way to making that three-straight games for the first time since 2009.
When the Cyclones travel to Lubbock, Texas, Saturday, they'll not only face a Texas Tech defense that has allowed 277.4 rushing yards per game this season, but will also be facing a team that has, in recent seasons, yielded a ton of rushing yards to the squad from Ames.
In fact, during the Paul Rhoads Era, three of the top five rushing outputs have come against the Red Raiders, including 265 yards last season in Ames.
"That would be more coincidence than anything else," coach Paul Rhoads said of the rushing outputs against Texas Tech. "You're talking about multiple head coaches, you're talking about multiple defensive coordinators and schemes."
The emergence of Iowa State's running game in recent games is due to redshirt freshman Mike Warren, who followed up his 128-yard performance against Toledo with a record-setting 175-yard performance against Kansas. Warren has averaged 7.8 yards per carry in the last two games (both starts).
Now he'll get his third-career start against a Texas Tech team that allowed 378 yards on the ground last week to Baylor and 255 yards the week prior to TCU. The Red Raiders' run defense woes extend to pre-Big 12 games, too, as Sam Houston State rushed for 335 yards on the ground in the season-opener.
"That's definitely a really good thing for me to hear because we've established our running game the past two games and I think it's going to keep on getting better and better," Warren said when told of the 277 yards per game average against Texas Tech.
Iowa State's Offense More Explosive
There has been talk amongst the Iowa State offense for several months now about becoming more explosive in 2015, and by all indications, that goal has been met through the season's first four games.
Through the first third of the 2015 season, in fact, Iowa State has met its goal of six explosive plays per game in all four games.
"It's actually a goal that we've met every week is hitting our explosive plays," coach Paul Rhoads said. "I want to say we had 11 [against Kansas] according to how we rate them. We're getting more big plays out of the run game that certainly are helping that and have left a couple out there in the pass game in our opinion."
Rhoads is correct.
By Iowa State's defenition of an explosive play — 12-plus yards on a run and 16-plus yards on a pass — the Cyclones had 11 explosive plays in their 38-13 win against Kansas on Saturday. The breakdown included three rushes by Mike Warren (12, 28 and 62 yards), one rush by Joel Lanning (15 yards) and seven passes from Sam Richardson to a collection of six different receivers (30, 19, 33, 20, 18, 19 and 41 yards).
The Cyclones also barely left two explosive plays on the table Saturday on an 11-yard rush from Warren and a 13-yard pass-and-catch from Richardson to D'Vario Montgomery. Iowa State collected 297 of its 512 total offensive yardage Saturday on explosive plays.
"Big plays can be game-changers, but they certainly can ignite you from a momentum standpoint too," Rhoads said. "They've got to stay an active part of what we're doing."
The Chances of Winning in 2015
Sitting at 2-2 through the first third of the season, many are looking ahead to the chances of Iowa State victory in the coming weeks, and many will find that the coming weeks will provide no easy task.
Iowa State has already faced two teams ranked in this week's AP Top-25 (No. 22 Iowa and No. 24 Toledo) and will still face No. 2 TCU, No. 3 Baylor, No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 21 Oklahoma State. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Cyclones have the No. 1-rated remaining strength of schedule.
So, their chances of wins? Here's a look according to ESPN's FPI.
|Date||Opponent||Projected Win %|
|Oct. 10||Texas Tech||15.6%|
|Nov. 14||Oklahoma State||24.2%|
|Nov. 21||Kansas State||18.1%|
|Nov. 28||West Virginia||9.3%|