By former Iowa State quarterback Austen ArnaudFollow Austen on Twitter @ADArnaud4
1. Pressure the QB – This will be Iowa State’s focal point on defense. This is the best offense in the country and Iowa State must find a way to slow them down. Brandon Weeden is putting up gargantuan numbers, mainly due to other teams in ability to get pressure on him. I believe a game film that Iowa State has watched over and over is the first half of Oklahoma State’s game against Texas A&M. This was the worst half of football Oklahoma State has played all season. Texas A&M was dominant and they Aggies were getting pressure on Weeden. Once Weeden gets hit a couple times, it is in every quarterback’s nature to try to guess where the pressure will be come from next. When you get a quarterback thinking, then he starts to second guess himself and see things that aren’t always going to be there in the pass game. Coach Burnham is pretty basic in his blitz looks and formations, however don’t be surprised if we see more ways to try and manufacture pressure upon Weeden.
2. Protect the Ball – This key has never been more important. Oklahoma State leads the nation in takeaways. Iowa State knows that if they turn the ball over, more than likely, it will end up as seven points for the Cowboys. This doesn’t mean Iowa State will be unaggressive offensively, but their shots down field and big plays will be well calculated. The more we possess the ball, the better.
3. Jared Barnett – After watching and re-watching the few games Jared has played, I am encouraged by what the kid is capable of thus far. He is 2-0 in the Big 12 as a starter. Sure he has completed just 49 percent of his balls, but the kid can run the ball well and leads this offense too. Being around Jared for the past year or so, I know he is a competitor and loves to play the game. Now after saying all of that, nothing of what he did in the past matters in this football game. He must come out after pushing the reset button and get ready to face the second best team in the country, who is on a 10 game winning streak. He cannot turn the ball over like he did against Kansas or complete only half of his throws. Barnett has to be efficient and turnover free for Iowa State to win this game. I believe Jared has the tools and especially the confidence to lead this team to a win on Friday.
4. Defensive Secondary – Every week is a test for these defensive backs in a very strong wide receiver league. However, this week you face a future first round NFL draft pick (hopefully my Vikings draft him) in Justin Blackmon. The returning Biletnikoff award winner is having another great year. His numbers do the talking: 1,100 yards, 14 TD’s and 93 receptions. However, we have one of the better secondary’s in the conference and I love the way our guys play. It’s a nasty, hard-hitting, trash-talking group and as much as fans dislike the penalties, they must know it is a part of these guys’ game. Look at the best secondaries to ever play the game: Miami 2001, Florida State 1999 and LSU 2011. If you look at all these defenses game tapes, you will repeatedly see penalties and bad blood towards the other teams. I guess what I am trying to get across is that it could be a lot worse and these guys are giving it up 100 percent of the time. In order for them to stop this elusive core of Oklahoma State receivers, they must play their game and be the aggressors.
5. Nothing To Lose – Iowa State has to have the mindset that they have nothing to lose. I love how this week sets up. Iowa State comes off of a bye week and Oklahoma State comes in on a short week. My colleague at CycloneFanatic.com, Chris Williams, is onto something with his theory of Friday’s game. He wants to see big plays, change of momentums and trick plays thrown out of the Cyclone arsenal. I agree. I expect the Cyclones to pull out all the stops in this game and try to keep the Cowboys on their heels at all times. If this game plays out like I think it will, there will never be a dull moment for Cyclone fans and it very well could end up being the biggest win in Iowa State’s football history. I am excited for this opportunity to watch this game. Just think of how fired up our players will be on Senior Night with the second ranked team in America coming into town!