Texas Tech has given up 570 yards on the ground in its last three games (against NC State, Mississippi and Texas A&M). The Red Raiders are allowing a 5.1-yard average per carry during that stretch, which will usually get you in a TON of trouble. Look for a good day for ISU's backfield. Advantage: IOWA STATE.
ISU pass offense vs. Texas Tech pass defense: Austin Flynn will be returning to his home state and will be ready to prove himself to the "home folks." During the first five games of his career, Flynn has completed 51% of his passes for 919 yards. He has four TDs and six interceptions. If the Cyclones are to be successful on Saturday, Flynn cannot afford to get careless with the ball.
In the last three games, the Red Raiders have given up 971 passing yards and their opponents have completed 61% of their passes during that stretch. Texas Tech has allowed six TD passes, while intercepting only two of 103 passes. Advantage: PUSH.
Texas Tech run offense vs. ISU run defense: Through five games, the most carries a Red Raider back has is 31 (Taurean Henderson). That's not really much of a ground attack. The reality is that the Red Raiders use their short passing game as their "run offense." It might seem a little goofy, but it's working for them. By the way, Henderson has 25 receptions out of the backfield. Just for comparison's sake, the top ISU receiver—at any position—has 16 catches. Wait a minute, this was supposed to be about a ground game. Advantage: NOT APPLICABLE.
Texas Tech pass offense vs. ISU pass defense: B.J. Symons is one of the nation's leading Heisman Trophy candidates. Through five games, the Texas Tech quarterback has 2,467 yards—that's 493 yards per game—with 24 TDs and four interceptions. You might think that would qualify for a QB rating of 13,240.7 but it's really only 171.9.
The keys for ISU will be to put some heat on Symons, which is tough because he gets rid of it so quickly, get physical with the Red Raider receivers to take them out of their comfort zone and make some big plays on the ball. Last season, the Cyclones were able to control the Texas Tech passing attack in a 31-17 victory. How about three interceptions on Saturday? Can you say, "overdue for a few good breaks?" Advantage: TEXAS TECH.
Special Teams: The Cyclones have made six of seven field goals this season and Tony Yelk is back to his normal punting duties. I think ISU will need at least one BIG play on special teams on Saturday to remain in striking distance. However, one bad omen right out of the gates is the Red Raiders' kicker's name: Keith Toogood. Toogood has made two of three FG tries this season. Johnnie Mack and Wes Welker are dangerous return men for Texas Tech. Advantage: TEXAS TECH.
Coaching: Dan McCarney has led Iowa State to three consecutive bowl games after taking over a program that was in terrible shape a decade ago. Mike Leach has a 27-17 career mark with the Red Raiders…and has also taken his team to three straight bowl games, including a 55-15 victory over Clemson last year. A "Leach" could also be defined as "a hanger-on who seeks gain." His system has enabled QBs to put together great careers…in about five or six games. Advantage: TEXAS TECH.
Intangibles: Hopefully, the Cyclones will have some confidence after reviewing how they successfully handled the Red Raider offense last fall. Plus, I'm hoping that ISU takes the field mad as hell after last Saturday's blowout loss to Oklahoma. This could be somewhat of a letdown week for Texas Tech, after its big victory last Saturday against Texas A&M. Plus, it's the Red Raiders' Homecoming game, so maybe there were enough distractions this week ("toga day?") to keep their mind off of ISU. Advantage: IOWA STATE.
PREDICTION: Maybe I'm crazy. But, I think Iowa State can knock this Texas Tech team off again this year. I realize that youth, lack of depth and injuries have all taken their toll on the Cyclones, but something tells me that Coach McCarney will have a very good game plan going into this game. A couple of big plays by Flynn will ignite the offense. A +3 turnover margin coupled with a defensive touchdown will keep ISU in the game up until the finish.
The Red Raiders will score a go-ahead touchdown with about three minutes left, but after a good kick return, ISU's offense will move the ball down to the Texas Tech 22-yard line. As time expires, Adam Benike nails a 39-yard FG to make the Cyclones winners of this see-saw contest on Saturday night. FINAL: IOWA STATE 31, TEXAS TECH 30.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)