Since I think the Cyclone secondary is capable of holding the Seminole aerial barrage in check, I believe the onus is on the defensive front to put the reins on starting running back Greg Jones. The 6-foot-1, 248-pounder is a dangerous combination of speed and strength, and could be difficult to bring down if he gets going. Jones, who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry over his two-year career, rushed for 713 yards and six touchdowns on 134 attempts last season.
Just as Jones will look to continue a streak this weekend--consecutive 100-yard running games—ISU's defense is focused on furthering a trend of its own. In its final three games of the 2001 season, including the Independence Bowl against Alabama, the Cyclones limited opponents to a combined 35 points.
Although Hawkeye tailback Ladell Betts reached the 100-yard plateau, ISU put a stranglehold on Jayhawk tailbacks in the final game of the regular season, then limited the SEC's leading rush offense to 150 yards.
McCarney's squad figures to face its toughest test yet against a senior-laden Seminole offensive line led by All-American Brett Williams and Montrae Holland.
Deal with early adversity
Playing in front of a hostile crowd in Kansas City, Florida State hopes to strike early and often to take the Cardinal and Gold faithful out of the equation. The Seminoles taking a long shot downfield on the game's opening play probably isn't out of the question.
While the defense must buckle up early, ISU has to put together some successful offensive drives early—minus the turnovers-- to keep the pressure off. What happens if this doesn't happen? Refer to last season's game in Lincoln, Nebraska, when the Cyclones found themselves behind two touchdowns before the game had even started.
While winning the turnover battle is a key to winning any football game, its impact is magnified when playing a team that's heavily favored. In recent years, ISU has thrived in this area. Last fall they finished eighth nationally in turnover margin and ranked first in the Big 12. Two seasons ago, the Cyclones finished in the black for the first time since the 1995 season.
Reasons for the sudden improvement are two-fold: a stable of tailbacks that never lose fumbles and a defense that has steadily built up on playmakers.
Turnovers proved to be a huge factor in ISU wins and losses last season. In victories over Northern Iowa, Baylor and Kansas, ISU forced a total of 15 turnovers. However, in losing to Nebraska and Kansas State, ISU committed a total of six turnovers themselves.