As Ben Bruns alluded to in his weekly insider piece, Mizzou quarterback Brad Smith is getting a lot of his yards on designed run plays between the tackles instead of scrambling around outside.
That means Iowa State needs to defense Smith much like it would Tiger tailbacks Zack Abron and T.J. Leon. With interior linemen Jordan Carstens and Nick Leaders filling their gaps, linebackers Brandon Brown, Matt Word and Chris Whitaker have to be sound, smart and make tackles.
If the Cyclone rush defense suffers, Smith, the Big 12's sixth-leading rusher with 97.4 yards per game, will make them pay. His 213-yard, two-touchdown torching of Oklahoma earlier this season should be evidence enough.
Exploiting Mizzou's weaknesses
Statistics don't lie and it's very evident where ISU can rack up some yardage, and hopefully points, against the Tigers. Facing an opponent that ranks last in the Big 12 and 104th nationally with 265.4 passing yards allowed per game, Seneca Wallace and company have to take advantage.
Mizzou also ranks 81st nationally in pass efficiency defense and have demonstrated little playmaking ability in the secondary outside of cornerback R.J. Jones. Jones has three of Mizzou's eight interceptions, which ranks next-to-last in the conference.
Lane Danielsen and Jack Whitver will make Mizzou respect the intermediate passing game, but look for Cyclone wide receivers Lance Young and Jamaul Montgomery to attack the Mizzou secondary deep for big plays.
Staying out of defensive red-zone situations
The Cyclones' offensive red zone woes have been well publicized in recent weeks. But their defense's play inside the 20-yard line has been lackluster all season. Opponents are perfect in 21 trips to the red zone, leaving ISU last in the Big 12 in red zone defense. Even more discouraging is that Cyclone foes have scored touchdowns on 17 of those opportunities and have had to settle for three points on just four occasions.
Ending that run of futility could be difficult this weekend, as Mizzou touts the Big 12's best red zone offense, converting on 23-of-26 trips inside the 20. Also the conference's most balanced offense with 1,685 passing yards to 1,612 rushing yards, the Tigers have scored touchdowns on 19 of their 23 opportunities.
In order to avoid a repeat of the red-zone blues, ISU must remain stout between the 20s by coming up big on third downs and forcing turnovers.