Baylor and Iowa State will each attempt to break a losing streak when the Bears walk into Jack Trice Stadium this Saturday night. Both teams will have a lot of their bowl hopes hinging on the outcome of this one.
Iowa State's Head Coach is Paul Rhoads who is one of the more respected Big 12 coaches and has a habit of beating teams he isn't expected to. Nebraska 2009, Tech 2010, OSU 2011, and a couple upsets of Iowa all are on his resume so far. He does a great job and you can easily see why his players love the guy.
Iowa State has a textbook spread-to-run offense. They want to use spread formations to open running lanes for their running backs and quarterbacks. A good example of this strategy is either Rich Rodriguez, Chip Kelly at Oregon, or Urban Meyer's offense and he just so happened to hire their old OC from last year to run his Ohio State offense.
It's the same scheme that we saw from them last year and we also saw from Rice the last two years. Very rarely will they line up with fewer than 3 WR's and pretty much live in either 4WR or 3WR formations. They use a lot of the following (links to fuller explanations if you click on them)
In the passing game they will use a fair amount of rollouts and tend to throw shorter routes most of the time. They also are more than willing to run trick plays and ran a flea flicker against OSU last week and Baylor last year.
At QB the Cyclones have two experienced, athletic, and inconsistent players. Last year we played against #2 Steele Jantz who has been the backup the last couple of weeks. After Jantz struggled both in 2011 and 2012 they turned to Jared Barnett #7. Jantz (6'2 225) is larger than Barnett (6'1 195) and probably slightly more elusive. Barnett has a better deep arm than Steele Jantz. Both have been inconsistent enough to where it's an open competition this week. Either way we will get an opposing QB who can be a threat to run it at any time.
Iowa State at running back is basically a collection of scatbacks other than Jeff Woody. #21 Shontrelle Johnson, #2 James White, #20 DeVondrick Nealy are all in the 5'10 or shorter and under 200 pounds club. They run hard and each has a lot of speed and as a group resemble the mold of what FSU great Bobby Bowden recruited at the position. Johnson is probably the shiftiest and White is probably the most powerful of the 3 smaller tailbacks but he may not play with a knee injury.
The exeption to the pattern described above is #32 Jeff Woody who checks in at 6'1 239 and has much more quickness than you'd expect. He's not as good as SMU's Zach Line but he's a very similar player.
Their best wideout is #19 Josh Lenz who is also a very good return guy. He's 6'0 200 and while he isn't a guy with elite speed he certainly can make the deep play happen as TCU found out twice. He is supposed to be back from injury this week and it would be a big blow to ISU if he couldn't play.
After Lenz they have talent but are a bunch of one-dimensional guys. Their next best is #3 Aaron Horne who was a juco teammate of Steele Jantz. He's 5'8 178 and while he's very elusive in space he isn't a guy who is going to be a consistent deep threat. The other listed starter is #15 Chris Young (5'11 197) who seems pretty well rounded but didn't really jump out to me in any one area. #18 Albert Gary (5'10 195) and #9 Quenton Bundrage (6'2 187) are also guys that see time. Bundrage is a guy they hope can be a size-speed matchup for them in time.
Their fastest seems to be #1 Jarvis West (5'7 170) who is a similar player to Horne with a little more speed. They also have former QB Jerome Tiller as a 6'3 option as a backup.
They have a very good player at tight end in #84 Ernst Brun (6'3 240) who offers a lot of ability in the passing game and is a decent blocker. He's an upgrade over last year's starter who rides the bench behind him.
ISU lost two very good starters on the offensive line last year and while losing Osemele was big I do think the unit is a good one. I don't think they are on par with UT's line but they aren't a liability.
Wally Burnham is the defensive coordinator at Iowa State and he runs a one-gap four man front defense. It's technically a 4-3 but they spend a lot of their time in a 4-2-5 setup with Broomfield in there. They will also take out a DT for a 3-3-5 look occasionally.
This year ISU has made a point of doing two key things on D:
- Having one more defender than the offense has blockers at the point of attack.
- Playing mostly cover 3 or quarters variations in coverage
It's led to a lot of success against the run but leaves them vulnerable in the air as there are fewer deep defenders.
On the defensive line ISU has some good but not elite players who fit their scheme very well. Their best interior lineman is returning starter #94 Jake McDonough (6'5 280) who is a nice player who makes a fair amount of plays for them. The other starter is #90 Cleyon Laing who is a fifth year senior and checks in at 6'4 290. They have a lot of experienced depth at tackle with four redshirt seniors, one redshirt junior, and a redshirt sophomore rounding out their top 3 units.
At defensive end they are similar to the style of end we saw from TCU and SHSU. Their 3-deep is a lot of smaller quicker guys in the 240-250 range with one exception. They start #50 Willie Scott and #38 Roosevelt Maggitt. Much like the seniors we saw last year they can be run at but make up for it in pass rush.
Linebacker is easily the strength of this unit. They have #47 A.J. Klein (6'2 248) and #20 Jake Knott (6'3 252) in on pretty much every play and each is among the top tier of linebackers in the league. They are strong in all facets of the game and aren't a big speed liability.
