Preview/Prediction: Iowa State vs. Kansas

Chris Williams

Publisher

Grant Rohach hands the ball off to Aaron Wimberly vs. TCU --- Photo by Reese Strickland.

What: Iowa State (1-9, 0-7) vs. Kansas (3-7, 1-6)
When: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.
Where: Jack Trice Stadium
TV: Fox Sports 1

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News flash: Saturday night’s match-up between Iowa State and Kansas isn’t exactly the Iron Bowl. Television ratings for this one will be abysmal and it is expected to go down as the second coldest home game in Iowa State football history.  

Don’t tell Iowa State or Kansas that this isn’t a big game though.

It’s huge for the Jayhawks, who broke their 27-game league losing streak against West Virginia last week, exactly because of that very reason. It is an opportunity (against a winless team) to prove that last week’s getting off the schneid wasn’t a fluke. Two wins in a row could potentially save Charlie Weis’ job and prove to those who mater that his program is heading in the right direction.

This might be hard for those who don’t follow Iowa State’s program closely to understand, but Saturday is a critical game for Paul Rhoads’ squad too. No, Rhoads’ job is not in jeopardy. Those who believe that to be the case truly are truly ignorant of the situation. It is important to Iowa State because at 1-9, the Cyclones desperately need for something, anything, good to happen. It is a group that needs to be reassured that what they are doing now will pay off in 2014 and beyond. 

Beat the Jayhawks and I truly believe that a road victory over West Virginia is possible. Go 1-11 and well, the offseason is going to be pure hell for everybody. 

Will the Cyclones take care of business and win their first home game in over a calendar year? Here’s the preview.

The Jayhawks will win if…

…Charlie Weis’ group has finally learned to play four consistent quarters of  good football. Playing the opposition tough in the first half only to fold in half No. 2 has been the theme to Kansas’ 2013 season. 

The Jayhawks led Texas Tech 10-0 at the end of the first quarter on Oct. 5. The Jayhawks lost to Texas Tech 54-16. Kansas led Oklahoma 7-0 at the end of one. Oklahoma outscored the Jayhawks 34-12 the rest of the way. Kansas even game Texas a game (at Texas) in the first half back on Nov. 2.

But they were never able to close, or even keep games close until last week. That’s when after going down 7-0 early, the Jayhawks surprisingly came back and led West Virginia 17-7 at the half. They cruised from there winning 31-19.

Was last week a fluky win against an equally bad team? Or, have the Jayhawks finally (pardon the cliché’) learned how to win?

Quotable: Charlie Weis on Iowa State…

“I have a lot of respect for Coach (Paul) Rhoads and I know Saturday night is going to be a tough task. We're going up to Ames, and it's going to be a chilly night. They have a great crowd up there, it'll be raucous and it'll be senior night and they've had some tough losses, especially at home this year. They have a tough loss against Texas and a tough loss against TCU. Almost every week there's a lot of similar patterns that I see his year, where they've been close in game for quite some time, like they had Oklahoma in the ropes for a half last week, and gave up some big plays. I think coach Rhoads is the lifeline in that place, grew up ten minutes away and you can see that the team plays with the same toughness that he has. I have a lot of respect for Iowa State, and I know when I look at their defense and their middle linebacker who's making plays all over the place, reminds me of Ben Heeney. I watch him play and I watch Heeney play, and they look like copy-cat versions. At the end of the day, I think we have a tough task, but this would be another major hurdle for our program if we can get up there to Ames and come out of there with a win I think that would do wonders for us going forward.” 

The Cyclones will win if… 

…They can slow down Kansas’ surprisingly imposing rushing attack. In last week’s win, KU running back James Sims tallied 211 yards on 22 carries (9.6 yards per carry) with three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Sims will be matched up against Iowa State’s rush defense that is giving up an average of almost 230 yards per game this season. 

“Seeing him have such an explosive game the week before is not encouraging, not exciting to us,” Rhoads said about Sims. “Now, throw in the quarterback who I saw first on television earlier in the year when they started giving him some snaps and said, “Oh boy, he just needs some time and he is really going to add to their offense.’ He is getting to that point right now. For a defense that just played horribly against the run in the second half, horribly, that’s very concerning for us going into this game.”

Kansas’ true freshman quarterback, Montell Cozart, ran for 60 yards in that win but on the season, is only completed 36 percent (16-for-44) of his passes. This is as one-dimensional of a group as the Cyclones will see all season long.

To make matters worse for the Jayhawks, one of their top wide receiver, Tony Pierson, will miss Saturday’s game due to a concussion.

Kansas’ passing offense is currently ranked 116th nationally. With Cozart at the helm, if Iowa State can even slow down Sims and the Jayhawk run game, the Cyclones should win their first Big 12 game of the season 

Three key storylines to watch for:

Will anybody score? – The Jayhawks are America’s 119th ranked scoring offense. Iowa State is America’s 105th ranked scoring offense. Take the under.

Weather – It’s going to be cold. It’s going to be really, really cold. Take the under.

Quarterbacks – Cozart is as one-dimensional as they come. Iowa State, as far as we know, will still be rotation signal-callers in this one. Again, take the under.

Prediction

Iowa State should win this game, but that doesn’t mean that I am confident that they will.

If Paul Rhoads can get his Cyclones to show up and play like the team that showed up against TCU or the first half against Oklahoma, Iowa State could win this game by double digits. Anything else and disaster really could strike on Saturday night.

But that isn’t what I anticipate happening. I see Grant Rohach taking another step forward, Aaron Wimberly getting his groove on and Wally Burnham’s defense really shutting down KU’s anemic offense.

The Pick 

Iowa State 20, Kansas 13 

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  • November 29, 2014
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