This appears to be becoming a regular every week post for me, but here's what I'll be watching for against Texas Tech this weekend.
"Playmaking" On Offense
As all of us are aware, the offense has disappointed this year. That's not going to fly against Texas Tech. The Red Raider offense may be experiencing a bit of a down year this year, but they're more than capable of putting points on the board. On the other hand, ISU struggled to put 27 points on the board against UNI, and 14 of them scored by the defense. If ISU wants to win this week, the much talked about (but has done next to nothing) wide receiver corps need to get on the horse. I'd say get back up on the horse, but as far as I can tell they haven't been on it at any point this season. Assuming for the moment that Austen Arnaud will return and lead the offense, it's imperative that we stretch the field and not let Tech get away with stacking an enormous number of defenders in the box to shut down our running game.
Speaking of the running game, I'd like to see the playbook open up a bit and see the running game move to the outside every once in a while. Yes, our Offensive line can open holes and running lanes, but we shouldn't depend on it for every running play. Overall, I just want to see some offensive production that doesn't remind me of a putt-putt engine.
Continued Defensive Improvement
The defense was nothing short of spectacular against UNI, but spectacular play or not, UNI is an FCS team. If Jake Knott, AJ Klein and crew are 75% as effective against Texas Tech, I'll be happy to call it an improvement. Moreover, I was happy to see some penetration by the defensive line last week. With any luck, that trend will continue against Tech's young OL. That brings us to the most important defensive group this week, the secondary. Whatever their production has been, Tech still runs the Air Raid offense. Given a chance, Taylor Potts will try to throw it all over the field and push our defensive backs on their heels. I don't expect the secondary to be godlike, but I want to see them limit YAC and not give up any huge plays. Never thought I'd say this in 2010, but the defense is the strength this year.
More after the jump
Why did the offense score 13 points last week and not 21? Because of two huge penalties in the red zone on third down. With any luck Paul Rhoads beat everyone over the head repeatedly with a hammer over the number of penalties this year. I don't expect perfection, but killing TD drives by turning 3rd and 2 into 3rd and 7 with a false start has to stop.
If ISU let's Texas Tech set the tempo for the game, it'll be a long night. I would like to see ISU score first after a long punishing first drive that eats a lot of clock, then turn around and force a 3 and out to get the Tech Defense on the field again after a minimal break. I watched last nights A&M / OSU game and the first half was a defensive slugfest, turnovers, pass rushing, blitzing, you name it, it was there. The 2nd half was all offense, presumably because the defenses gave everything they had before halftime. The hussle wasn't there anymore on defense at all. Pounding Tech's defense early is a clear way for ISU to assert themselves on the field.
As a closing note, I have to give a shout out to Seth C of Double-T Nation for his great questions and sportsmanship this week. He responded quickly and positively to the idea of exchanging interviews and he and his readers have been classy and respectful all week. Cheers to them and I look forward to a great game on Saturday!