The Iowa State offense will come out with the mindset of controlling the clock in order to keep an explosive Texas Tech attack on the sidelines. In order to keep the chains moving, Seneca Wallace and company will need to continue its success on third downs.
Who better to do that against than a Red Raider defense that ranks last in the Big 12 in opponent's third-down conversions? Ranking first in the Big 12, the Cyclones are converting 51 percent of the time on third down, a figure that's almost unheard of. On the flip side, Texas Tech ranks worst in the conference and has allowed its opponents to convert on 47-of-98 attempts.
This figure alone could lead to the Red Raiders' doom, as ISU has been very successful this season when able to convert on a majority of its third down plays. Wallace is putting up unbelievable numbers on third down, completing 34-of-49 passes for 598 yards and five scores, setting his pass-efficiency rating at 197.41.
Surpassing number 162
Assuming the Cyclones can continue their ways on third down, this could mean more opportunities for tailbacks Hiawatha Rutland and Michael Wagner. After a breakout performance against Nebraska in which Wagner gained 107 yards on 19 carries, ISU's rush offense still only ranks sixth in the Big 12.
Rutland and Wagner will look to spearhead the running game on Saturday and help the Cyclones surpass their 162-yard average. Running the ball successfully could mean a couple of things. One, it would give ISU the balanced offense that Texas Tech doesn't have on a potentially cool, wet and windy day at Jack Trice Stadium. Two, the Cyclones would gain a decisive edge in time of possession and keep their opponent's offense off the field.
Teams that have beaten Texas Tech and/or held their offense in check have been good tacklers in the secondary. This will be the challenge for an ISU group of defensive backs that are as deep and talented as ever under Dan McCarney.
In addition to being the two best cover men in the group, starting cornerbacks Atif Austin and Ellis Hobbs also happen to be the best tacklers at their positions. Austin is a freak in the weight room and Hobbs packs a mighty punch as a tackler.
The depth of the Cyclone secondary will be stressed as well, so reserves Johnny Smith and Harold Clewis will also be asked to play more snaps. Marc Timmons, JaMaine Billups and Anthony Forrest have been mainstays at safety, but look for Steve Paris to get the more opportunities this week as well since he's one of the unit's best cover men.