Who: Texas Tech (4-6, 2-5) vs. Iowa State (2-8, 1-6)
Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
When: Saturday, November 19, 2:30 p.m. (CT)
Media: FS1 (TV), Texas Tech Radio Network (radio)
Returning Starters: Texas Tech (12), Iowa State (14)
2015 Records: Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5), Iowa State (3-9, 2-7)
Coaches: Texas Tech (Kliff Kingsbury 23-25), Iowa State (Matt Campbell 37-23)
Series History: Texas Tech leads 11-3
Last Meeting: Texas Tech 66 Iowa State 31, October 10, 2015
When Iowa State Has the Ball
In looking at Iowa State’s skill position players, one would expect the Cyclone offense to be rather potent. Hence, ISU boast two very solid quarterbacks—Joel Lanning and Jacob Park—who basically split game reps. Iowa State has real talent at running back in Mike Warren and David Montgomery. Indeed, Warren was a popular preseason All Big 12 pick. And at receiver the rangy and reliable Alan Lazard is truly one of the Big 12’s best at the position.
Despite this very respectable array of players, however, the Cyclone offense languishes. Iowa State scores only 25 points per game, nowhere near enough to compete in the Big 12. ISU’s rushing attack is only No. 99 nationally, and in terms of total offense the Cyclones are No. 84. The only relative bright spot is Iowa State’s passing game, which is No. 59 nationally and No. 61 in terms of passing efficiency.
But as unimpressive as ISU’s offense actually is, they’ll be going against a Texas Tech defense that has improved from miserable to merely abysmal. You know that standards are low when the defense gives up 45 points, as they did to Oklahoma State last week, and you feel like they played a decent game.
But…baby steps. Given the dreadful state of Tech’s defense over the last several years, it is not reasonable to expect dramatic improvement. Any improvement at all is actually encouraging. And we have seen that improvement.
Still, the Red Raiders remain vulnerable to both the run and the pass. It’s almost a given that an opponent’s best running back will gain 100 if not 200 yards against Tech, and Iowa State’s Warren and Montgomery are both capable of inflicting that kind of damage.
Pass defense may be better, but not by much. That said, Tech has gotten decent play from Justis Nelson, Douglas Coleman and Kisean Allen lately, but those defensive backs are not good enough to hold up against Big 12 passing attacks when the front seven gets absolutely zero pressure on the quarterback as has been the case all season. Tech’s 1.3 sacks per contest is No. 115 nationally, and that is not remotely good enough when one considers how often the defense sees passing plays in Big 12 action.
Thus, expect the Cyclones to air it out against the Red Raiders, and expect them to draw blood fairly often.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
After a stretch of subpar performances in the middle of the season, the Red Raider offense snapped back into form against Oklahoma State. With the exception of several dropped passes from usually reliable receivers, the offense performed at near peak efficiency against the Cowboys.
That performance, which may indicate that quarterback Pat Mahomes has finally recovered from an injury against Kansas, could be bad news for Iowa State. Because when Texas Tech’s offense is on, nobody, least of all the Cyclones can completely contain it.
Mahomes’ 425 passing yards per game places him No. 1 nationally, some 64 yards ahead of No. 2 Luke Falk of Washington State. And his passer rating is a highly respectable No. 13 in the nation.
Inside receiver Jonathan Giles, and outside receiver Dylan Cantrell are Mahomes’ favorite targets, and both will have something to prove against ISU after dropping critical passes against Oklahoma State last week.
Texas Tech’s ground game, a faltering thing in the best of circumstances this year, will roll out a platoon of wounded running backs, and at this point there’s no way of knowing for certain which of them will actually play, let alone play at close to 100 percent.
As battered as Tech’s running game is, there will still be a temptation to run the ball against an Iowa State defense that allows 5.1 yards per carry, and is No. 111 nationally in run defense.
Pass defense, on the other hand, is actually a team strength for Iowa State. The Cyclones are No. 60 nationally in pass defense, which is quite respectable when one considers the offenses they face in the Big 12.
Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is one of the best in the conference, while sophomore cornerback Brian Peavy is emerging as a probable star of the future. As good as ISU’s personnel in the secondary is, however, they will be sorely pressed to slow down Mahomes and his deadly receivers.