Three Keys to Victory: Texas Tech

Iowa State continues on a challenging Big 12 course with a road game Saturday night in Lubbock against high-flying Texas Tech. Here are three keys to a Cyclone victory, according to CN senior writer Bill Seals.

Big play from safety position

It's obvious the Red Raiders can hurt defenses with any of their top five receivers, and they're often able to achieve mismatches with their third or fourth options going up against safeties and SAM linebackers. In addition to starting cornerbacks Ellis Hobbs and Harold Clewis playing well, safeties JaMaine Billups, Marc Timmons and Steve Paris will need to hold their own. Paris will be the X factor, given his flexibility and good coverage skills. He has already recorded one of ISU's two interceptions as a team despite his reserve role.

Stellar performances against a deep Tech receiving corps is huge, as Mike Leach's team has five players with at least 25 catches thus far. Wes Welker leads the way with 32 for 428 yards and three touchdowns. But Nehemiah Glover and Mickey Peters each have five touchdowns to go along with 58 combined catches. Taurean Henderson is Tech's fifth option with 25 catches for 235 yards – but he's already scored four times.

Plenty of Wags

Although the Red Raider offense is quick-striking, doesn't take long to score and averages just over 26 minutes on the field each game, ISU must do what it can to keep it off the field. That means a steady dose of running back Michael Wagner, who has 325 yards and is averaging 4.6 per carry. Stevie Hicks could also prove to be valuable, if he is able to improve upon his 1.5-yard average in what has been a dismal redshirt freshman season.

Another way of keeping the Red Raiders at bay is the Cyclone defense getting off the field on third down, which has been a positive this season. ISU ranks third in the Big 12 by limiting its opponents to just 26.2 percent conversions on third down. However, Tech is second in the conference with its 50.8 percent third-down conversion rate.

Score some points, already

An offense that ranks worst in the league with 21.8 points per game must get untracked in Lubbock, because that won't be nearly enough against the country's most prolific scoring offense (Texas Tech's 45.8 points a contest).

Again, a huge key to that is Wagner's running and the offensive line play in front of him. Luke Vander Sanden is likely out for the game, which should make it even more difficult for a group that has suffered for consistency through five games.

Unlike last season's game in Ames, this will be a high-scoring game from the start, and it's important for the Cyclones to score on their first possession to set some sort of tone.

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