What To Watch For: #10 Utah @ Iowa State

So October begins. Since the beginning of the season, I've looked at the October schedule and cringed. I mean really, @ Oklahoma and @ Texas?  Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that Paul Rhoads is on the sideline for ISU and that the season will not be a failure if we lose those two games.

Which brings us to an interesting game to be played on a (presumably) blustery Saturday evening on the 9th of October. The Utah Utes are coming to town, looking to prove that they're contenders and not pretenders to the #10 ranking. Statistically, the Cyclones are looking at a nightmarish defense and a Super-bowl winning offense. Or are they? The one stat that has jumped out at me, repeatedly, all week is that Utah's opponents are 4-15. Then you think about what ISU's stats would look like if they played NIU and then UNI three times. Probably outstanding. And you realize that Iowa State has as much to prove this weekend as Utah does.

Defensive Improvment

I talk about this every week, and the reason I do is that Paul Rhoads has talked all pre-season and all season about how important continuous defensive improvement is. This week I really would like to see the Defensive line and linebackers improve at stopping the run. Texas Tech, who is not exactly know as a running team, had a fair amount of success running the ball last week, gaining over a hundred yards. Maybe the Tech game is a bad example, due to their tendency to pass, but Utah has a balanced run/pass offense just like ISU. The defense needs to grow up a little and figure out how to defend both.

More after the Jump

Continued Discipline

The discipline of the offensive line improved by leaps and bounds last week. I choose to believe that they've finally coalesced into the high-quality unit they've had the potential to be. However, they need to go and prove it this week. Ditch the false starts, and if the defender is going to get past you, don't grab his jersey. If that happens, the rest of the offense will fall into place.

Maturity

We all obviously saw Austen Arnaud grow up a bit last week, and we were all ecstatic. He needs to continue to mature this week too, but it's not just him. The receiving corps grew up as well, they achieved separation, made the grabs and got their feet in-bounds. That's nothing to sneeze at, but one game is one game. We know the offense can run the 5k, but now it's time to do it again. Repetition and muscle memory, the respect from opponents will come without anyone needing to worry about it. Standing up and saying "This is who we are" is one thing, but going on the field and showing "This is who we are" is another altogether.

Special Teams

Special Teams has been outstanding this year, better than anyone could have realistically hoped. Be warned, however, Utah knows we have fake punts and fake field goals in our playbook. Don't expect them to be surprised, rely on execution instead. Limit mistakes and execute and the special teams game will be no worse than a push.

I truly believe the ISU offense has turned the corner, if so, look for ISU to win 38-35 in a shoot-out.

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