By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
Ready or not, here it comes. Iowa State will kick off its Big 12 Conference season tomorrow (11:10 a.m. kick on FSN) in Arrowhead Stadium against the 2-0 Kansas State Wildcats. The winner of this contest will be alone in first place at the top of the Big 12 North…(That’s kind of a joke. Get it?)
This is a tough game to get a grip on for anyone who is trying to come up with an intelligent prediction (that’s me right now).
On one hand, you have an Iowa State team (1-1) who is coming off of a blowout loss to their in-state rival. Then, there’s Kansas State, who has two home wins against a bad UCLA team (31-22) and lowly Missouri State (48-24).
How will Iowa State react to last week’s debacle in Iowa City
Has Kansas State been tested at all?
Las Vegas likes Kansas State in this game by 4.5. Make your pick with other Cyclone fanatics by CLICKING HERE.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Daniel Thomas factor
If you haven’t heard by now, Kansas State’s running back Daniel Thomas is really, really good. In Kansas State’s first two games this season, Thomas has run for 346 yards and four touchdowns. In doing that, he’s caught the eye of Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham.
“He is going to be as good of a back as there is in this country I think,” Burnham told CycloneFanatic.com after practice on Wednesday. “He is going to get better. He can get in a hole and make one jump move to be going full speed again. That is scary. He can break one for 90-yards in a snap.”
Iowa State did a pretty decent job of keeping Thomas in check during last year’s version of what the kids call Farmageddon. In Kansas State’s 24-23 win, the running back ran for 97 yards, without scoring a touchdown. Thomas ended 2009 with 1,290 yards and 11 touchdowns. No, he didn’t kill the Cyclones a season ago but he’s a much more complete player today.
“I think he has grown a great deal,” said Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder. “He understands the position more, and he has the experience of doing it, which is monumental. I think he gains a little more knowledge with every game. His vision becomes better. His reaction time becomes a little better. We know that he has the physical skills, it is just being able to find the right creases, and the more games he plays in, the better he does that.”
Comparing K-State to Iowa
Last week, the Iowa Hawkeyes ran for 275 yards against the Cyclones. Kansas State is the 14th best rushing team in America through two weeks, averaging 259.50 yards per game. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s rush defense ranks 104th in the country, giving up an average of 215.50.
This appears to be a mismatch heading into Saturday.
“Iowa runs a little bit more zone but I think we will see some zone, stretch plays (from Kansas State),” said Burnham. “Iowa was successful against us so if I was them, I would run those. I think they will run their offense too but they might add a few plays like that.”
Kansas State also likes to run the option.
“That is a little bit different than what we have seen this year but we are prepared for it,” Burnham said. “We feel good about our plan. If we execute it, then we’ll be all right. They might make some yards but hopefully not big, touchdown yardage.”
“I am worried about any snap that they take,” Burnham said. “We are so young. I’m not going to use that as an excuse but we need to get better. I have confidence in our kids. Don’t get me wrong. I think they are going to go out there and give great effort. I don’t think that will be a problem. But you worry about everything after a bad game. You have to go out and play a good game to get that taste out of your mouth.”
My key to victory?
Bill Snyder’s 2010 defense hasn’t been nearly as salty as the offense through two games. In fact, Missouri State tallied 447 yards against the Wildcats just a week ago.
Iowa State should be able to run the ball against this defense that has given up an average of 179.50 rushing yards per game. That ranks Kansas State 91st nationally.
Really, that’s what it will come down to for Iowa State’s offense to develop a rhythm in my opinion. The success of the offense will be determined by the running game. If Alexander Robinson rushes for over 100 yards, I think Iowa State will win this game. If he’s under that mark, I anticipate the Cyclones being 1-2 heading into the Northern Iowa game next weekend.
Iowa State 27, Kansas State 24