Oklahoma is getting ready to take on Iowa State this weekend. With that in mind, welcome AllCyclones.com publisher Alex Halsted to answer five questions about the Cyclones.
1. Did the Texas win save Paul Rhoads' job? It's clear he's doing things right with his kids off the field, but was that the win that guarantees Rhoads seeing the 2016 season in Ames?
This has been a question that has been thrown around in Iowa a lot since Iowa State’s shutout victory against Texas on Saturday. The win certainly went a long way in granting Rhoads an eighth season in 2016, but I would stop short of saying it guarantees it.
The fact of the matter is, Iowa State has eight wins in the last 2 ½ seasons and it seems like the team would need to finish better than 3-9 to grant another season. Wins in the next two weeks against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State won’t be easy, but there’s a feeling Iowa State needs at least one more win — maybe against Kansas State or West Virginia — to up the chances.
With all that said, it’s hard to get a true read on how the administration feels. The schedule has been daunting — along with the Big 12 portion, Iowa State has faced undefeated Iowa and one-loss Toledo — and athletics director Jamie Pollard has pointed to that at times.
2. Those that cover OKPreps recruiting knew all about Michael Warren at Lawton (Okla). High. Redshirt freshman is tearing it up this season. What has surprised you the most about his development as a player?
We heard a lot about Mike Warren last season while he played on the scout team, but his breakthrough in 2015 has still be surprising. What has surprised me is how quickly he has picked up on things and expanded both his vision and skillset.
In the first two games, Warren was used sparingly, gaining just 28 yards on nine carries. He picked up a start in Week 3 and has improved every week since with his vision and ability to make cuts. He has 928 yards in the last six games, averaging 154 yards/game, which is third in the nation since Week 3 behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. He has an ability to hit a gear that Iowa State hasn’t seen in awhile and has five rushed of 40+ yards this season.
3. Firing of Mark Mangino was eye-popping to everybody on the outside looking in, but was it necessary? Why is Joel Lanning the guy going forward?
There have been rumblings that Paul Rhoads and Mark Mangino hadn’t seen eye-to-eye on the offensive philosophy for some time, dating back possibly to mid-2014. Recently, those disagreements had intensified and despite the fact that Mangino was gone at season’s end when his contract ran up, it reached a point where they were forced to split with five games remaining. Mangino wanted to stick with an air-raid offense when Iowa State rushing attack was what was carrying it and he and Rhoads weren’t going to reach a compromise.
As for Lanning, he’s a redshirt sophomore who has jolted the team. When senior Sam Richardson struggled and Iowa State fell behind 35-0 against Baylor, Iowa State inserted Lanning and watch him bring Iowa State back and go 12-of-17 while adding a running dimension. Lanning has a better arm and similar to Kansas State’s Colin Klein from a few years back, adds a lot to the Cyclones’ run game.
4. Knowing what you know about the Cyclones, who is poised to have a breakout game this weekend vs. the Sooners?
The easiest choice for a breakout game would be Mike Warren as he’s rushed for 100-plus yards in five of the six games he’s been a starter and has surpassed 150 yards three times, but I’m not sure if that would qualify as a breakout and Oklahoma’s run defense has been pretty good.
I think senior receiver Quenton Bundrage could have a breakout. He’s show glimpses of his old self after missing last season with a torn ACL and I think he’ll finish the final four games strong.
5. Baker Mayfield has 25 touchdowns and four interceptions. Iowa State has only picked off four passes all season. How will the Cyclones try to contain OU's passing attack?
Iowa State passing defense was excellent against Texas, but the Longhorns didn’t have a great passing attack, so it’s hard to judge where it’s at. It certainly improved against TCU and Baylor after allowing 66 points to Texas Tech, but the Cyclones are without safety Kamari Cotton-Moya and we’ll find out this weekend if that hurts more against a team like Oklahoma than it did against Texas.
How will Iowa State try to control Oklahoma’s passing attack? Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said Monday the key to doing so is to stop the running game. Because Oklahoma’s passing offense is predicated so much great play-action, Rhoads said Iowa State needs to limit the running game to make that aspect easier. Of course, slowing down that running game isn’t an easy task, either.