Iowa State rush offense vs. Troy State rush defense
If you listened to Dan McCarney this week, or read the current observations of Cyclone Nation™ football insider Ben Bruns, then you know this is a concern right now for the Cyclones. Iowa State rushed the ball for just 85 yards in last week's win over Iowa, and faces a Troy State team that is 10th in the nation in total defense. There will be a renewed focus on physical play and the running game this week for Iowa State, especially with a battle against Nebraska to follow. Look for that emphasis, as well as the return of guard Luke Vander Sanden from a broken ankle suffered after the first scrimmage of fall practice, to pay off for Hiawatha Rutland, Michael Wagner, and Brian Thompson. However, the Trojans will be saltier up front then you might expect. Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa State pass offense vs. Troy State pass defense
Right now Seneca Wallace is not only the best quarterback in college football, he's also the best player. Wallace leads the Big 12 in pass efficiency, and is the main reason the Cyclones are the top offense in the conference. A lot of quarterbacks can throw. A lot of quarterbacks can run. A select few can run and throw. But what sets Wallace apart is his ability to throw on the run as well as any college quarterback I've seen other than Charlie Ward and Doug Flutie; both of whom won the Heisman Trophy. His fleet of receivers is fast, quick, and sure-handed. They'll be too much for the Troy State secondary. Keep an eye on Lance Young, who earned the starting nod over Jamaul Montgomery this week. Advantage: Iowa State.
Troy State rush offense vs. Iowa State rush defense
The Trojans had three players rush the ball for over 100 yards last week. Granted, that was against Southern Utah, but even on PS2 that is impressive. Their best runner last week was freshman Marrio Fraser, who rushed for 125 yards. However, teammates LeBarron Black and DeWhitt Betterson also broke the century mark. Troy State ranks fifth in the nation with over 280 yards rushing per game. Meanwhile, the Cyclones are allowing 145.2 yards rushing per game. Considering sacks count against net rushing yardage in college football one has to think Iowa State will need a stark improvement in this phase of the game if it hopes to contend in the Big 12 North Division. Against Iowa and Florida State, the two best offensive teams Iowa State has faced thus far, the Cyclones surrendered a combined 461 yards rushing. The good news is this Troy State offense should serve as a nice prelude to Nebraska. Advantage: Troy State.
Troy State pass offense vs. Iowa State pass defense
The Trojans, who have failed to throw a touchdown pass this season, frankly don't have a pass offense. However, the pass can be the most dangerous weapon in an option offense when utilized properly. One of the toughest plays for a defense to react to is when a quarterback shows option down the line of scrimmage and then pulls back for a pass. It takes discipline to defend the option, especially amongst your safeties. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how JaMaine Billups fares against this attack in his first start. Nonetheless, the Cyclones feature one of the deepest and most underrated secondaries in college football. Advantage: Iowa State.
Break up the Iowa State kicking game! Adam Benike was Mr. Clutch in the fourth quarter against Iowa with two crucial field goals that put the game out of reach. Troy State has a dual kicker in Thomas Olmstead, who has connected on five-of-six field goal attempts but is averaging just 35.1 yards per punt. Iowa State's superior depth and talent should also show up here on returns and kick coverage. Advantage: Iowa State.
Don't underestimate Larry Blakeney. He has guided Troy State from Division II also-ran, to Division I-AA power, to Division I-A spoiler. Last season, the Trojans beat Mississippi State, minus Shane Power, in Starkeville and finished 7-4 with losses to three top 15 opponents. Already this season they gave the Huskers a tussle in Lincoln. Meanwhile, McCarney just keeps pushing the expectations in Ames higher and higher and now he is coaching the first ranked football team at Iowa State since 1981. Advantage: Iowa State.
Troy State is bringing its Trojan Horse to Ames. The coaches are talking a good game, but does anyone really believe the Cyclones will be focused with the applause from a fifth straight win over Iowa ringing in their ears and a colossal matchup with Nebraska forthcoming? This is what the term "sandwich game" is all about. Meanwhile, the Trojans are yearning for respect and looking at the 21st-ranked Cyclones as the ideal target. An Iowa State letdown, to some degree, is virtually inevitable. Advantage: Troy State.
Troy State has moxy and will be entering Jack Trice Stadium loose since they have nothing to lose. Iowa State will need to be methodical and play with precision since the emotion is not a likely catalyst. However, technique and talent trumps emotion almost every time and that will be the case come Saturday night. But don't be surprised if Troy State makes you sweat it out a while.
Prediction: Iowa State 31, Troy State 17