|KEY Iowa State STATS|
|Red Zone TD Percentage||69%||35|
|Yards Per Carry Allowed||4.34||82|
|Average Kickoff Return Allowed||18.17||19|
|Sacks Allowed Per Game||4||121|
|Opponents' third down Conversion Rate||45%||102|
Iowa State and the University of Kansas football teams usually possess similar levels of talent. The difference between the two is that the Cyclones play with a measure of grit and fire, while the Jayhawks do not. For that reason, ISU tends to overachieve while KU sinks to its natural position in or near the Big 12 cellar.
And certainly Iowa State has given Texas Tech some trouble in Big 12 play. Since the conference's formation, the Red Raiders hold a strong but not decisive 6-3 edge, but the Cyclones have won two out of the last three meetings, one of which was a 41-7 bludgeoning in Lubbock two years ago. Clearly, Tech cannot afford to take ISU for granted, and the bet here is they won't.
Offensively, Iowa State is balanced but leans on the passing game a bit more heavily than they have in the recent past. Sam Richardson, whose 140 passer rating is better than any Tech quarterback, is having a solid season. His primary target is Quenton Bundrage, a big, fleet receiver who's averaging almost 18 yards per grab. At six-foot-two, he'll have a height advantage over both of Tech's starting cornerbacks. Look for the Cyclones to try to take advantage. And they'll have to because ISU's ground game is no great shakes, and Paul Rhoads just doesn't have many other weapons in his arsenal.
Unfortunately for Iowa State, the Cyclones give up four sacks per game, which is No. 121 in the nation, and the Red Raiders are more than capable of bringing the heat. If Tech can bother Richardson with a three- or four-man rush, Tech's second and third levels can pay extra attention to Bundrage and effectively neutralize him. And with Richardson hassled and Bundrage shackled, the Cyclone offense will fizzle. Look for this to happen.
On defense, Iowa State is solid but unspectacular. Jeremiah George, who leads the team in tackles, his stepped up his game in the absence of Jake Knott and A. J. Klein, but still the Cyclone linebackers are not what they used to be. Six-foot-seven David Irving is a hulking presence on ISU's defensive line, and there is decent talent in the secondary, but whether Iowa State can slow down a Tech offense that began to hit its stride against Kansas last week is a huge question.
There are two major facts working against the Cyclone defense. First, ISU allows opposing ball-carriers 4.34 yards per carry, which is not good. In fact, it's similar to what Kansas was doing when Tech came to town and the Red Raiders managed to gouge the Jayhawks on the ground in the second quarter when they finally made the attempt. I wouldn't expect Kliff Kingsbury to wait until the second quarter this time around.
And second, Iowa State has intercepted only one pass in 2013. If, as expected, somewhat interception-prone Davis Webb starts for Tech at quarterback in this one, he will not face a ball-hawking secondary. And if Webb gets his confidence and begins to roll, he could be a frightening opponent. I expect the Cyclones to have doubled their season interception total when the dust clears from this one, but it won't be nearly enough to derail the Red Raider offense.
The Prediction: Texas Tech 44, Iowa State 17