On Saturday (1:00 P.M.), the Iowa State Cyclones (3-2, 0-2) roll into Faurot Field to take on the Missouri Tigers (2-3, 0-2) in Big 12 action. Iowa State comes in off of a 26-49 loss at Baylor. Each team is looking for its first conference win, and a hard-fought battle is expected. Earlier this week, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel talked about Iowa State.
"Iowa State's a very good football team," said Coach Pinkel. "We know that. They have a lot of good players. They're competitive………………………………. They've got a QB who's athletic, and he can do a lot of different things. And, they've got good players at receiver and at running back. They're playing good defense, overall. Everybody in our league is really good this year."
On Monday, Iowa State Head Coach Paul Rhoads agreed.
"I'm not sure what games isn't a must win," said Coach Rhoads. "They're all very, very important. And, this game in particular, Missouri, is very important to us, because it's the game we're playing this week…………………………………… I think this game will be a very, very hard-fought, contested, football game."
Iowa State is the most-penalized team in the Big 12 (9 penalties/game, 75.4 yards/game). They also have the worst turnover margin (-1.6 /game) in the league. Iowa State is last in the Big 12 in red zone offense. In fact, the Cyclones are the lowest-scoring team (25.6 points/game) in the conference. On the other side of the football, Iowa State has allowed 33.2 points/game, good for ninth in the Big 12.
Offensively, the Cyclones rank ninth in the conference in rushing offense, with 149.2 yards/game, and 3.8 yards/carry on the ground. With a 55% completion percentage, and having thrown 8 interceptions, Iowa State is last in the Big 12 in pass efficiency (117.6).
QB Steele Jantz 6'3" 224 is a dual-threat, junior-college transfer from San Francisco City College, whose 261.8 yards total offense/game, and 232.2 passing yards/game, rank seventh in the Big 12 conference.
Jantz has great size, and athleticism. He runs well, and possesses a good arm, although to be sure, he's not as accurate as he needs to be. He's more than capable of making plays against Big 12 caliber competition.
The Cyclones utilize a pair of RBs, although one of them, sophomore Shontrelle Johnson, is listed as questionable for this week's game.
"Shontrelle Johnson is questionable this week," said Coach Rhodes, regarding Johnson's return from injury. "We'll know more later in the week, but I would doubt at this point that he will play."
In Johnson's absence, sophomore RB James White 5'8" 184 has emerged, and proven himself to be an every down Big 12 caliber back. As his size would suggest, he's more of a make-you-miss, and speed back, than someone who will run over people. White is leading the Cyclones in rushing, at 64.6 rushing yards/game, and at 5.5 yards/carry. And, he's scored 5 TDs on just 59 total carries. He's also a receiving threat out of the backfield, and he's faster than he may at first appear.
The Cyclones have one of the conference's top receivers, in senior WR Darius Reynolds 6'2" 208, who is averaging 5.2 receptions/game, which ranks eighth in the conference, and 97.6 receiving yards/game, which ranks fourth in the conference. The speedster averages 18.8 yards/reception, which is also among the league leaders, and he has scored 6 TDs through the air, which makes him Iowa State's leading scorer, and which ranks him in a tie with OSU's Justin Blackmon for third in the Big 12. A pair of junior WRs complement Reynolds, in Aaron Horn 5'9" 175, who averages 4 receptions/game, and 11.5 yards/reception, and Josh Lenz 6'0" 197, who is averaging 3.2 receptions/game, and 11.5 yards/reception. Lenz has dented the end zone twice. The crafty Lenz is primarily a possession receiver, but he does have the size and speed to make plays down the field.
Iowa State utilizes a spread offense, similar to what you see around the Big 12, but they will at times go to other alignments, in situations, such as for short yardage. Even in the spread, their tight ends are often lined up closer to the ball, to help out in the run game, although they will sneak a tight end out, especially in short yardage, or in the red zone.
The Cyclones have struggled with placements, but their sophomore punter, Kirby Van Der Kamp, ranks fourth in the Big 12, with a 44.3 yards/punt average, and an average of 37.8 net yards/punt.
Defensively, Iowa State is surrendering 4.3 yards/rushing attempt, and 7.2 yards/pass attempt. The Cyclones are led by sophomore WLB Jake Knott 6'2" 243, who leads the Big 12 in tackles, and is averaging 11.8 tackles/game, including 3.5 tackles for loss, to go along with a pass break-up, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on the still young season.
Knott is joined by sophomore FS Jacques Washington 6'0" 208 (8.2 tackles/game, 5 PBUs), junior SLB A.J. Klein 6'1" 243 (6.6 tackles/game), junior CB Jeremy Reeves 5'7 176 (5.8 tackles/game), and senior CB Leonard Johnson 5'10" 202 (5.8 tackles/game).
The Cyclones play a 4-3-4 base defense, and are usually found in cover two zone coverage. They will go to a fifth defensive back in passing situations, and they do blitz, but for the most part, it appears that they tend to rely on their front four for pressure. They rely on their linebackers to make plays, which they do, and their defensive backs are an active group.
Iowa State is probably below average, in terms of overall talent, as compared to the rest of the Big 12, but they appear to be more talented than they have been in the recent past. They've narrowed the talent gap, and they are competitive with most Big 12 teams. Attention to detail, to reduce penalties and mistakes, is on Coach Rhoads agenda, in preparation for this week's game. Improving their turnover margin would also give the Cyclones a better chance from week to week.
Everyone agrees that Iowa State at Missouri will be a hard-fought, closely contested battle.
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
478.80 [17th]___ Total Offense___ 389.40 [68th]
225.00 [14th]___Rushing Offense__ 149.20 [61st]
11___________TDs Rushing___________ 7
253.80 [44th]___Passing Offense__ 240.20 [51st]
139.24 [52nd]__ Passing Efficiency__ 117.67 [90th]
8____________TDs Passing__________ 11
32.20 [45th]____Scoring Offense___ 25.60 [81st]
336.80 [30th]___ Total Defense___ 419.20 [94th]
104.40 [25th]__ Rushing Defense_ 202.00 [104th]
7_________ TDs Allowed Rushing________ 10
232.40 [78th]___Passing Defense__ 217.20 [57th]
140.22 [96th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 128.69 [61st]
7_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 7
21.00 [33rd]____Scoring Defense___ 33.20 [98th]
+0.60 [29th]__ Turnover Margin__ -1.60 [117th]
4 / 2________ Fumbles/Lost________ 9 / 7
2_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 8
5_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 1
19.61 [96th]___Kickoff Return Avg.__ 22.26 [45th]
9.63 [38th]____ Punt Return Avg.____7.00 [73rd]
39.69 [20th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 37.77 [37th]
2.20 [36th]_______Sacks By_____1.60 [T-84th]
1.80 [T-54th]___ Sacks Allowed____ 2.60 [T-91st]
28:43 [82nd]___ Avg. Time of Poss.__ 27:03 [109th]
29.4 [111th]____3rd Down Conv.___41.4% [61st]
66.7% [T-22nd]__4th Down Conv._ 63.6% [T-30th]