Iowa State pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
If Seneca Wallace can throw for over 300 yards against Florida State, I shudder to think at what he can accomplish against the lowly Jayhawks. However, he might not be called upon to sling it too often because the ISU game-plan will be to exploit Kansas' soft defensive front. In last season's 49-7 rout Wallace was just 5-of-15 passing for 89 yards. Iowa State's young offensive line is suddenly battle-tested after holding up remarkably well against the Seminoles and should physically dominate Kansas' front seven on defense when it comes to pass protection. That lack of pass rush on Wallace won't be good news for Jake Letourneau, who is the only returning starter in the Kansas secondary. Advantage Iowa State.
Iowa State run offense vs. Kansas run defense
The Jayhawks finished 111th in the nation in rush defense last season, including the 320 yards they surrendered to the Cyclones last November. Things don't look to improve much with the rebuilding new coach Mark Mangino has to do along the defensive front, except for linebacker Leo Etienne. The Cyclones rushed for 130 yards against Florida State, which is normally modest by their standards until you consider offensive line newcomers Cale Stubbe and DeWayne Johnson were playing defense last season. Look for both Hiawatha Rutland and Michael Wagner to approach 100 yards rushing each with Iowa State dominating the line of scrimmage. Advantage Iowa State.
Kansas run offense vs. Iowa State run defense
On paper, it looked as if the Cyclones were dominated by Florida State's ground attack, which gained 239 yards. However, upon closer review of the game tape one notices ISU stiffened considerably with the move of Jordan Carstens to end to make room for freshman Nick Leaders up front. The Cyclone run defense more than held its own in the second half once that adjustment was made. Fans often look at the spread offense as primarily a passing one, but it can be used to effectively run the football as well. Look for junior Reggie Duncan to flourish in this scheme. His compact size (5-9, 215) is well-suited for the quick-trapping run plays that are customary in the spread offense. And if he can keep himself out of trouble off the field, he's a threat to rush for a 1,000 yards this season. Duncan did gain 227 yards against a solid Texas Tech squad last season. Still, I think the Cyclones' front four should be able to plug enough gaps to free up their outstanding linebackers to make plays. Advantage Iowa State.
Kansas pass offense vs. Iowa State pass defense
This is where things get interesting. Mangino is expected to bring his spread offense with him from Oklahoma, where he was the offensive coordinator for a team that was 24-2 the past two seasons with one national championship. Calling the shots for Mangino on offense in Lawrence is former Iowa State assistant coach Nick Quartaro, who left Ames for a shot at an offensive coordinator job. One has to think whatever advantage the Cyclones have in talent should at least be partially offset by the element of surprise and the insider information Quartaro possesses about ISU personnel. Veteran Zach Dyer is the Kansas quarterback, and he has some big targets like 6-2 Byron Gasaway and 6-4 Brandon Rideau. Against FSU, ISU's secondary held up well, except when they were out-fought for the ball by the bigger Seminole receivers. It took nearly three quarters for Iowa State to establish a consistent pass-rush against Chris Rix, something they can't afford to have happen against Kansas. Advantage Kansas.
As long as Tony Yelk sticks to punts and kickoffs, where he excels, Iowa State should be solid here. Coverage units against Florida State, a school always dangerous on returns with its depth, were stellar and Adam Benike did a workmanlike job converting PATs. Mangino has been shuffling the deck on special teams throughout preseason practice. Reserve quarterback Jonas Weatherbie is the third holder on place kicks they've been forced to use so far because of injuries, and JUCO transfer Andy Coffman is the new long snapper. Plus, special teams is usually where first game jitters have the most impact. This is the opener for Kansas. Advantage Iowa State.
There's no doubt Kansas will play with more discipline overall and more imagination on offense with the addition of Mangino. However, a coach is only as good as his players and facilities and Kansas still has a ways to go there. Meanwhile, Dan McCarney and his entire staff – which includes former Kansas Coach Terry Allen – should be lauded for their ability to get several youngsters and inexperienced players switching positions ready to play so quickly at a high level against Florida State. Mac's post-game approach of not allowing the Cyclones to feel good about a "moral victory" against Florida State was the right way to go as well. Advantage Iowa State.
All week long we've heard lamenting from the Jacobson Building about the lack of game film on Kansas. That will give the Jayhawks the element of surprise, but after the first couple of series the game is usually won by the team with the better players. Also, I believe the ISU players will use last week as motivation and will not suffer a hangover. In fact, I think you'll see a determined football team come Saturday. Advantage Iowa State.
Iowa State has the edge in experience, talent, depth, and the home-field. Look for Mangino and Quartaro to have some tricks up their sleeves early. And then look for the team with the better players – see that as Iowa State – to settle down and dominate.
Iowa State 40, Kansas 17