Kansas at Iowa State: The Matchups

It's the start of conference season Saturday, which will feature the matchup of two teams that, fairly easily, could have been 4-0.

Instead, Kansas enters its first conference game 3-1, while the Iowa State Cyclones sit at 2-2. The matchup features a Kansas team that has been superb on offense, but mediocre defensively. Meanwhile, the Cyclones are used to bigger plays from their defense, where they’ve already forced 13 turnovers, or more than three per game.

And now, the matchups:

1)    Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch versus Kurtis Taylor, Rashawn Parker and Christopher Lyle, defensive ends

This matchup could well decide the game. Spikes and Hatch are two freshmen offensive tackles who have had to accelerate their development this season. They’ll need to be solid links in a pretty cohesive unit two weeks from Saturday when they travel to face Oklahoma. This game should mark a good test. Taylor was second in the conference in sacks last year, while Lyle actually leads the Cyclones in that category this year. Parker is a good all-around end. With the zone defense that Iowa State plays, the Cyclones can’t risk blitzing too many people with the possibility of getting burned. That means they’ll count on pressure up front, from these three, to make sure Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing doesn’t have all day to pass. If Reesing does have that time, he could devastate Iowa State’s defense by finding easy holes in the zone or down the seam. Iowa State doesn’t have the offense to get into a firefight, so this one could make the difference.

2)    Chris Harris versus R.J. Sumrall, wide receiver

Sumrall marks the only real big-play threat that the Cyclones have offensively. The senior is averaging 18.9 yards per catch, and snagged a 28-yarder to send the UNLV game to overtime with three seconds left on the clock. Three of Iowa State’s four longest pass plays this season have involved Sumrall. Sumrall also owns seven of the top 11 pass plays this year. He’ll be matched up against either Harris or the hopefully healthy Kendrick Harper. If Harris can keep Sumrall in check, he will have nullified Iowa State’s biggest threat and essentially turned the Cyclones into a running and short passing team, something the Kansas defense is well-equipped to stop.

3)    Todd Reesing versus James Smith, free safety

Both are likely the leaders of their respective units, and they’ll find themselves in a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game in this one. Iowa State will need support over the top with its zone coverage because the Cyclone defensive backs lack the size, and speed, to keep up with the Kansas receivers. That means Smith will be counted on to come up and make solid tackles to keep KU receivers from catching the ball in a hole in the zone and outrunning everyone to the end zone. At the same time, Smith, who is Iowa State’s leading tackler, needs to be on his toes in the run game. If Smith jumps at all on a play fake, the ball is likely going over his head to where he should have been. At the same time, if he doesn’t react quickly enough to slow the run, Kansas has the beef up front to move around a much smaller defensive line.

4)    Angus Quigley versus Jesse Smith, linebacker

Because of the size differential, Kansas running backs Quigley, Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford might see something they aren’t used to this season – open space. Or at least that’s until Smith closes it. Smith is a ball-hawk and one of the keys to Iowa State’s run defense. He plays downhill and is always around the ball. On the other hand, Kansas has struggled to run the ball in 2008, and is looking for a breakout game to restore confidence for both the offensive line and its backfield trio. The coaches drilled the run game into the head of their players during the off week, and Saturday will give the players a chance to respond. If Kansas can run the ball effectively, this game will get over in a hurry.

5)    Daymond Patterson versus ISU punt coverage unit

Iowa State lost to Iowa for two key factors: they only scored three points on five trips inside the Iowa 30 and they allowed an 81-yard punt return touchdown, which opened up the game from a 10-3 Iowa lead to a 17-3 Iowa advantage. Kansas has its own big play threat in the punt game in the diminutive Patterson, who has game-changing speed. Patterson hasn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since the first game, though opportunities have been there, and Patterson doesn’t need much to finish one off.

This game will be simple. Either Iowa State can control the ball, limit mistakes and slow Kansas defensively, or the Cyclones will lose.

Offensively, Iowa State will try to run the ball and control the clock with a possession passing game, while looking for a big play from Sumrall. Defensively, Iowa State attempts to use zone coverage to mask a secondary that’s mediocre in coverage.

ISU Coach Gene Chizik has transformed a lot of the attitudes around his program, and it’s always difficult to pull a game out in Ames. Still, barring disaster, this is a game that Kansas should win.

Kansas 31
Iowa State 14

Phog.net Top Stories