Baylor Rush Offense vs. ISU Rush Defense
Gone is Terrance Ganaway, who gashed the Cyclones for 200 yards and three touchdowns on mostly interior runs in last season’s 49-26 rout. The cupboard was not bare for the Bears, who field Jarred Salubi (4.8 per carry) and Glasco Martin (6 TDs). Cyclones rank 44th nationally in rushing defense. (Slight) Advantage: ISU.
Baylor Pass Offense vs. ISU Pass Defense
The Bears’ Nick Florence is a dual threat (four rushing touchdowns), but shines most with his arm. Baylor’s passing offense is second to none, averaging 390.7 yards. Receiver Terrance Williams is hauling in a staggering 168.8 yards per game in catches and has snared at least one TD pass in 12 of last 14 games. Advantage: Baylor.
ISU Rush Offense vs. Baylor Rush Defense
Cyclones hope captain James White can play, but if he can’t, the lion’s share of carries goes to Shontrelle Johnson, who is the team’s only rusher to gain 100 yards in a single game this season. Sprinkle in rugged Jeff Woody and healed (of pink eye) DeVondrick Nealy, who averages 6.8 yards per carry. (Slight) Advantage: ISU.
ISU Pass Offense vs. Baylor Pass Defense
The Bears’ pass defense is, statistically speaking, second-to-last in the FBS. But the Cyclones feature two uneven (Jared Barnett, Steele Jantz) and one unproven (Sam Richardson) play-callers — all of whom competed for the No. 1 spot in practice this week. Baylor’s already faced Geno Smith, among others. Advantage: Baylor.
ISU punter Kirby Van Der Kamp continues to be a weapon. The pooch master boomed a season-long 60-yard punt in last week’s loss at Oklahoma State. Baylor’s punter’s averaging just 36 yards per kick — not that he’s been that busy. The Cyclones’ Edwin Arceo has improved to 5-of-7 on field goal tries this season. Advantage: ISU
ISU appears poised for a breakthrough in turnover margin. Trouble is, it’s hard to forecast which way it will go. The defense is tied for 30th nationally with 15 takeaways, but the offense has turned it over 16 times. Baylor’s turnover margin ranks 89th in the FBS (minus-0.5 per game), so the Cyclones must take advantage. Cold weather could favor ISU, but it’s not as is the Bears have never played in adverse conditions. Baylor’s program has become a proud one and its likely the Cyclones will get the Bears’ best shot as they seek their first conference win. It’s the 100th Homecoming at Iowa State, which means little to players, so there’s no likely bump there. ISU’s tripartite quarterback battle may make the Bears prepare for different styles, but its impact will be minimal in that regard. (Slight) advantage: Baylor
ISU will win if … the offense finds a way to click consistently for the first time since the win at TCU. The key, as always, will be running the football, but a productive short passing game must return as well. Balls need to be delivered on time and downfield blocking. If Josh Lenz plays, he must be targeted at least six times.
Baylor will win if … its defense shows any bite at all. The Bears don’t seem to have it in them, though, as they rank 115th or worse in the FBS in four major defensive categories (notably, 120th in scoring defense and total defense). The offense will put up yards and points regardless, but has lost two of three games when scoring 50 or more points.
Prediction: Baylor 38, ISU 35
Three things to watch
Quarterbacks. Baylor’s Nick Florence, or ISU’s three-headed (as of Friday) beast? Answer: All of them. Florence is touted for his accuracy and timing, but he has thrown 10 interceptions along with his 28 touchdowns — including four picks in a 49-21 loss to TCU. Still, he ranks third nationally in passing efficiency. ISU is mired at 96th.
ISU’s Jake Knott. One of the best linebackers in ISU history dinged his shoulder in last week’s loss to Oklahoma State and has battled a panoply of injuries throughout his against-all-odds career. How healthy is he? And if he’s hindered by pain, can Jevohn Miller slide in and make a positive impact when needed?
ISU’s Aaron Horne. The JUCO teammate of possible Cyclone starting quarterback Steele Jantz notched eight catches in last week’s loss, a single-game career high. He snared seven passes the previous week and has become ISU’s most reliable receiver after making just three grabs in the first two conference games.
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