Iowa State Cyclones (1-4, 0-2) at Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0)
Iowa State Rush Offense vs. Baylor Rush Defense
Aaron Wimberly said he’s fine, despite a sore back and shoulder injury keeping him out of most of the second half in last week’s loss at Texas Tech. He’d better be. At 4.8 yards per carry, he’s the only Cyclone back averaging more than 3.5 yards a touch. The plan is not to go over 20 carries, so he’ll need help. Baylor allowed a season-high 327 rushing yards last week at Kansas State. (Slight) Advantage: Iowa State.
Iowa State Pass Offense vs. Baylor Pass Defense
The Bears will press receivers, which could open things up for record-setting wideout Quenton Bundrage (16.3 yards per catch, four touchdowns). Bundrage had a solid day at Tech (5 catches, 52 yards) but could have produced much more if a pair of long passes had been kept in bounds. That’s on both him and QB Sam Richardson, who’s been sacked a Big 12-worst 3.6 times per game. (Slight) Advantage: Baylor.
Baylor Rush Offense vs. Iowa State Rush Defense
Legit Heisman Trophy candidate Lache Seastrunk’s the obvious standard-bearer (128.6 yards per game, 9.9 per carry, 8 TDs), but Shock Linwood’s also an elusive and fast back (79.5 yards per game, 7.6 per carry, 5 TDs). The Bears are a run-first team and average 6.3 yards per carry collectively. That says a lot. It also sets up plenty of second and third down and short situations. Advantage: Baylor
Baylor Pass Offense vs. Iowa State Pass Defense
Quarterback Bryce Petty sat behind Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence for three seasons. Given a chance, he’s throwing — and running — with it. He’s completed 70.2 percent of his passes and owns a 13-to-1 TD to INT ratio while leading the nation in passing efficiency. Targets abound, led by Antwan Goodley (135.8 yards per game) and Tevin Reese (121.8). Both are top 10 receivers in FBS. Advantage: Baylor
ISU is vastly improved both in the return game and kick coverage. The Cyclones enjoyed their first kickoff return for touchdown in nearly 20 years at Texas Tech (Jarvis West, 95 yards) and rank in the top 30 nationally in four of five major special teams categories. Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp (44.7 per punt) is an NFL talent. Baylor kicker Aaron Jones has the longest active made PAT streak at 149. Advantage: Iowa State
ISU’s been numerically close to winning in all of its losses this season (none by more than eight points), but most of those games would have required a lot of stars — not to mention a couple onside kicks — to align to alter the outcome. Nonetheless, the turnover battle has been largely won thus far (e.g. Cyclones rank fifth nationally in fumble recoveries with nine, tied for first in FBS in fumbles lost with one). More picks is the next piece to the takeaway puzzle. ISU has just two, with about eight near misses. Baylor’s mostly been on fire since ISU beat it 35-21 last season, with the only hiccup since being a 42-34 loss at Oklahoma. The Bears have started a season 5-0 for the first time since 1991 and it’s homecoming. And, a big uh-oh for the Cyclones’ young and banged-up O-line: Baylor’s averaging 3.2 sacks per game, which ranks 10th among FBS teams. Advantage: Baylor.
Iowa State will win if ... the rushing defense that held Texas to just 119 yards on the ground shows up, in lieu of the one that allowed Texas Tech to rack up 251 yards rushing. The offense do something it rarely does — score 40 points, bare minimum — to have a chance and more big plays on special teams will be required.
Baylor will win if … it’s Baylor. The Bears’ defense took a step back in the 35-25 win at K-State last week, but ISU doesn’t have a running quarterback the caliber of Daniel Sams to expose and exploit holes with. Petty’s many long pass plays will come as long as Seastrunk and Co. run by and over Cyclone defenders on the ground.
Prediction: Baylor 45, Iowa State 27
Three things to watch
No surprise: Baylor excels here. How well? The Bears’ offense has gone three and out just three times all season. That’s in 73 drives. Baylor’s converting on 56 percent of all third down opportunities, which is sixth-best nationally. ISU’s a middling 67th in third down conversions, at 40.2 percent and 87th in third down defense (41.9).
Iowa State’s Jeremiah George
Iowa State’s leading tackler (51) and defensive playmaker — the non-fumble call vs. Texas notwithstanding — must wrap up Seastrunk for short gains. That means the defensive line needs to hold its own and mind its gaps. If George can’t make the play, he can string it out for safety Jacques Washington and others to clean up.
The dread zone
First, Baylor often scores from outside the 20-yard line. But when the Bears are in the “red zone,” they’re deadly, scoring touchdowns 19 times in 25 trips. Silver lining: They’ve failed to score at all four times. The Cyclones remain perfect — like only two other FBS teams — inside the red zone in terms of scoring points (17-17).
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