It feels like months since Oklahoma took their upset loss at the hands of the Kansas State Wildcats, and now finally the Sooners will get the chance to retake the field to try and right the ship for the stretch run through “Championship November” this week when they host the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State is one of the Big 12’s most peculiar teams. At times the Matt Campbell squad has looked like a team that could contend in the Big 12 and other times…not so much.
I was one of the believers in the Cyclones coming into the season, firmly thinking they were the Big 12’s third best team and could possibly fight their way into the Big 12 Championship Game. But the bottom line is this for Iowa State: the three best teams they have played this year have all been losses.
They dropped their second game of the season at home against their rival Iowa, they lost in Waco to the still undefeated Baylor Bears, and most recently lost last week at home against an Oklahoma State team that went into Ames as the underdogs and came out the victors.
This has been an underwhelming year for an Iowa State team that had a lot of promise coming in, which almost makes them more dangerous this week for Oklahoma.
This team still has a lot of talented players and a great coach, so today let’s break down the Cyclones by position groups to see where they could give the Sooners some fits on Saturday.
Defensive Front Seven
I always start these things with the offense so let’s switch it up and start with the Iowa State front seven.
Generally speaking, the Cyclone defense is actually pretty solid. They are top 50 in rushing yards allowed this season, total yards allowed, and most importantly – points allowed.
They are also just a hair outside the top 50 in total team sacks, so this unit can pretty fairly be called one of the top 1/3 or so defenses in college football.
It won’t be easy for Jalen Hurts and the offense to score at will like they have at times this year, which puts a little more pressure on a defense that got simply embarrassed two weeks ago in Manhattan.
Marcel Spears is a very good linebacker for the Cyclones that OU will hope to neutralize, as he leads the team in tackles this season with a whopping 60 total including 6 1/2 for loss. Mike Rose is another linebacker who can fly to the football, having picked up eight tackles for loss this year plus an interception.
As for the defensive line, Zach Petersen is a budding baller. The 6-4, 260+ pound sophomore has four tackles for loss this year of his thirty total.
Also, I would be remissed not to mention O’Rien Vance, who leads the team in sacks with an impressive 6 1/2, which is top 20 in the country.
The Iowa State secondary is basically average, maybe just a touch above.
They are just barely inside the top 70 in passing yards allowed per game, but that is in the Big 12 where passing is very prevalent. This is proven in the Cyclones yards per attempt and yards per catch, which are both much lower than teams with a similar yards per game – so do with that what you will.
One area where they are below average is in intercepting the ball, where they have the same low number as Oklahoma does – only four. That is outside the top 100 in the country, so Jalen Hurts should be able to stay away from turning it over through the air (the bigger issue has been fumbles, anyway).
Lawrence White is a junior defensive back who currently sits third on the team in tackles and also has four pass deflections. Anthony Johnson is another name in the secondary to know, as he has managed to pick up five tackles for loss which is a pretty good number for anyone but especially for a secondary player.
I look at three main things when evaluating an offensive line (outside of just the eye test): sacks allowed, penalty yardage, and rushing yards.
Starting with sacks allowed, Iowa State is currently tied for 31st best in the country having allowed just 12 sacks this season. The OU defense is at their best when they get some form of pressure on the quarterback. When they don’t, they have big problems. Just see the constant third and long conversions allowed against Kansas State where Skylar Thompson had all day to throw.
Looking at penalties, Iowa State is one of the absolute best in the country in this area. They are second (!) in the country in fewest total penalties. Obviously, that is not offensive line specific. But, with offensive holding and false start being perhaps the two most common foul calls, it is safe to say the O-line is a disciplined group.
Lastly, the rushing attack for the Cyclones isn’t overly potent. They are outside the top 80 in team rushing, which isn’t exactly all on the offensive line but a team with a good line is almost always able to run the ball well, no matter who the running backs are.
Iowa State is a top 10 passing offense, and that is because Brock Purdy has a plethora of talented receiving options to throw the ball to.
Deshaunte Jones is the top target with 52 receptions on the year for 586 yards, with the #2 option being Tarique Milton who has 524 yards this year despite only having 24 catches. Do some math there and that is an average of over 20 yards per reception this year, so he is a big play waiting to happen at any moment.
Perhaps most dangerous of all of them for the Cyclone offense, though, is tight end Charlie Kolar. The redshirt sophomore right out of Norman will get to have a homecoming in his old stomping grounds against the school right in his own backyard, and he’ll be ready.
He is Purdy’s top target when the Cyclones get into the redzone, having hauled in five touchdowns this season among his 34 receptions at just a shade under 500 yards.
The Iowa State running game begins and ends with Breece Hall. Hall had the chore of filling in for Iowa State great David Montgomery this year as a freshman and he has been sensational.
I mentioned previously that the Cyclone rushing attack on the whole isn’t overly daunting, but that isn’t because of Hall who is having himself a very nice freshman campaign.
475 yards at just under six yards per carry and seven touchdowns, not too shabby at all. Brock Purdy will also add some ability with his legs, having ran for a couple hundred yards and six scores himself.
The goal for the OU defense is simple regarding the run game, however, stop Breece Hall and you’re in good shape.
Last but not least is the great Brock Purdy who I have been a big fan of the past couple of years. Part of the reason I was such a big believer in Iowa State this season – was Brock Purdy.
While this season hasn’t been quite as good as I thought it could have been, it has still been solid and it still seems the Cyclones are set at quarterback as long as Purdy is around.
He has some running ability, a good arm, and can make the tough throws. What can hurt Purdy is he can get interception-prone, having thrown seven this year with most coming in fairly key spots in games.
The big question for OU is what will they allow Purdy to be in this game. Will it be more like what they turned Sam Ehlinger into in the Cotton Bowl, or what they allowed Skylar Thompson to be in the Little Apple.
It honestly feels it could go either way and could be the deciding factor into how this game goes.
While I do think Iowa State is a good team with a great coach and a quarterback who at times can be very special, I would be floored if Oklahoma lost this game at home under the lights.
I thought the Sooners would beat Kansas State but was not going to be shocked if they lost to the Wildcats. This time I would be shocked.
OU does not lose two games in a row…hardly ever, and haven’t since Lincoln Riley came to Norman.
The last time was at the end of the disastrous 2014 season after they dropped Bedlam (the Tyreek Hill game) and then proceeded to get demolished in the Russell Athletic Bowl at the hands of the Clemson Tigers.
There is no way Oklahoma loses this game, and it would not surprise me if it was a blowout, even though Iowa State is a solid team.
The Oklahoma Sooners will host the Iowa State Cyclones in their penultimate home game this Saturday night at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium at 7:00 on FOX, and can be heard over the air as always right here on 107.7 The Franchise.