We're not good enough to Sharpie in a win against anyone yet, but you have to like our momentum coming out of Lincoln while Iowa State is reeling from consecutive blowout losses to Utah (68-27) and OU (52-0) after an early season debacle against Iowa (35-7).
Iowa State's apogee this year was a 52-38 whipping of Texas Tech in Ames, but other than that performance, the Cyclones have looked a lot like the 3-4 team that they are.
Bottom line: we need a confidence boosting win and an opportunity to find more of our offensive identity before RGIII comes to town with the 700 Club.
I'll warn you now that Iowa State is the team I know least about in the league, so if you have corrections, bring them on.
Head coach Paul Rhoads is a highly respected defensive mind, his post game speeches are a Hallmark commercial, he owns Nebraska in Lincoln like we do, but his medulla oblongata can't pad up on Saturdays. He has a Jimmy and Joe problem. Also a Ter'Ran and Rashawn problem.
Iowa State's defense has been miserable however you cut it. Take a look at Huckleberry's Adjusted Statistics. Allowing 32.9 ppg just scratches the surface.
The only thing they've done reasonably well is force turnovers, but their rankings range from 70-113 in the other factors that win games (pass efficiency defense, rushing defense, sacks, number of white starters). They're not that big and they make up for it by being a step slow. Alternatively known as "Scipio's High School Football Career." They're surrendering 5.1 yards per carry and allowing 7.6 yards per attempt. Like the barfly tramp, just run some kind of a play without setting yourself on fire lighting her cigarette and you're likely to score.
Small group across the front 4 averaging just under 6-2 with weights going 245-280-280-250. I don't mind small and lightning quick but they're more like lightning dipped in molasses wearing a child tether. Pass rush has been an issue for Iowa State and the entire team has totaled 6 sacks in 7 games. That's not getting it done and Gilbert should have a clean pocket from which to skewer Iowa State with a diabolical mix of four yard completions.
This is the strength of the defense, at least in terms of productivity. MLB AJ Klein and WLB Jake "Forget Me" Knott have each grabbed three interceptions this year and Klein is 2nd in the league with 75 tackles. Knott isn't far behind with 71. They both go 240 and they can play. The third LB is essentially a glorified nickel, checking in at 205. His name is Matt Morton and he moved into the starting line up early in the year. Matt is a Pisces and his turn-ons are cold winters and ethanol subsidies. Matt really likes to be around positive people. Yes - I googled Matt Morton and all I got was his Match.com profile.
The secondary was thought to be a team strength coming in, but it hasn't panned out that way with no pass rush. These guys are all squatty and physical (like Mickey Rooney) and they will hit you. Sims and Johnson particularly.
CB Ter'Ran Benton had 12 tackles against Oklahoma, which is pretty outstanding for a CB, until you consider that in order to make 12 tackles against Oklahoma you had to give up 12 completions in front of you. Given that Landry Jones was 30 of 34, he spent 40% of his time picking on Ter'Ran.
Ter'Ran so far away?
Leonard Johnson is the other corner and he has a reputation as a highly talented knucklehead. Excellent kick returner. He also did this, which is kind of cool, if a bit cheap:
S David Sims is, at 5-9 205, a game tackler in a stubby package (2009 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year). The other safety spot appears to be a rotating blur of Caucasians. Yes, you can use that for your Fantasy Football team name.
Lots of zone read, traditional spread with a fairly mobile QB. This group should be better than it is given their experience at key positions and returning starters and I don't get the disconnect.
(Borat voice) THEY ARE VERY FAT! (Borat voice)
These guys average 316 across the board, that weight brought down by a RT who weighs a svelte 290. LT Kelechi Osemele was 2nd All Big 12 last year and I have zero idea if that was deserved or not. It's Iowa State. You can't expect me to know all of this shit. These guys are big, but don't seem overly gifted with quickness or athletic ability and I expect to see them struggle in pure passing situations against our speed. They are very experienced - combining 85 career starts from LT to C.
In games against OU, Iowa, Utah, Alexander Robinson totaled 132 yards. That's partly a function of falling behind, but he hasn't produced against higher quality teams. He was a 1195 yard rusher last year, but he's just a guy if Alex Okafor continues his improvement inside and can hold up against the big boys. Robinson is a physical slasher who can hit you for 6-7 yards at a time when he gets some daylight - he's unlikely to break the big run.
Arnaud has been Iowa State's starting QB for eleven years, exploiting a little known NCAA loophole for Des Moines natives under the Minorities Living In Very Bleak Places Act. He is a solid running threat at QB and does most of his damage on zone read, QB draws, and scrambles. He's big and agile, though not necessarily fast. Think Kevin Prince with the ability to throw a spiral. He has been a starter forever, but this year he hasn't really shown much spark, partly because Iowa State has little ability to go vertical, partly because they've surrendered 16 sacks so far despite Arnaud's scrambling. Right now he's 186-108-1060-8-7 with a season long pass of only 36 yards. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn't it? With no ability to threaten downfield, Iowa State is going to have to rely on our mistakes to do anything on offense.
A bad unit, rivaling our own. Iowa State does have a TE though in Collin Franklin and he leads the team in receptions and yardage at 31-313. I expect Arnaud to hit him on play action 4 times for 40 yards. What else you got? They also throw to Robinson out of the backfield quite a bit. Basically, this is a WR corps every bit as disappointing as our own and I expect a rude awakening for them on Saturday morning.
Iowa State's has little potential to score more than 10 points if we keep it clean on offense and special teams and our defense doesn't surrender anything early while we're still waking up (11:00am kickoffs are evil).
I'm most curious to see what we do on offense and if we can continue some of the good habits we built in Lincoln in terms of game planning, showing different looks, and adopting a game specific set of tactics instead of generic one-size-fits-all bullshit. This would be a great time to renew Gilbert's confidence in the passing game as well as integrate Mike Davis and Darius White into the mix along with the misdirection play mix we saw in Lincoln. If we shell up again rather than work to develop our players, I'm pretty sure I'll just throw my hands up. And my breakfast.
Vegas has us -20.5 and I'd be disappointed to see us not cover that.