By Austen Arnaud of CycloneFanatic.com Follow Austen on Twitter @4Fanatic
Run Defense – This is a pressing issue for the Cyclone football team that is giving up nearly five yards per carry to any opposing runner. This doesn’t bode well against a team whose offensive attack is based on the run game with great backs like Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael. In my opinion, Iowa State needs to play in heavy sets and stack the box. It’s easier for a team to be in more of a rhythm running the football than passing it, especially for a road team. You have to make Ryan Tannehill beat you with his arm as opposed to having Gray and Michael running all over the place.
Efficiency on Offense/Establish the Run – A key statistic that stands out to me is how many more receiving yards Darius Reynolds has (522 yards) in comparison to our other receivers (closest is Aaron Horne with 250). Iowa State has to get other receivers involved. Josh Lenz has been close to non-existent in the pass game the last three games. Also, when the Cyclones use their jet tempo, they can’t afford to have as many three and outs as they’ve had in recent history. This offense must establish itself early with great first down plays. This statistic coincides with my always prevailing key of establishing the run. Again, Iowa State is facing another potent Big 12 offense and the more time the Cyclones can keep the ball away from the Aggie offense and keep our defense rested, the better.
Quarterback Play/Turnovers – As this week has progressed, so has the likelihood of Jared Barnett’s chance of playing significant snaps. Although, I think Steele will still start Saturday, whoever is the signal caller for the Cyclones must play consistent and protect the football. Steele has 12 turnovers in six games. Iowa State isn’t a good enough team to compete in the Big 12 when giving any offense two bonus possessions. When you have a spread offense like Iowa State, most of the time the quarterback is directly linked with the success of the offense and as of right now, our offense is struggling to find a rhythm.
Force Turnovers – The Iowa State defense did a great job of forcing turnovers in last Saturday’s game against Mizzou. They need to bring the same ball-hawk mentality into this game, especially when facing an offensive power in Texas A&M. The Cyclones have to give themselves bonus opportunities to score points. If the defense can do this again, it will only help. Then the offense has to do what it hasn’t done yet this season and score points off of those crucial turnovers.
Momentum – For Iowa State, the “Big Mo” will play a huge factor on Saturday. Jack Trice will be loud as this team is still fighting for a bowl bid with six games remaining on the schedule. If the offense can take calculated shots down the field on offense and the defense can limit the amount of big plays from happening, Iowa State could stick around in this ball game all afternoon. However, if this game has a similar start to the Texas game, the Clones will be in a hole that they are highly unlikely to get out of.