ISU Rush Offense vs. Oklahoma State Rush Defense
The Cyclones will be without top rusher James White, who is recovering from knee surgery. Shontrelle Johnson is ISU’s only 100-yard rusher this season (vs. Tulsa in the opener). The Cowboys rank 44th nationally against the run, but gave up 187 yards in the ground in last week’s narrow win at Kansas. (Slight) Advantage: ISU
ISU Pass Offense vs. Oklahoma State Pass Defense
The Cowboys’ middling pass defense numbers (73rd, 236.4 yards) are skewed by getting shredded by Arizona in week two, 59-38, on the road. Still, they’ve managed only two interceptions. Cyclone quarterback Jared Barnett has thrown five touchdowns to two interceptions in a starting role this season. (Slight) Advantage: ISU
Oklahoma State Rush Offense vs. ISU Rush Defense
Joseph Randle fuels the nation’s ninth-rated running game (263 yards). He saw a string of four straight 100-yard rushing efforts snapped, oddly enough, by the Kansas defense last week. The Cyclones are stout up front, with nose guard Jake McDonough serving as the main point-of-attack disruptor. Advantage: Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State Pass Offense vs. ISU Pass Defense
The Cowboys could use two quarterbacks. If it’s Wes Lunt, there’s no dual threat. If it’s J.W. Walsh, he’s nimble as well as accurate in the passing game. The Cyclones’ secondary will be active and opportunistic in either case. Safety Jacques Washington is tied for 14th nationally in interceptions (.5 per game). Advantage: ISU
Remember when Cowboys’ kicker/punter Quinn Sharp barely missed a potential game-winning field goal last year at Ames? It’s likely he does. Sharp is 14 of 17 since and is universally regarded as the Big 12’s top kicker. ISU punter Kirby Van Der Kamp is coming off a rare uneven performance. Advantage: Oklahoma State
Think ISU’s turnover margin is a concern? Try being Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are an average of minus-one per game, which ranks them better than just 16 other FBS schools. The Cyclones have climbed to 69th in the category by being plus-two in Big 12 play — and only turning it over twice in the past two games. The revenge element may be overplayed as an advantage for Oklahoma State. It’s hard to tell how negative emotions get focused; they can end up being counterproductive. The homecoming crowd will give them a boost, nonetheless. And the Cowboys are due for a bounce-back after a sluggish 20-14 win at last-place Kansas. That snuffed out a streak of 22 consecutive games of scoring 30 points or more, which tied an NCA record. (Slight) Advantage: Oklahoma State.
ISU will win if … It wins the turnover battle, even slightly, and continues to pressure the quarterback despite facing one of the top pass-protecting offensive lines in the country. The Cyclones also need to coax some slack from the Cowboys’ defense by striking for a handful of vertical plays early, thus opening up the struggling run game.
Oklahoma State will win if … It feeds off its home crowd and keeps its emotions in check. Six of the Cowboys’ nine turnovers have come on interceptions (three each by quarterbacks J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt). They can’t afford to telegraph their throws in front of savvy and fast-reacting ISU linebackers and defensive backs.
Prediction: ISU 30, Oklahoma State 24.
Three things to watch
Iowa State’s pass rush. It was just two years ago when the Cyclones managed 11 sacks … in 12 games. It finished 106th out of 120 FBS teams in the category last season. But through six games in 2012, ISU has taken down the quarterback 13 times, or an average of 2.2 per game. That ranks 48th in the country.
Jared Barnett. ISU’s quarterback doesn’t lack for confidence and enjoyed a career day in last year’s upset of the Cowboys. He missed on several passes last week, but still had a chance to score the upset over No. 4 Kansas State until the final seconds. A revival hinges on several things, but footwork and mechanics must improve.
Hanging around. Oklahoma State’s been the epitome of a first-half team, outscoring opponents 134-to-44 before the break. Defense generally keeps the Cyclones in games and mull over this stat: The Cowboys have been outscored 63-41 in the fourth quarter this season. ISU is 18-2 under Coach Paul Rhoads when leading at halftime.
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