The Jayhawks have been absolutely PATHETIC against the run in the Big 12…especially lately. They have given up 1,518 yards on the ground in seven conference games, an average of 217 yards per contest…and a 5.0-yard average per carry. In the last four games (all losses), Kansas has allowed 1,095 rushing yards, an average of 274 yards per game…and a 5.6-yard average per attempt.
If Iowa State can't mount something of a running attack against the Jayhawks…well, that might be the one thing that could still surprise me about this season. Advantage: IOWA STATE.
ISU pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense: Waye Terry is Iowa State's starting quarterback. Even though Austin Flynn has thrown for more yards, has a higher completion percentage and a better TD to interception ratio. And even though Cris Love has thrown for more yards, has a higher completion percentage and a better TD to interception ratio. Love has a 122.0 QB rating. Flynn has a 97.8 QB rating. Terry has a 64.7 QB rating.
I repeat: Waye Terry is Iowa State's starting quarterback. Hmmm. Hopefully, Terry (and the Cyclone receivers) can make that decision look sensible in Lawrence.
Kansas has given up an average of 198 passing yards in Big 12 action, including a 62% completion percentage. Opponents have gained 12.5 yards per completion and 7.8 yards per pass attempt. Not real good numbers for the Jayhawks. Advantage: KANSAS.
Kansas run offense vs. ISU run defense: Clark Green has rushed for 841 yards this season for the Jayhawks. The sophomore has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and he's run for five touchdowns.
Two weeks ago, the Cyclones did something the Kansas defense hasn't even done this season… they gave up over 300 rushing yards in a game. The total was 356 yards (against Kansas State) to be exact. Advantage: KANSAS.
Kansas pass offense vs. ISU pass defense: Bill Whittemore will likely return as the Jayhawks' quarterback this week, which is not good news for Iowa State. The Kansas QB had totaled 1,921 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 168.0 quarterback rating before he was injured a month ago.
The Cyclones made Joel Klatt look like Joe Montana last Saturday against Colorado, so if Whittemore is healthy, it could be a very difficult afternoon for Iowa State's defensive backs. Advantage: KANSAS.
Special Teams: How about THIS for positive spin? I'll bet that Iowa State's kickoff team is among the Big 12 leaders for fewest yards allowed. Advantage: KANSAS.
Coaching: Dan McCarney brought life back to the Iowa State program, leading the Cyclones to three consecutive bowl games before this disappointing season. His record stands at 38-65 (37%) in nine seasons for ISU. Mark Mangino has a record of 7-16 (30%) in two seasons with the Jayhawks. Advantage: PUSH.
Intangibles: Iowa State is trying to avoid becoming the first football team in Big 12 Conference history to go an entire season without ever having a LEAD in a game. The Jayhawks will surely receive a lift when Whittemore returns to the field. Advantage: KANSAS.
PREDICTION: Kenny Loggins had a popular song in 1980 titled "This Is It" and for the Cyclones, I think this IS it. If Iowa State is going to win one of its final two games…this is it. If Iowa State has an opportunity to take something positive out of the 2003 season and provide some momentum for the spring workouts…this is it. If Waye Terry wants to show that he can lead the Cyclones to a road victory…this is it. If there was ever a time for Stevie Hicks and the ISU running attack to have a big day...this is it.
I really, REALLY want to pick the Cyclones to win this game and have something to build on in the offseason. But, I've been burned once too often this fall. I hope that I'm wrong, but I'm going to have to take the Jayhawks. FINAL: KANSAS 23, IOWA STATE 17.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)