CrossCyed: Well, we're knee deep into the Big 12 Conference schedule, with the divisional games coming into play. We've decided to try something new here at CloneChronicles, as we engage in an IM conversation with our counterpart TB from Bring On The Cats in order to get a bit more of a back and forth. It's like sports radio you can read. Welcome aboard, TB.
TB: Thanks for having me, CrossCyed. This should be a great new format.
CrossCyed: I figure we can start off with the most important position on the field. We don't get a lot of K-State games up in Iowa. The last I heard about Josh Freeman, he was fat. How's he doing this season?
TB: He has matured. I think the 'fat' thing was kind of a misunderstanding. He focused on lifting weights this summer to the detriment of his cardio workouts, so when it came time for the fitness test, he didn't have the wind to pass for a few days. On the field, he's still a little inconsistent, but for the most part has the offense humming along nicely. He has more touchdowns than interceptions, always a nice thing, and is good for 271 passing yards per game. I'll take it.
CrossCyed: Of course, when you talk about the Wildcat passing game, there's a guy I'm sure you want to talk more about...
TB: Yeah, my hyping of Jordy Nelson hasn't been noticeable or anything lately, has it?
CrossCyed: I've got a cousin named Jordy that thinks he's good at football too. He's in elementary school.....but seriously, what should Iowa State fans know about Jordy?
TB: They should know that he'll probably catch about eight passes for 100 yards and anywhere from one to three touchdowns. That is, unless Gene Chizik decides to have the entire team and the cheerleaders chase him, in which case Deon Murphy or Daniel Gonzalez will probably find themselves on the receiving end of some Freeman passes. The best thing about Nelson is that he does exactly what a player should...shows up, works hard, gets results.
TB: What about the Cyclone passing attack? Bret Meyer has been kind of disappointing this year, do you think we'll see any of Austen Arnaud?
CrossCyed: Earlier in the year, I would have said yes, but Meyer has been playing better the last few weeks. I still don't think Meyer is close to what he was his sophomore year. He rarely goes deep anymore. He's had more time than last year in the pocket, and I'm actually not sure if he's used to that. Arnaud was hurt against Nebraska, and only played in some garbage time against Texas. I expect Saturday's contest to be close, so I don't expect anyone but Meyer at QB.
TB: I see. Is Todd Blythe going to make our cornerbacks look like a bunch of lost little children Saturday?
CrossCyed: He might. He's still a very good wide receiver. Like I mentioned before, we don't have much of a deep game anymore, so he has to work his magic on short and intermediate routes. He's mighty effective on the fade into the endzone, but I honestly think that RJ Sumrall and Marquis Hamilton will be our receptions leaders on Saturday.
CrossCyed: What do the Wildcats have as far as a run game that we need to be concerned with?>
TB: We'll have about as much running attack as Ron Prince decides he wants to utilize. James Johnson and Leon Patton are both excellent backs, who just need as many chances as possible to break some big runs. We saw them get that chance against Colorado, and they ran well when they got a chance against Oklahoma State. But Prince has a tendency to abandon the running game if things don't go well early. I see Iowa State is giving up about 131 yards per game, if we get to that number I'd be happy.
CrossCyed: What's the base offense for K-State?
TB: It's kind of variable. The base set is probably a one-back, one-tight end, three-receiver set. You'll see a lot of shotgun, too, sometimes with two backs. Prince also likes to run some two-tight end sets. Lately we've seen some plays run with a fullback, which has been nice. A lot of times that fullback is one of the tight ends, and it seems to work pretty well for the running game. And of course, because it's Ron "Bold and Daring" Prince, you may see one of the running backs line up in the shotgun and run some kind of wacky play, like the option with Deon Murphy coming in motion.
TB: I want to know about turnovers. Meyer has thrown 11 INTs on the year, and K-State is fourth in the country with 16 INTs on the year. Are you worried about Meyer throwing too many up for grabs, or has that been part of his improvement the last couple weeks?
CrossCyed: He has cut down on his picks lately, but the two he had between OU and Mizzou may have cost us each game. The first one was a pick into the OU endzone, which is essentially a loss of 7 points, and the second one was a fumble into the end zone against Mizzou, which gave them 7 points. I think that the coaching staff is trying to do more outside slants and screens - plays which reduce the risk for Meyer. I fully expect us to dink and dunk against the 'Cats.
CrossCyed: Is there anyone on the Wildcats offense that is exceptionally turnover prone in any way?
TB: Other than Freeman's occasional propensity to make a really bad throw, not really. We've only lost six fumbles on the year, although we've put it on the ground 17 times. In the Oklahoma State game, our tight ends fumbled at least a couple times, which was very strange. If the team comes into Ames unfocused, I could see the ball put on the ground a couple times. I also worry about Deon Murphy every time he fields a punt, but Nelson has been handling most of those duties. But for the most part, Johnson, Patton and Nelson protect the ball pretty well.
TB: What is up with this Alexander Robinson kid? He ran wild on Mizzou.