When they use an fifth defensive back they use #26 Deon Broomfield as a nickel linebacker the same way that we use Ahmad Dixon. He plays at SLB and at 6'0 196 gives them more speed than either Klein or Knott would on the outside.
When they use a 3rd linebacker they have #52 Jeremiah George take over in the middle and Klein plays outside. George is a 225 pound Junior who will likely have big shoes to fill next year.
At deep safety they have returning 2011 starter #10 Jaques Washington (6'1 213) and last year's nickel back #24 Durrell Givens (6'0 210) and each is a good player in both coverage and run support.
Iowa State's starting corners are #5 Jeremy Reeves (5'7 176) and #2 Jansen Watson (5'9 185) who are both upperclassmen. Each gives up some size but plays well in spite of it.
Edwin Arceo has been a reliable kicker mostly and has only missed longer than 50 yards so far. They have a very very good punter in Kirby Van Der Kamp who is one of the best in the country.
In the return game they are very good at returning punts and are middle of the pack nationally in limiting punt returns. Kick returns are a struggle for them though as they rank 98th in covering them and are 115th in their own returns.
What has their defense struggled with?
Much like SMU they struggle when the opponent is able to execute in the deep passing game as they really are a band of overachievers on defense other than Knott and Klein. They don't have the speed of TCU, Texas, or OU and when teams can stretch their zones they either give up big plays in the air or have to adjust their scheme to help the pass and leave the running game vulnerable like our game last year.
The few times they have given teams numbers to run against it hasn't been good for them this year.
What do you expect Burnham's D to try in order to stop Baylor?
Last year ISU got run over by keeping 2 safeties deep and then was at the mercy of our combo of runs, QB reads, and bubble screens that made their front 7 outnumbered all night. They did this as their DC had seen how RG3 made TCU, KSU, and Rice's DB's all look like putty. For more on that game you can look at a post of mine explaining why we run the Bubble Screens as it gives a full picture of how they were unable to stop us.
Will he treat Nick the same way? They didn't do it with a passing offense against Tech or OSU which would make me guess no. I expect a pretty similar gameplan to what we saw from SMU where they want to try outnumbering the run and will shift back and forth from cover 3 and quarters. I don't think ISU will give us numbers to run again. I think they will at minimum make Nick beat them initially before they depart from their cover 3 base defense. They may empty the box like last year but I doubt it.
Based on that how do you think Baylor's offense will do?
ISU's defense is a disciplined and conservative unit that makes you execute to beat them but has limited upside athletically. I really think our offense matches up really well with their group and will be able to break 30 and possibly 40 in Ames if we play our game. I don't think their corners have much chance of defending Terrance Williams and I don't think their safeties match up well at all with Tevin Reese. If they empty the box like last year and make us run I am confident we'll do very well there too as our backs averaged 8 per carry when UT went to that tactic in the second half last week.
How about our defense?
Our defense I am less confident on. I think we'll do enough to win as a similar run scheme in TCU wasn't able to run any better than 3 per carry until we wore out late in the game. That said our run defense against Texas and ULM does not make me that optimistic in that prediction. I don't think Jantz or Barnett is consistent enough to keep pace with Nick as long as our group plays within themselves but they will likely eclipse their averages.
What has given them trouble offensively?
Honestly teams have used 3 deep zones and man free coverages to take away the run and force the ISU QB to beat them. Oklahoma State spent pretty much all game in cover 3, Tech lived in cover 1, and ISU had no answer for it. The QBs have not been able to exploit that and the spread run game then fails as a result of facing too many defenders at the line of scrimmage. Turnovers are also a concern for the Clones.
Honestly the only team that wasn't just more talented than they are to consistently give them favorable numbers to run on was Tulsa and ISU ran it with zero problems. They also had spots here and there in other games where they took advantage. The problem remains that the QB's aren't able to force the defense out of a run-killing playcall yet.
The Tech games of 2011 and 2012 are perfect examples. In 2011 ISU had 6 blockers take out Tech's front 6 and they had running lanes all night. This year Tech made them throw by usually bringing more guys up near the line and they couldn't pass well enough to keep up. The few times Tech gave them 6 on 6 the run game still worked like before but that was admittedly few and far between.
I really feel they miss last year's #1 receiver Darius Reynolds a lot. He was not only their big play guy but he was a tall guy who could go get the fade route and opened things up for the others as he could demand help to the 1 WR side of a trips formation. Not having at least one matchup buster has hurt them.
How would you expect Baylor to attack their offense?
I expect us to have a similar strategy to last year. We had alignments where we put ourselves in decent position to defend the run without letting them get tons of deep options on us. We weren't running cover 3 or cover 1 but we did drop our boundary side safety down to help with the run against 3 wideout formations and it seemed to help. I'd prefer us go with cover 3 but Bennett will do what he feels his guys can execute.
I think Baylor's offense comes up big again and the inconsistency at QB for ISU prevents them from keeping up with us. Bears by 10.