By Austen Arnaud of CycloneFanatic.com
1 – Start Fast – It is no secret to the media and Cyclone fans alike that Iowa State hasn’t scored a point in the first quarter yet this season. For a team to be 3-1 without scoring a first quarter point is astonishing. Iowa State must start fast, especially against the offensive juggernaut that is the Baylor Bears. When I say start fast, both sides of the ball need to do so. The defense needs some early stops and the offense has to be in this game early. Iowa State cannot dig themselves an early hole. If Robert Griffin, Kendall Wright, and the rest of the Baylor Bear offense gets off to a fast start and go up big in the first quarter, it will be a long night for my alma mater.
2 – Turnovers – This has been an issue that has plagued the Cyclones all season long. Even with a 3-1 record, Iowa State’s first few games shouldn’t have been as close as they were. In last week’s loss to Texas, it was obvious that turnovers were the reason we were out of the game so quickly. When I think back, Steele threw three interceptions against UNI and threw three redzone turnovers against Iowa. Steele started 0-for-4 with three interceptions against UConn and of course, who could forget the recent two early turnovers committed that put us out of the game from the get go against UT? It is apparent Iowa State’s offense struggles to protect the football, however this is not a one way street. The Cyclone defense has only forced five turnovers in four games and three of those came against a brutal UConn offense. The defense has got to be more aggressive at every position on the field and somehow, wreak havoc upon this Baylor offense.
3 – Establish the Run – This key will never not be on this list. Establishing the run is more important than ever against this explosive Baylor team. When playing an offense as dynamic as the one we will face Saturday, the best defense is a time possessing offense. Baylor usually scores early and often and the Cyclones have to limit this as much as they can. Iowa State’s rushing attack and offense as a whole must eat up some clock, keeping Baylor’s offense off the field. This week, this key is easier said than done, with key injuries on the offensive line (i.e. Kelechi Osemele and Brayden Burris). Burris, will not play and Kelechi is not 100 percent, but will play. Not to mention a banged up Ethan Tuftee, Tom Farniok, and Hayworth Hicks. But this is life in college football we will do the best with what we have and in no way is anyone questioning these guys’ effort. Look for James White to get more carries in this game, as he has earned them by rushing for four touchdowns already this season.
4 – Contain RG III – Robert Griffin III is statistically the best quarterback in the country. He has 18 touchdowns to one interception and with help is shredding any and every defense he comes across. If there is a way to defend him, it is to rush our defensive ends vertically up the field and contain him within the pocket. Another way is to try and take away touches from his biggest target, Kendall Wright, by bracketing a linebacker either inside or outside of him with safety help over top. Also, the Cyclones cannot give up numerous big plays through the air. We must make Baylor nickel and dime their way down the field. To be honest, I don’t think there is a defense in the Big 12 that can completely shut down RG III.
5 – Adversity – Anyone who has ever competed knows that there are ups and downs within the course of every game. Coach Rhoads always talks about this team needs to plateau and peak, as opposed to being a rollercoaster ride with all kinds of peaks and valleys. I can guarantee that Coach Rhoads is preaching to the team that they will face many adversities on Saturday and the Cyclones must weather the storm. It doesn’t matter whether Baylor starts hot on offense or if we do, a rough patch will come along in the game that the boys from Ames must overcome. If Iowa State can hang around in this game, we have enough talent and determination to win it. Every player in our locker room is excited to have the opportunity to upset a Baylor team that is coming into this game very overconfident.