This almost goes without saying, as nearly every media outlet and analyst have focused on Oklahoma State's running back Vernand Morency, the nation's leading rusher at 561 yards. But we would be remiss in not mentioning Morency – and stopping him – as the number one key to a Cyclone victory.
The Cowboys will line up and make no secret about what they intend to do, and that's beat Iowa State with a smash-mouth offense. Their approach hasn't changed much lately, as they nearly had two 1,000-yard rushers last season – Tatum Bell and Morency.
OSU hasn't had to pass the ball much this season, as starting quarterback Donovan Woods has thrown just 27 passes in three games. Les Miles' offense won't pass until necessary on Saturday, either. But the Cyclones also must remain disciplined and not get burnt in the passing game. Big 12 offenses Kansas State and Nebraska (of a few seasons ago) were able to catch defenses through the air when least expected.
During their final non-conference game against Northern Illinois, the Cyclones were able to win with the benefit of their defense and special teams, which accounted for three touchdowns combined. Since the offense still hasn't clicked on all cylinders for a sustained period of time, it would be in ISU's best interest to get into the end zone though another method Saturday.
But the Cyclones are going up against a great ball-security team. OSU's offense hasn't turned the ball over once this season, and their special teams have been spectacular. The Cowboys attack defenses with a sound running game and efficient passing game, and don't take many chances.
On the other hand, ISU must not let OSU score in an unconventional way. Cornerback and punt returner Darrent Williams is no stranger to this. He has already scored a touchdown on a 59-yard punt return this season, and the first three interceptions of his college career were returned for scores.
Be in right position
Much like they did four seasons ago in Stillwater, the Cyclones must put themselves in position to win late against OSU. Lane Danielsen's touchdown catch from Sage Rosenfels in the final minute of the teams' 2000 clash gave ISU a come-from-behind victory.
In their only other trip away from Jack Trice Stadium, the Cyclones managed to erase a two-touchdown deficit and put themselves in position to beat Iowa. But ISU must get sound play from the quarterback position throughout the game to stay around.