Throughout Iowa State's 12-game losing streak in Big 12 play, it has tended to fold up the tent after falling behind early. That wasn't the case in non-conference games against Iowa and Northern Illinois, but it's hard to argue that it hasn't during back-to-back losses against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in which the Cyclones have been outscored a 70-10 margin.
Especially on the road against a conference rival, ISU must have some good things happen early to build on. This is a team that needs some early confidence and success to build on. If that is to happen, expect the Cyclones to hang around all day and potentially earn a league road victory.
However, if Dan McCarney's team does happen to fall behind early, it could be tough going. CU's offense is built on grinding yards out on the ground and controlling clock. If Gary Barnett's squad gets up on ISU early Saturday, they can follow their gameplan to a tee.
Attack first-time starter
The Cyclone defense has had its most success against young inexperienced quarterbacks this season. They'll get the opportunity to face another one Saturday when James Cox takes over at quarterback for veteran starter Joel Klatt. That should be good news for defensive coordinator John Skladany, who last season saw Klatt pick apart his defense to the tune of 288 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing.
On the other hand, Cox presents a different look from the quarterback position. The sophomore can hurt defenses with his arm and legs, but has done most of his work through the air thus far. Cox came in for an injured Klatt last weekend against Oklahoma State and engineered his team's only two scoring drives of the day, completing 15-of-21 passes for 175 yards overall.
ISU must get big days from pass rushers Tyson Smith and Shawn Moorehead, who struggled making plays against Texas A&M's athletic quarterback Reggie McNeal. Inside linebackers Tim Dobbins and Brandon Brown also need to stand tall against Cox.
Consistency at quarterback
McCarney made the decision Cyclone fans were waiting for this week by picking ONE full-time quarterback for the Colorado game. However, many supporters still disagree on the player he chose to take the snaps in Boulder. Redshirt freshman Bret Meyer will start his sixth game of the season Saturday, but this time he won't be asked to come out in favor of Austin Flynn.
One would think that Meyer's consistency and level of play should improve, but the bottom line is Meyer has yet to display any consistency or sustained level of play throughout his five games at quarterback. If the Cyclones struggle in the run game, which has been the case for nearly two seasons of Big 12 games, the quarterback will be asked to engineer a victory.
Meyer needs to step up and play at the high level necessary. However, this time Meyer won't necessarily have Flynn to bail him out and give the offense a spark. Assuming the defense holds up its end of the deal, ISU's overall success should hinge on Meyer's ability to make plays.