By Austen Arnaud of CycloneFanatic.com
1. Hangover – Iowa State had one of its most emotional victories in program history when the Cyclones went into three overtimes to defeat Iowa last Saturday. That’s great and I was all for it! BUT, it’s a new week and with a Friday game, Iowa State cannot afford to come out flat against a UCONN team that suffered an agonizing defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt last week. I can guarantee being around this program as long as I have, this the message Coach Rhoads has stressed all week. Also, I can almost guarantee that Coach Rhoads has emphasized what a great opportunity it is to go on the road and play a team who is one year removed from a BCS bowl game.
2. Mental Mistakes – More important than ever, with this being the first road game, Iowa State must cut down on mental mistakes. Last week Iowa State had 11 penalties, lost the turnover battle 3 to 1 (not to mention all turnovers were in redzone) and had two missed field goals. If they have similar statistics, those fields they will make it very hard on themselves to win. Iowa State should have won that game last week by at least two touchdowns. Home field advantage in college football plays a huge role and there will be a great environment in East Hartford for this game at Rentschler Field.
3. Stop The Run – UCONN has one goal on offense and that is to run the football. They shuffle in three guys at quarterback. So in theory, they don’t have a clean cut quarterback and their running game is definitely most effect. I was very encouraged by the defensive play against the run in the second half. The defensive line was very effective, as Iowa couldn’t get their second level blocks. This is why linebacker Matt Tau’fo’ou (career high 9 tackles) had so many big plays at the line of scrimmage and in the back field. This offensive line will not be as physical or as well coached as Iowa’s. If the defensive line can continue their aggressive play in the gaps, this defense will be have a great game on Friday.
4. Special Teams – Special teams will have a large impact on every game. Josh Lenz has been really close to springing a return for a touchdown and I believe he’ll get it this week. Whether this return is a kick or a punt, it will be a determining factor in a close game. As I mentioned earlier, the kicking game can’t be an issue. Grant and Zach must come prepared and focused because we all know that they will be called upon and they have to convert for us.
5. Establish the Run – This key to victory will always be in my top five because I know how much it is emphasized in practice. Shontrelle Johnson had his best game as a Cyclone last week. James White is arguably the most improved football player on this roster, and the improvement of the offensive line was like night and day. If they can pick up where they left off last week, it will make life a lot easier on Steele Jantz and the passing game. Steele can have another great game if he takes care of the football and doesn’t force plays.