Breakdown: #23 Iowa State vs. Missouri

It's the Big 12 and it's November. That means the running game is the key to victory. For Iowa State to be successful Saturday, it must redisover it's running ways while containing Missouri's fleet-of-foot quarterback Brad Smith.

Iowa State rush offense vs. Missouri rush defense

The Tigers are second to last in the Big 12 in total defense and 60th in the nation in rush defense. They should provide the perfect antidote to a struggling Iowa State running game, which has been severely limited the last two weeks against top-notch defenses at Oklahoma and Texas. However, Missouri does have some playmakers developing on defense like defensive linemen Antwaun Bynum and Keith Wright, who have combined for 26 tackles-for-loss this season. Nine other players have at least two tackles-for-losses. Also, Missouri's numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact that only three teams this season have run for more than 150 yards: Ball State (164), Bowling Green (202), and Nebraska (325). The Cyclones plan to see what promising redshirt freshman Brian Thompson is capable of at tailback after lackluster performances by Hiawatha Rutland and Michael Wagner. Thompson is the only ISU running back averaging more than four yards per carry. Look for a stalemate here, which would be an improvement for Iowa State. Advantage: Even

Iowa State pass offense vs. Missouri pass defense

Seneca Wallace seemed to get his groove back -- somewhat -- in last week's game against Texas, which possesses one of the top pass efficiency defenses in the country. Look for Wallace and his fantastic quartet of wide receivers to light up the Ames sky with an aerial assault against a pitiful Missouri secondary. The Tigers rank last in the Big 12 and 104th nationally in pass defense, and 10th in the conference and 81st in the country in pass efficiency defense. R.J. Jones is the only Tiger with more than one interception this season. However, Missouri's pass rush ranks a solid third in the league in sacks per game. The aforementioned Bynum and Wright have combined for 12 sacks, while linebacker James Kinney has six. Nonetheless, they could have a tough time penetrating an Iowa State offensive line that did a solid job protecting Wallace against Texas last week. Also, the Missouri secondary doesn't have the personnel to play the aggressive man-to-man coverage that has stifled the Cyclones the past two weeks, so look for some soft zones and the reemergence of that Iowa State intermediate passing game that worked so well the first half of the season. Advantage: Iowa State

Missouri rush offense vs. Iowa State rush defense

The Cyclones have something to prove here after getting manhandled by the nation's elite the past two weeks. Iowa State is ranked 64th nationally in rush defense heading into a showdown with a Missouri team capable of dominating on the ground. The Tigers feature precocious redshirt freshman Brad Smith, ranked among the nation's leaders in total offense. Smith already has three 100-yard rushing days this season, including an eye-popping 213-yard effort against that nasty Sooner defense. Missouri also has depth at tailback with backup T.J. Leon coming off a career-high 104 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Leon filled in admirably for the injured Zack Abron, who is expected to play Saturday. Abron ranks among the nation's leaders in scoring. Missouri also features some solid offensive linemen like Rob Droege and center A.J. Ricker, a Rimington Award candidate. Iowa State will look for more consistent toughness and tackling on defense, specifically at linebacker where Chris Whitaker is seeing more time in the place of the gifted, but inconsistent Matt Word. Advantage: Missouri

Missouri pass offense vs. Iowa State pass offense

Balance is the key to the Missouri offense, which is averaging 192 yards on the ground and 218 yards through the air. Smith is still developing as a passer, but he does have a solid touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-to-4. His top target is All-American candidate Justin Gage, who is on the verge of becoming the most prolific receiver in conference history. Gage is also a standout basketball player and a terrific athlete that will be coveted in April's NFL draft. Nearly half of Smith's completions have gone to Gage, so look for the Cyclones to roll their coverages accordingly. Gage is flanked by former quarterback Darius Outlaw and Thomson Omboga, who combined have 12 fewer receptions than Gage. Iowa State's pass defense has been a stalwart all season long, and more than held its own against Texas' big-play receivers last week. Granted, the way the Longhorns were running the ball they didn't have to throw it too much. Nonetheless, the Cyclones held Texas to 141 yards passing and sacked Chris Simms four times. Look for both sides to make big-plays. Advantage: Even

Special Teams

Place kickers Mike Matheny for Missouri and Iowa State's Adam Benike are very similar; both are accurate and have limited range. However, Benike's confidence has to be a little shaken after missing two more-than-makeable field goal attempts against Texas that killed the Cyclones' momentum last week. Missouri has just two special teams/defense touchdowns this season, and they're both by Kinney on interception and fumble returns, so its kick return teams are not necessarily a threat. Iowa State return specialist Todd Miller has been bottled up the past two weeks against superior opposition and is due for a breakout game. Brock Harvey and Tony Yelk are two of the Big 12's top punters. Advantage: Iowa State


The 2001 Sporting News College Football Preview actually ranked Gary Pinkel and his Missouri staff ahead of Dan McCarney's bunch in its unit rankings. Pinkel had a fine track record at Toledo, but he hadn't even coached a game in the league yet while Mac was coming off a 9-3 season. Pinkel has also lost to Bowling Green two years in a row. However, Pinkel did discover a hidden gem in Smith and brought him to Columbia with him. Smith is a budding Seneca Wallace, and it's scary that he's just a redshirt freshman. Pinkel has this program on the right track, and the Tigers are probably a year away from becoming the next breakthrough team in the Bi

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