OSU vs. Big 12: Iowa State

We continue our series in which we look at the Big 12 using the barometer of how the various teams stack up against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Today we make our way to the second conference game as the Cowboys host Iowa State on Saturday, Oct. 4.

The Cyclones are coming off a tough season in which they struggled too often to score as they bounced through several quarterbacks and looked to establish some playmakers on offense. That is where head coach Paul Rhoads laid the bulk of the blame for a 3-9 season and 2-7 record in the Big 12.

Rhoads is extremely popular and had a new contract coming into the 2013 season, but he knows bowl games need to take place on average two out of every three years to keep Cyclones fans, who love to travel, happy. A run at the top of the conference on occasion would also be appreciated.

So, what dramatic change did Rhoads make in the program? He hired former Kansas head coach and former OU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino as his new offensive coordinator. Mangino brought in his son, a former Norman North quarterback and college baseball player to coach the wide receivers. Mangino had his critics at Kansas but he's the only coach I know of that had KU playing in an Orange Bowl in the last four decades.

Mangino will need to figure out his quarterback and determine just how much of the expansive playbook he can use. Mangino's biggest influences have come from the more traditional Bill Snyder and Iowa influence of I-formation and play-action run and pass game to the wide open and no huddle spread of former Texas Tech and now Washington State coach Mike Leach. Mangino has successfully blended the two styles into his own.

On offense he has a veteran center and two big and imposing but young offensive tackles. Tom Farniok is the senior center with 35 career starts, and Jacob Gannon and Brock Dagel are the young tackles. Dagel, a sophomore can block out the sun at 6-8 and 300 plus pounds and he's athletic.

That offensive line gives Iowa State a chance to neutralize the Cowboys strength up front at both tackle and especially at the ends. James Castleman and Ofa Hautau will need to take advantage of the guards and create some penetration in the front so as to make sure expected starting quarterback Grant Rohach feels some pressure and sees some orange or black, or whatever uniform combination the Cowboys are wearing that day.

A backbone of a Mangino offense is a solid run game. A healthy Aaron Wimberly will be needed to create that. I have also been partial to DeVondrick Nealy at that position. Both have speed and both are also dangerous weapons on special teams. If the offensive line can carve out holes, these two are capable of taking advantage.

Rohack is a decent throwing quarterback and took advantage of the start in the Iowa State spring game to complete 22 of 38 passes for 178 yards and led the offense efficiently.

Oklahoma State will need good linebacker play to squash the Cyclones run game. If you remember last year in Ames, it was the run game that gave Iowa State some push. The problem was OSU jumped out to a 21-0 lead that had the Cyclones needing to wing it.

Rohack is a decent throwing quarterback and took advantage of the start in the Iowa State spring game to complete 22 of 38 passes for 178 yards and led the offense efficiently. He will have a serious weapon in wide receiver Quenton Bundage, who has size and talent and was third in the conference last season with nine touchdown receptions.

E;J. Bibbs is the now the top pass-catching tight end in the Big 12 with the departure of Texas Tech freak Jace Amaro. Bibbs is more of a classic style of tight end. He is an effective blocker but a very good target in the passing game. Jarvis West is another speedy target that will help the offense at receiver as is spring game hero P.J. Harris.

The Cyclones offense will be better and there are players at each level that can challenge even the best defenses in the Big 12. So Oklahoma State may need to handle Iowa State the way the Cowboys have recently when winning big over the Cyclones and that is jump out and force the offense to play serious catch up.

Iowa State two best defenders last season were linebacker Jeremiah George and safety and Owasso, Okla., native Jacques Washington, but both are gone.

In the spring game the best attribute of the defense was the pass rush led by talented defensive end and defensive leader Cory Morrissey and fellow end Mitchell Myers. The defense stopped the offense on a number of drives and considering how many players were missing on the back end of the defense that may not be good news.

The Cyclones are young and thin at linebacker and in the secondary. One of the solutions they were counting on was Northeastern Oklahoma A&M J.C. All-American safety Devron Moore, and he has already departed. Injuries have impacted some of the other defensive backs. Cornerback Nigel Tribune has experience having played as a freshman and he did get a full-fledged education that season.

The ends had better be outstanding and live in the Oklahoma State backfield, because otherwise you would think with the Cowboys offensive style and amount of weapons and speed ranging from the backfield to the receivers across the formation that it might be a turkey shoot for J.W. Walsh or whoever is playing quarterback.

Cowboys fans surely remember the game in Ames last year and Homecoming 2012 in which J.W. Walsh, despite fracturing a knee cap early in the game, threw for 415 yards and rushed for another 48 in a 31-10 win.

Iowa State will present some challenges but in Stillwater there will be too much speed and potency on the OSU side. The Cowboys on paper have the Cyclones out-talented going into 2014.

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