Breakdown: Iowa State at #18 Colorado

Conventional wisdom says this week's matchup between Iowa State and #17 Colorado is about pride, emotion, and redemption for the Cyclones. Not so fast says Cyclone Nation.com's Steve Deace. He fully expects ISU to play with all of those things in mind following last week's disappointment. Deace also believes Iowa State needs better execution and to play with more confidence as well. Will that be enough to stop Chris Brown and the Buffaloes?

Iowa State rush offense vs. Colorado rush defense

What do the numbers 130, 85, 17, 58, and 71 mean? They're the rushing totals in each game away from Jack Trice Stadium for the Iowa State offense. That's a paltry average of 72.2 yards rushing per game on the road. If you're wondering why the Cyclones are 1-4 away from home that statistic is probably the biggest factor. You simply cannot win on the road in major college football if you can't run the ball. That's especially true when the combined record of your road opponents is 43 wins and 8 losses. The good news for Iowa State is that Colorado doesn't have nearly the caliber of defense as it's used to seeing on the road. The Buffaloes are just 56th in the nation in rush defense, surrendering an average of 147.9 yards per game. Against foes with winning records, that number climbs to 167.6 yards per game. If the Cyclones gain that much on the ground, they'll likely win this football game. However, we haven't seen much evidence to suggest in recent weeks that they can do that. Advantage: Even

Iowa State pass offense vs. Colorado pass defense

The weather forecast looks good, so look for ISU to take to the air against the Buffaloes' pass defense, which is ranked 50th in the nation. But that may be more difficult than it looks at first glance. Colorado is ranked a solid 27th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and has intercepted 12 passes while allowing just 11 touchdown passes on the season. There's also good size in the Colorado secondary; the smallest starter is cornerback Donald Strickland at 5 feet 10 inches. The Buffaloes also have one of the strongest pass rushes in the Big 12, ranking fourth in the league in sacks per game. Look for the Iowa State offensive line to key on Colorado senior Tyler Brayton, who ranks fourth in the conference with seven sacks. One has to wonder about the confidence of the seemingly unflappable Seneca Wallace following a stunningly awful performance at Kansas State. Look for the Buffaloes to blitz aggressively early to try and rattle his cage some more. Also look for Seneca to run more often this week. I'd feel more confident if this was the free-wheeling Iowa State offense we saw the first half of the season, but except for the Missouri game there has been a lack of execution and confidence here ever since the Oklahoma fiasco. The Cyclones have the personnel to have a big day on offense, but do they have the fortitude? Advantage: Even

Colorado rush offense vs. Iowa State rush defense

This is the biggest mismatch in the game. Colorado's Chris Brown is the nation's leading rusher and has an outside shot at the rare 2,000-yard rushing season. But he's hardly the only weapon in the Buffalo backfield. Reserve tailbacks Bobby Purify, Brian Calhoun, and Marcus Houston would start at just about every other Big 12 school, including Iowa State. Fullback Brandon Drumm is one of the best at his position in college football. Quarterback Robert Hodge is also a threat to run with his mobility. The Colorado offensive line doesn't have a 300-pounder (at least according to the starting lineup sheet), but it's still as good as there is in the league. Wayne Lucier and Justin Bates were preseason All-American candidates, and the entire front wall moves well and is athletic. Iowa State's rush defense isn't exactly the Steel Curtain, but lost in the shuffle of the second half of the season struggles is the fact that John Skladany's defense is holding its own. The Cyclones still aren't as physical as they need to be at the point of attack at times, and still seem to struggle to get off the field on third downs. Nonetheless, Texas Tech is the only Big 12 offense that has eclipsed 400 yards of total offense against ISU, and when you consider the schedule the Cyclones have played that is a noteworthy achievement. It will certainly help ISU's cause if the Nick Leaders we saw a month ago re-emerges tomorrow. Advantage: Colorado

Colorado pass offense vs. Iowa State pass defense

The Cyclones have better personnel here than does Colorado, but if the Buffaloes can dominate the running game like they're expected to that may not matter. Hodge ranks just ninth in the Big 12 in passing efficiency, and none of his wide receivers rank among the conference leaders. The Buffaloes really miss departed All-American tight end Daniel Graham, who was a first round draft choice by the NFL. Look for Iowa State to consistently deploy an eight-man front tomorrow, daring Hodge to beat them with his arm. The problem is that every other team in the league has tried that approach as well, and only Oklahoma was successful with it. The Kansas State defense that absolutely suffocated the Cyclones last week yielded 483 yards of total offense to the Buffaloes, including 289 yards passing by Hodge. Advantage: Even

Special Teams

The Buffaloes have issues at kicker but otherwise they feature one of the league's top units. Jeremy Bloom, who doubles as a world-class skier, is third in the league in punt return average with 15.2 yards per return. Roderick Sneed is second in the conference in kickoff returns, averaging 29.5 yards per return. Punter Mark Mariscal leads the nation in punting with a 48.7 average and is a top contender for the Ray Guy Award. The only blemish for Colorado is place-kicker Patrick Brougham, who's just 9-for-18 on field goal attempts this season. Iowa State's Adam Benike has a shot to be All-Big 12 with a league-best 14 field goals in 20 attempts. The rest of the Cyclones special teams are mediocre. Tony Yelk has a nice punting average, but always seems to shank one or get one blocked at the most inopportune time. Todd Miller has returned two punts for touchdowns, but averages just 10 yards per return. Advantage: Colorado

Coaching

Under Gary Barnett the Buffaloes have been notoriously slow starters, but always seem to finish the season strong. Under Dan McCarney the last four seasons, the Cyclones have gotten off to starts of 3-0, 4-0, 4-0, and 6-1 only to falter down the stretch against tougher conference competition. Both teams seem to be living up to these legacies heading into this game. After a 1-2 start, Colorado controls its own destiny in the Big 12 North Division for the right to defend its conference title. The Cyclones were in the driver's seat, until losing three road games by a combined score of 128-20. Both coaches know what it takes to build winning programs at perennial doormats. However, Barnett is the only coach in America to have Big Ten and Big 12 championships on his resume. And in terms of talent he has the better hand of poker to play on Saturday night. Advantage: Colorado

Intangibles

Mac pointed out this week the Cyclones should be more confident heading into this game since they've played well against Colorado in the past. Plus, you have to think redemption and urgency is on Iowa State's side following last week's nationally televised debacle. At this point the Cyclones could care less about the conference championship; they're playing for pride. Advantage: Iowa State

Bottom Line

The Cyclones will play tough and play hard, but will they play well? Will they take advantage of their opportunities? Will they execute consistently? Will they cash in on Colorado's mistakes? Expect to see a replay of the Texas game, with Chris Brown playing the role of Cedric Benson. The only difference is this one will feature more scoring on both sides.

Colorado 35, Iowa State 28


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