CrossCyed: ARobs is a redshirt freshman that actually left the team last year and came back. He started the first game of the season, but fell behind JJ Bass and Jason Scales on the depth chart. He had ridden the bench since the Nebraska game due to fumbling problems. However, with Bass coming off of injury (and due to ineffectiveness against Mizzou) as well as Scales not being able to do much against the Tiger defense, Robinson got the nod. I don't know if it was due to fresh legs, but he showed a burst of speed that we haven't seen in a few years. He's expected to get the nod on offense on Saturday. He's got better speed than the other two, and he proved he could hit a hole against the Tigs.
CrossCyed: Moving to the defense, who is Ian Campbell and why should I care?
TB: Ian Campbell is a former walk-on from Cimarron
turned stud defensive end/outside linebacker. My biggest question about the switch to 3-4 defense this year was how Campbell would perform in space, but he has done well. The most disappointing thing is that he has been much less effective as a disruptive force in the backfield, recording only 2.5 sacks. He does have 7.5 TFL, so that's a positive. You should care because he's a guy who, if left alone, could drill Meyer from the blind side and force an important turnover; he has four fumble recoveries on the year.
TB: I want to know about Caleb Berg. He went to a high school about 10 miles down the road from where I grew up, which means you could see the end of the world from his high school. How big of a contributor has he been?
CrossCyed: He was hurt the first part of the year. Last year I really got on him because of his inability to tackle. He's seen limited playing time this year, and he's likely either #2 or #3 on the depth chart going into this weekend.
CrossCyed: Aside from Campbell, what is the strength of the Wildcat defense?
TB: Anything that's not run defense. The secondary has been playing really well. Chris Carney has been a nice addition at safety, snatching four interceptions. Marcus Watts at the other safety is the anchor of the defense, possibly the entire team. He's a leader, a good tackler, and can lay a pretty good hit on an unsuspecting receiver. Even better, he's managing to make most of those big hits legal now.
TB: The last two weeks, Iowa State has played tough games against possibly the two best teams in the conference. Some may say that is a sign OU and Mizzou sleepwalked through what they considered a sure-win game, but it could mean the Clones are buying into Chizik's system. Do you think the Clones translate those games into momentum against K-State, or is the team beaten down and frustrated right now?
CrossCyed: I kind of think that the Kansas State game is the best chance that the Clones have to win this year due to the momentum they gained against the last two teams. I think they now realize that yes, indeed, they can hang with the big boys. I'm not worried about our defense against Kansas State. The Cats will have the least potent offense that Iowa State has seen in weeks. I honestly think it all comes down to how we move the ball. We'll know at the half whether the team thinks they can win, but there is a HUGE difference between the team I saw the first half of the season and the team that has shown up the last two games. If they didn't show they were down after losing a nailbiter to OU, I don't know why they would be against K-State.
CrossCyed: Do you think that the Cats will focus on this game extra hard to try and revive faint hopes for a North Championship? This game would obviously be a must have. Where do you think this game ranks on the importance scale for Prince and the guys?
TB: I sure as hell hope the coaches have something in store for us. The worst part of Ron Prince's teams has been inconsistent performance--see the first half against Baylor last week. We have to win out to have a chance at the North, barring a major collapse by both KU and Mizzou, so I would hope the players realize how important these next three games are, starting this weekend. On the bright side, we may have already seen the turning point, at halftime of the Baylor game last weekend. The Cats were asleep most of the first half, and came out and absolutely handed the Bears their collective asses in the second half. We need to see that kind of effort carry over to next week.
CrossCyed: What's your prediction for the game? You'll actually be able to watch this game, provided you have Versus.
CrossCyed: In addition, what is your assessment of new coach Gene Chizik so far?
TB: A fellow K-State alum who lives down here told me last night he has Versus, so we will be gathering for the game Saturday morning. I think it will be a pretty tight game, but I think the Cats are a pretty solid footb>all team, and should win the game if they play well. For a score, I'll say Wildcats 34, Cyclones 20.
TB: As for Chizik, I think he was a great hire. You'd have to ask PB, but in my opinion most Texas fans were unhappy to see Chizik go. From a scheme perspective, Chizik will give his players an advantage over most other teams. All he needs is talented players, and with scholarship limits and players who want to see the field as soon as possible, he should be able to bring in some good players. Way too early for anyone to predict the heights he could reach in Ames, but I think we'll see Iowa State back in the postseason within a couple years.
TB: I know we're kind of running out of time, but I'd like to hear your prediction for the game, as well as some quick thoughts on Ron Prince's first couple seasons in the Little Apple.
CrossCyed: Well, I predict a slim three point win for the Cyclones, mainly because, well, as an ISU fan, you have to be an optimist with the crap we put up with. In regards to Prince, I felt he dug the Cats out of the hole that was there at the end of the Snyder regime. I think he's a good coach, but it's an important time for KState. With Nebraska down and Missouri and Kansas with power at the top that is questionable in its sustainability, I really do think that after this year the North will be wide open again. It all comes down to taking care of business in conference and building stability.
CrossCyed: Well, TB, thanks for answering some questions. Here's to a spirited beatdown of the Cats, who won't have their Power Towels here to help them.
TB: Haha, thanks for having me. I'll obviously be cheering for an opposite result as we await the awakening from this horrible nightmare that has KU atop the football standings and...undefeated in November (it can't really be real...can it?). Here's to an entertaining game, free of injuries.