AMES — Another week, another top-two Big 12 passing offense to face.
TCU — Iowa State’s opponent in Saturday’s 7 p.m. (FS1) Big 12 matchup at Jack Trice Stadium — ranks second to Oklahoma in terms of aerial exploits, piling up an average of 293.8 yards via the passing game this season.
And we all saw how the Sooners sliced up the Cyclones (2-3, 1-1) through the air in last Saturday’s 50-20 trouncing in Norman.
So it’s painfully clear that ISU must either devise unique ways to put pressure on Horned Frogs quarterback Chandler Morris, or tighten up its coverage — but it will likely require a combination of the two to avert a second straight conference setback.
“(There were) some big-time throws, some one-on-one situations (against Oklahoma), and at some point, 60 yards down the field, it is gonna on one-on-one, and you’re either gonna make the play or you’re not,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said on the Cyclone Radio Network after last week’s loss.
The Cyclones obviously need to make those plays against TCU (3-2, 1-1) and the other six league foes that remain on the schedule — and here are five key Horned Frogs to know entering Saturday’s Jack Trice Legacy game:
QB Chandler Morris
The 6-0, 190-pound redshirt sophomore had big shoes to fill when Max Duggan graduated after taking the Horned Frogs to the national championship game and he’s responded well to that challenge. Morris — who rushed for a touchdown for Oklahoma in its 27-21 win over ISU in the 2020 Big 12 title game — redshirted in 2021 and served as Duggan’s backup last season. He’s a true dual-threat quarterback and rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s 24-21 home loss to West Virginia. Morris has also been efficient as a passer, tossing 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions. His completion percentage of 66.1 ranks second among Big 12 quarterbacks this season but he’s been sacked 10 times in the past three games.
RB Emani Bailey
Bailey transferred in after his sophomore season at Louisiana and immediately emerged as a big play threat with the Horned Frogs. His 8.1 yards-per-carry average last season led the Big 12 and his role has expanded significantly since then. The 5-9, 207-pound senior ranks second in the Big 12 in rushing yards (574) and first in carries (100). He’s one of three backs in the league with a run of 70 yards or more this season and is also a capable pass catcher, with nine receptions for 75 yards. Bailey was bottled up by West Virginia (19 carries, 55 yards) in last Saturday’s 24-21 loss, but boasted back-to-back 126-yard efforts in previous wins over SMU and Houston.
TE Jared Wiley
The 6-7, 260-pound senior is TCU’s most reliable target — and the former Texas transfer has played a key role in his offense in each of his first four seasons. Wiley notched a career-high four touchdown catches last season and he’s become even more productive in 2023 — totaling three touchdown grabs through five games. He’s especially difficult to contain within the red zone, given his size and athleticism, and his 15 receptions this season rank second on the team.
DB Josh Newton
The first-team All-Big 12 cornerback returned an interception for a 57-yard touchdown in last season’s 62-14 rout of the Cyclones, so his playmaking ability is well-established. Newton, a 6-1, 190-pound senior, ranked second among TCU defenders in both pass breakups (12) and interceptions (3). The former Louisiana-Monroe transfer ranks second on the team in passes defended (3) this season and his lone interception turned into a 53-yard return in the Horned Frogs’ 34-17 win over SMU.
LB Jamoi Hodge
Hodge helps headline a solid TCU linebacker corps that’s missed one of its top contributors, Johnny Hodges (hand injury), the last three weeks. It’s unclear if Hodges will be able to return against ISU, which further heightens Hodge’s role among the Horned Frogs’ front seven. Hodge, a 6-2, 235-pound senior, ranks second on the team in tackles with 30 and also has 1.5 sacks. He’ll make his 27th consecutive start on Saturday and has been one of TCU’s best performers on defense since his sophomore season.