So after last weeks butt whooping, the question on every Cyclone Fan's mind is "can ISU beat K-State on Saturday?".
Well, that's a completely valid question. I myself question whether this team will win any game after getting destroyed like that. It really kills the confidence. But as a fan, we aren't at practice, and won't really be able to predict or pretend to know the psyche of the team during the week.
So, I go to the numbers:
On one hand, things don't look that far off. Iowa State is averaging 340 yards/game in this short season, while K-State is averaging 377 yards. ISU ranks 66th, while K-State ranks 49th. Not a huge difference, especially considering how bad the offense looked against the Hawks this past weekend.
On the other hand, there are still things to worry about. K-State is tied for 5th in the nation in rushing attempts per game with 54, and 70% of their play selection is run. I forgot to mention, they average 5.8 yards/carry as a team. My main concern is that K-State will be able to control the tempo of the game, by grinding out 4-5 yard runs and occasionally breaking a longer run. They ran for over 300 yards against UCLA, and I'm not sure if Iowa State is more talented than UCLA to be honest.
Something else I like to look at, beyond yards/play, or time of possession, is how efficient the team is in turning possessions into points. I think you can have a team dominate while keeping time of possession low, because it simply isn't taking you long to move up and down the field. So anyhow, K-State scores on about 46% of their drives. Obviously for ISU it's much lower at 26% of their drives. Now one can say "yeah, but ISU faced maybe the best D in the nation, while K-State has faced UCLA and Missouri State". If one were to compare ISU's totals in the NIU game vs. KSU's in the UCLA game, KSU still has an edge. ISU's was 36%, while K-State's was 41%. Is NIU better on D than UCLA? I have no clue, but it's just something to think about. On the other hand, it's just one game's worth of data too.
It will be a challenge for Iowa State's front seven to stop K-State's rushing attack led by Daniel Thomas. This team can run the ball, and it will be hard to stop. Another tough task. Until they prove they can stop the run against a high caliber O-Line and Running Back, it's hard to expect it as a fan. I hope it happens, but I won't put money on it.
The encouraging news for Iowa State fans, is K-State isn't that good on defense. They did allow 24 points to Missouri State, and 22 points to a UCLA team that isn't that good offensively. Another encouraging sign for ISU fans is that K-State allowed just over 190 yards on the ground to UCLA, and over 160 yards on the ground to Missouri State. ISU is a much better team when A-Rob is making the plays, and K-State may be just what A-Rob needs to get going. K-State does have a decent pass rush, so being weaker against the run plays into Iowa State's strengths.
On paper, this would be a game that I'd expect to feature over 300 yards rushing between the two teams. I think the game comes down to which passing offense is more efficient, and the turnover battle. The team that can complete passes when it's needed will ultimately win this game. This won't be a defensive battle, and I don't think either defense can shut down the other teams' rushing offense for the most part. If both teams perform equally like last year, then it may very well come down to who has the ball last.
I give K-State the edge going into this game. They are coming off of 2 wins, have an NFL caliber running back, and a QB who hasn't thrown a pick yet. This team is playing better, and I would expect them to have more confidence than Iowa State heading into this. If Iowa State can bounce back, then it will be a heck of a game. If not, it could be ugly.
I hate K-State so it pains me to type this out, but I've got K-State 27, Iowa State 17. I feel like Iowa State comes out flat, but scores a little in the second half. Iowa State has a lot to prove, and this game will determine whether they can get to 6 wins or not in my opinion (I had them winning 4 games prior to the season starting). It's not impossible to win this one, but until they can show me they can take care of the ball, and play with confidence, it's hard to pick them.