Breakdown: UCONN vs. Iowa State

It's the final game of the season, and your last chance to see Seneca Wallace at Jack Trice Stadium. In this week's breakdown, we think Iowa State will win because it has better players. But Connecticut is better than you might believe at first glance.

Iowa State rush offense vs. Connecticut rush defense

ISU's running game rebounded in a big way last week at Colorado, gaining 207 yards. Seneca Wallace, who finished with 102 yards rushing against the Buffaloes, did most of the damage. The Cyclones' offensive line is just over 25 pounds bigger per man than is Connecticut's defensive front, so look for offensive coordinator Steve Brickey to try and establish the running game early. The Huskies are ranked 60th nationally in rush defense allowing 156 yards per game, which is pretty respectable when you consider they've only been playing Division I-A football for three seasons. However, UCONN has only faced three teams with a winning record -- Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Miami, Fla. -- and in those games they've surrendered an average of 184 yards rushing. For the first time since the Missouri game the Iowa State offensive line can look forward to exerting its will on a game. Advantage: Iowa State

Iowa State pass offense vs. Connecticut pass defense

The question on everyone's mind is what has happened to Wallace? The last two weeks, he has committed eight turnovers and now has 22 combined touchdowns and 20 combined turnovers on the season. That would've been unthinkable a month ago when he was ranked atop nearly everyone's Heisman Trophy watch list. Some of it is the caliber of competition, for sure. However, it does seem as if he is pressing at times in these games and losing his focus because he feels as if he has to do too much. That shouldn't be a problem this week before the home crowd in his final game at Jack Trice Stadium. However, don't underestimate the UCONN defense, which ranks in the top 40 in the nation in total defense, scoring defense, pass defense, interceptions, and pass efficiency defense. Again, some of those gaudy numbers are surely due to an anemic schedule. But they are worthy of noting for a Division I-A program in its infancy nonetheless. The Huskies have improved significantly over last season, too. UCONN has improved by over 70 yards in total defense, 11 percent in third down defense, and gone from minus-5 in turnover margin in 2000 to plus-9 this season. One Husky to keep an eye on is junior defensive end Uyi Osunde, who has 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss. Advantage: Even

Connecticut rush offense vs. Iowa State rush defense

Quick poll: if I would've predicted at the beginning of the season that UCONN would be the team going into the season-finale with a 1,000-yard rusher and not Iowa State, what would you have thought? Probably that I would be in need of a psychological evaluation or a drug test. But that is the case going into tomorrow's game. Connecticut's Terry Caulley is 18th in the nation in rushing, averaging 117.3 yards per game. He has already rushed for 1,056 yards this season and 14 touchdowns, becoming just the 55th freshman in NCAA history to gain 1,000 yards rushing or more. The Huskies' also have a decent-sized offensive line. Center Billy Irwin is the only player under 293 pounds. On defense, the Cyclones have plummeted to 85th in the country in rushing defense, surrendering an average of 173.8 yards per game. On the road, ISU yields 213 yards per game on the ground. At home, that number declines to a stingy 104 yards per game. But that dichotomy doesn't tell the whole story either, because the Cyclones have only played one team at Jack Trice Stadium all season that currently has a winning record and that is 7-5 Nebraska. Still, statistics don't tell the whole story. The Cyclones simply have better players here and I suspect they will be eager to demonstrate in their final game of the season that they are a legitimate Big 12 defense. Advantage: Iowa State

Connecticut pass offense vs. Iowa State pass defense

It's hard to gauge just how good Iowa State's secondary is because they haven't really been threatened in Big 12 play, except for a primetime showdown with Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech back in October. Once conference play began, league foes realized they could run the ball on the Cyclones and didn't necessarily need to go to the air to move the football. Because of the talent disparity, the Huskies won't be able to rely solely on Caulley in this game so they'll need quarterback Dan Orlovsky to make some plays. Orlovsky has thrown for 2,279 yards this season and possesses a 16-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His favorite target is Tommy Collins, who has 37 receptions for 479 yards and five touchdowns. Connecticut has allowed 26 sacks this season, with half of them coming in the three games they played against bowl-eligible teams. So look for Jordan Carstens, Tyson Smith, and Nick Leaders to spend some time in the Connecticut backfield. Advantage: Iowa State

Special Teams

The Huskies feature a neat human-interest story at punter with Adam "Crocodile Dundee" Coles, a former Australian Rules Football player. He ranks second in school history with a 39.8-yard average. It's a good bet that ISU's punt team has watched a lot of film of Dwaun Black this week, since he's already blocked two punts for touchdowns this season. UCONN kicker Marc Hickson has a strong leg and is 4-for-6 on field goals between 40-49 yards. ISU's Adam Benike has a shot at All-Big 12 honors with a league-best 14 field goals. Punter Tony Yelk has been splitting time with redshirt freshman Troy Blankenship lately. Call it a hunch, but look for Todd Miller to make an impact on returns. Advantage: Iowa State


Dan McCarney is poised to take the Cyclones into uncharted territory with a third straight bowl game appearance. Despite a grueling schedule, Iowa State could win eight games in a season for just the ninth time in school history with a victory on Saturday. The Cyclones have not finished unbeaten and untied at home since 1917 and are 6-0 at home for the first time since 1906. When you consider the viscous road schedule assigned ISU by the Big 12 computer and the re-shuffling of the coaching staff Mac was forced to do after offseason departures, he has a strong case for being paid "market value." Connecticut Coach Randy Edsall is making his first trip to the state of Iowa. A former standout linebacker at Syracuse, Edsall began his coaching career at his alma mater under Dick McPherson. He also worked for Tom Coughlin at Boston College and the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars before being George O'Leary's defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech. He's been around a lot of winning football and knows the east coast. But he's just a babe in the woods compared to Mac. Advantage: Iowa State


This is Connecticut's bowl game. A win gives the Huskies a .500 finish in just their third season of I-A football. However, the Cyclones will surely be on an emotional high in the final home game for their senior class. Plus, there's four weeks of frustration on the rugged Big 12 road to vent on undermanned UCONN. However, I think a lack of motivation could be a factor for ISU. There has to be a little discouragement after the second half of the season struggles, that is just human nature. Getting the team prepared this week maybe the toughest coaching challenge for the staff this season. Advantage: Connecticut

Bottom Line

Iowa State wins because it has better players, but the Huskies are better than you might think.

Iowa State 45, Connecticut 20

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