Hop's Keys to Success - Iowa State

The Aggies make their last trip to Ames, Iowa as they take on the ISU Cyclones on Saturday. A&M is a prohibitive favorite and have never lost in Ames. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop looks at the keys to success for the game and what it will take to avoid a road upset.

When you are a three touchdown favorite on the road, most of the keys to success revolve around playing mistake-free football and not allowing the prohibitive underdog to generate easy scores and hang around in the game.

1) Take Control of the Game Early

When any team is a big favorite on the road, the key is to strike early and keep the crowd noise down. Don't allow the opposition to believe they can win. That means establishing dominance early and finish it off with touchdowns, and on defense hit the Cyclone offense in the mouth and let them know the Aggies have come to play ball. That will quickly demoralize an Iowa State team that has lost three in a row.

2) Pound the Cyclones w/ Running Game

For the second week in a row, the Texas A&M offense will face a porous rush defense that gives up over 200 yards per game. The Cyclones surrendered over 300 yards on the ground to Baylor two weeks ago, and the Bears couldn't hit the century mark against the Aggies last week. Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray are poised to have a big day today. Iowa State will likely sell out early to stop the run, so a few early pass plays will loosen it up at the line of scrimmage. Eventually, A&M will need to force its will in the run game and dominate.

3) Secure the Ball

This one is a no-brainer. When you are the better team, the only way to allow your opponent to stay in the game is through turnovers. Christine Michael has had fumble problems throughout his career, although he's been much better ever since the Arkansas game. Ryan Tannehill can't throw interceptions in the first half. If A&M plays mistake-free football in the first half, this game could be well in-hand by early in the third quarter. If the Aggies turn it over 2-3 times, this game could go down to the wire.

4) Solid Special Teams Play

Once again, when you are the superior team, there are only a couple of neutralizers that can allow a lesser team to upset a favorite. Turnovers is one. The other is poor special teams play and giving up big plays in the kicking game. A&M continues to have issues in punt returns, and in a game like this I tell the returner to be conservative and not take risks in fielding the ball. A&M must avoid any missed assignments in punt coverage that could result in a blocked kick.

5) Good Tackling on Defense

While A&M's defense has given up a lot of yards over the past month, the fact is they've run the gauntlet of excellent high-powered offenses. Iowa State isn't as explosive, and the Aggies have the better athletes. As long as the defenders keep the ball in front of them and tackle well, it will be hard for the Cyclones to find the end zone. If A&M has some sloppy tackling and allows ISU to generate a lot of yards after the tackle, it could give the Cyclones some life.

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