1)THE PLAY OF THE DEFENSIVE LINE- The Cyclone front four must be a lot better this year if Iowa State expects to compete on a weekly basis. The Bison like to run the ball and play power football and so it should be interesting to see if starting defensive tackles Austin Alburtis and Nate Frere can stuff the run. It will also be interesting to see how much pressure the Cyclones can put on North Dakota State quarterback Nick Mertens. This will be key because Mertens threw fifteen interceptions last year and if the Cyclone pass rush can get after him on a consistent basis it is likely that he should throw a few on Thursday night.
2)SAFETIES MUST STEP UP-Last year was a complete bust in parts of the defensive secondary which is one of the reasons the new staff went hard after junior college transfer David Sims. His play will be vital along with the two other safeties Michael O'Connell and James Smith that should also see the most time. These three must play a lot better pass coverage and show a lot better tackling skills against the run if Iowa State expects to improve on defense this year.
3)ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK-New defensive coordinator Wally Burnham has preached from day one that he is the type who will try to force the opposition into a mistake by bringing constant pressure and attacking for four quarters. The problem with this is that he has been very clear in telling Cyclone Sports Report about the lack of speed on the Cyclone defense which should negate somewhat their ability to constantly attack. It will be interesting to see how many times the defense blitzes on Thursday night.