2-minute drill: The Kansas State Wildcats
Iowa State Cyclones (1-6, 0-4) at Kansas State Wildcats (3-4, 1-3)
Iowa State Rush Offense vs. Kansas State Rush Defense
The Cyclones could be without their leading rushers — running back Aaron Wimberly (highly doubtful) and quarterback Sam Richardson (game time decision between him and Grant Rohach). Every other option — including highlight producer DeVondrick Nealy — is averaging 3.2 yards per carry or less. The Wildcats are decent against the run, allowing 149 yards per game (53rd in FBS). They held Oklahoma State to 85 yards on the ground. Advantage: Kansas State.
Iowa State Pass Offense vs. Kansas State Pass Defense
Teams are backing off Cyclone receiver Quenton Bundrage at the line of scrimmage a bit, but that didn’t matter against Oklahoma State, where he soared for a pair of touchdowns despite tight coverage. Whichever quarterback plays for ISU, expect Bundrage to be targeted even more. Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said his ability to make plays on the ball warrants that featured status. (Slight) Advantage: Iowa State.
Kansas State Rush Offense vs. Iowa State Rush Defense
Part-time quarterback Daniel Sams leads the team and ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 538 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. Senior running back John Hubert has passed the 2,000 career yards mark. Sams rushed for 199 yards vs. Baylor. ISU managed 41 yards total on the ground against the Bears. The Cyclones allow 219.3 yards per game on the ground — more than all but 13 teams nationally. Advantage: Kansas State
Kansas State Pass Offense vs. Iowa State Pass Defense
Both Waters and Sams can throw, though the former’s featured in the passing game. Big play threats loom in Tyler Lockett (15 yards per catch, 4 TDs) and Tramaine Thompson (14.5 yards per catch, 2 TDs). Waters and Sams can be picked. Waters has thrown for 7 TDs to 5 interceptions. Sams’ ratio is 4-to-5. The Cyclones are due for a slew of interceptions. They have just three this season. Advantage: Kansas State
The WIldcats’ Lockett has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season. Thompson has taken a punt to the house. ISU’s most explosive return men are out (Jarvis West, 95-yard kickoff return for TD), or doubtful (Aaron Wimberly). Expect DeVondrick Nealy and possibly Shontrelle Johnson to help in the Cyclones’ return game, along with mainstays Albert Gary and Justin Coleman. ISU punter Kirby Van Der Kamp has dropped 17 of his 53 punts inside the 20. (Slight) Advantage: Kansas State
Rhoads has deep respect for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who he first met as a youngster in his hometown of Ankeny. Snyder is 17-4 all-time against Iowa State and has turned around a moribund program twice. The Wildcats remain alive and well in the chase for bowl eligibility and feed voraciously off their home crowd. They led No. 5 Baylor entering the fourth quarter of what turned into a 35-25 loss. That’s to the same Bears who thumped ISU 71-7 a week later. The Cyclones, by all accounts, haven’t wavered in their desire to get better and close the season on a sound, if not high note (as in a bowl). Pride is what’s being summoned in heaping helpings now. The talent gap between ISU and KSU remains less than chasm-like, and a Rhoads-coached Cyclone team has not lost by greater than seven points to the Wildcats. (Slight) Advantage: Kansas State
Iowa State will win if … The rushing defense tightens up again and the offense can avoid its usual plethora of three and outs. There were 12 possessions that didn’t produce a first down last week. Daniel Sams can slither through the smallest hole, so the defense’s gap awareness — and control — must improve massively.
Kansas State will win if … Daniel Sams approaches or eclipses his single-game career high in rushing of 199 yards and Jake Waters finds Tyler Lockett for big gains. Both Sams and Waters must avoid early turnovers. An average defensive effort will suffice if the offense can take advantage of a young ISU defense still finding itself.
Prediction: Kansas State 31, Iowa State 21
Three things to watch
Kansas State’s Ryan Mueller
Cyclone fans, meet the Wildcats’ version of Jake Knott. Mueller, a former walk-on and pass rush specialist, ransacks opponents to the tune of 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four quarterback hurries. Neutralize the 6-2, 245-pound junior — even slightly — and K-State’s defense goes from on-its-toes to on-its-heels pretty rapidly.
Death to the three and outs?
Iowa State has failed to produce a first down in 31 drives in the past three games, but hope is lurking in advanced stats. Kirk Haaland, who writes at enCYCLONEpedia.com, notes that K-State’s defense ranks 110th nationally in average distance on third down (6.21 yards). The Wildcats have forced just nine three and outs all season.
Iowa State’s Jevohn Miller
The junior linebacker has been hampered by an ankle injury much of 2013, but returned to full-time duty last week because of Luke Knott’s hip issue. Knott faces surgery and could be shut down for the season, Miller had 10 tackles last week. How much more rust he can shake off this week will be key, particularly in the run D.
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