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Week Four Preview: Army

Week four is here, the last of the non-conference matchups. Big game as ISU tries to build some momentum heading into Big 12 play.

The Basics:

  • Records: ISU (2-1), Army (2-1)
  • Date: Saturday, September 26th, 2009
  • Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
  • Time: 6:00pm CDT
  • TV: None, but can be seen on Clone Zone
  • Line: ISU - 10, O/U 46.5
  • Key Players Out: None. ISU has reinstated the three suspended players, including Kennard Banks.

At A Glance:

This is the first time Iowa State is hosting Army. Coming off of a convincing road win, many Cyclone fans are expecting another. The story of this matchup is how Iowa State's defense will do against Army's Triple Option?Whoever wins that battle, wins the game.

This game is huge to both teams as they have new head coaches and are trying to get to the 6 win mark. After looking at both teams schedules' if one of these teams wants to get to 6 wins, they will have to win this game.

 Things You Should Know, Keys to the Game, and My Prediction After The Jump!

Things You Should Know:

  • If attending the game, get there early. There will be a fly over by Three Black Hawk helicopters after the national anthem, there will be a tribute video for both teams just before they take the field along with many other events during the day.
  • Do not boo Army when they take the field (if you are attending the game). The athletic department has asked that ISUfans cheer both teams when entering
  • Expect to see a lot of running.Army is 5th in the Nation in Rushing Yards/Game (257.7) while ISU is 13th (212.0). From a total offense perspective these teams are close. ISU puts up 353 yards/game, while Army puts up 318.
  • Army is a quick starting team. 40 of their 70 total points on the season have come in the first half.
    The last time ISU was a double digit favorite was in 2006 against UNLV, and the time previous was at Army in 2005.
  • Army really cannot pass the ball.They have only completed 40.5% of their passes, and have a 1:1 Ratio between TDs and INTS, and only average about 12 pass attempts per game.
  • This will be a huge test for our offensive line. Army's defense is no joke.  They are averaging 3 sacks per game,allow only 77 rushing yards/game (13th best in the Nation) and 201 passing yards/game (50th in the Nation). Their total defense in terms of yards allowed is 16th best in the Nation compared to Iowa State's being 64th best. Army is also 12th in the Nation in takeaways per game at 3.0, while ISUhas the slight edge with 3.5.  Y
  • You may have heard about Army's Double Eagle Flex defense they have installed this year. The basic concept is to force runs outside to the outside linebackers. They line up with 4 down linemen, 2 outside linebackers, and a middle linebacker that is "flexed'. This middle linebacker mostly lines up in the "A" Gap (between the Center and Guard), and either rushes (and often times someone from the defensive line drops into covereage), or drops back into coverage. The middle linebacker can roam. He can lineup in the secondary, and as an outside rusher for example as well. In short, you never know who is rushing andwho is dropping into coverage. They also mix it up with lots of stunts and blitzes.
  • These teams are evenly matched, believe it or not.  ISU has a slightly better offense, while Army has a better defense. 
  • Be careful in expecting a blowout.  The last time ISU was a double digit favorite and won by double-digits was in 2003 against Ohio (18 point favorites, won by 28). Last year, Army only lost to Texas A&M by 4 points. Just sayin'

Keys To The Game:

  • ISU getting off to a quick start on both sides of the ball.  As noted above, Army gets off to quick starts, then as teams adjust to the triple option in the 2nd half, Army slows down. As proof, Army has scored 3 total points in the 3rd quarter so far. They pick it up a little in the 4th quarter, likely due to defenses getting worn down. I just worry that ISU will start the game slow, coming off a big win for the program. Keeping things simple on offense. Picking up where the rush is coming from, zone blocking, and finding the open man when passing.
  • Staying disciplined on defense. The triple option is much easier to stop if you stay with the guy you are supposed to be covering. Offenses like to mix it up with reverses and misdirections, so staying disciplined (not giving up your ground in trying to be the hero), helps limit yardage and big plays. If Army cannot make big plays, they can't win.
  • Tackling properly.  If you stay disciplined on defense, the only other way this offensive scheme will hurt you is to commit mistackles.
  • Win the battles in the trenches. Our strength has been running the ball, and Army's defensive strength is their front seven, as they can stop the run and have been successful in pressuring opposing QBs. ISU has had issues (in my opinion) from the front four, while Army's offensive line does a good job opening up holes for their offense to run. It's a game about the fundamentals, and the better team fundamentally is going to win this.
  • Staying smart with the passes. If Army can shut down ISU's running game, they will go to the pass. The receivers need to run good routes, and Arnaud needs to recognize and find the open man. If we commit unforced errors in the passing game, it could be a long afternoon.


I am excited for this game, as I think we're going to learn a lot about the Cyclones. We will find out if the passing game is improved, if we're a good running team (or if we've just been facing bad running defenses), and if our defense can stop a physical offense.

I think it's going to be a closer game, with ISU winning 27-21. I think Army eats clock and controls the first half, while ISU opens the game up more in the second half. We haven't beat a double digit dog by more than 1 possession since 2003, so I'm staying with the recent trend.