[Update: Casey Pachall will not play Saturday against Iowa State. Frog o' War Bloggers discuss this development, and its implications for the TCU-ISU game here.]
TCU's fifth opponent, and first Big 12 opponent in Fort Worth this season Iowa State. The Cyclones does a couple things well—they slow the game down, and turns the ball over. That reminds me of TCU, actually. After Cyclones’ third win this year, and second despite losing the turnover battle, coach Paul Rhoads said, "God bless us. We win more games losing the turnover battle than anyone in America, and I don't like that."
Of course, last Saturday the Frogs won, and probably because they forced so many SMU turnovers. So at least in this category TCU is undoubtedly ahead of ISU.
As for slowing the game down, this is the result of Iowa State’s attempt to run a steady offense, slightly favoring the run. ISU rushes on about 55% of its offensive snaps, and almost nets four yards per carry. James White (5.7 ypc) and Shontrelle Johnson (5.0 ypc) do the heavy lifting; with their high per-carry lines, one wonders why they are not given more of the load. Together they have less than 80 carries on the year.
Coach Rhoads' TCU-week Press Conference.
Steele Jantz is purportedly a dual threat, and has carried the ball more than either of his runningbacks. But he nets only 1.5 ypc, which is about 25% better than Seńor Pachall’s per-carry total. Jantz does spread the ball around pretty decently—he completes 66.9% of his throws. His receivers help him out: none of them who have caught multiple passes has less than a 70% catch rate when targeted. Runningback James White is Jantz’s escape option out of the backfield, and he has missed catching that escape throw only once this season. This is a big red flag for TCU fans looking for the Frogs to beat the spread (currently about two touchdowns). Steele Jantz is the most accurate quarterback TCU has faced to date. Combined with disciplined running, the Cyclone offense will stress TCU’s defense the most it has been this season, so far. With one exception: Jantz has thrown 7 picks already; expect TCU to kill multiple Iowa State drives on Saturday with interceptions. The ISU defense will stress TCU’s offense pretty well, also. The Cyclones play a 4-3, and play it well. Every starter on defense is either a junior or a senior. ISU is 18th nationally in rushing defense, 17th in pass-efficiency defense, and 18th in total defense. ISU is the only team to have as many players in the top 13 of passes defended as TCU, with five: DBs Deon Broomfield (1.5 p/game), Jansen Watson (1.0), Jacques Washington (1.0) Jeremy Reeves (0.75) and linebacker Jake Knott (1.25). (TCU’s are Verrett, 2.0, Olabode, 1.5, Hackett 1.0, Cain, 0.75, and Carter 0.75). D-lineman Cleyon Laing is a disruptive player—he has two sacks, two more tackles for loss, and a forced humble so far this season. But the star of the show—and of the team—is senior linebacker A.J. Klein, number 47. Coach Rhoads says he’s both disciplined and instinctual, saying Klein doesn’t just read the QB’s eyes, but also plays his role in the defense, so that he doesn’t leave players open. Klein returned a touchdown last week for six, despite playing through nagging injuries. I think Iowa State presents the toughest test for TCU this season, and that a B or even A minus effort from the Frogs will put TCU into position to be upset by the Cyclones. Whether ISU can capitalize on the opportunity is unclear, but the 14 point spread favoring the Frogs in their Big 12 home opener seems too favorable to me. TCU wins, 27-17.