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Get your long underwear ready: Previewing the No. 25 Iowa State Cyclones

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The Cyclones are 5-2, and RANKED.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a strange season for TCU’s next opponent, but one that has mostly broken to the good side of things. Iowa State rarely finds itself near the top of the conference standings, but that’s exactly where the Cylones are: tied for second in the Big 12 with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. Obviously there’s a lot of football left to be played, but it appears as if Matt Campbell has the ‘Clones heading in the right direction, with a swarming defense and an offense that looks better every week.

Every way you look at it, this game will probably end up being a serious battle. Ames is always a tough place to play, and now that the Cyclones have an improved squad, their fans will be rowdier than ever. Thank the good Lord above that this is a 2:30 start, and not a night game.

Not to mention that the Cyclones love to upset teams. Oklahoma State in 2011 still haunts Cowboys fans, and look what ISU has done so far this season. They went to Norman and Lubbock and came away 2-0 in those contests. They’ll be more than ready for the Frogs this Saturday.

Iowa State’s Record

5-2, 3-1 (last week: def. Texas Tech 31-13). They’ve gone to Lubbock and beaten Tech. They’ve gone to Norman and beaten Oklahoma. And yet, somehow, they’ve lost at home to Iowa and Texas. Those losses were likely because (in part) of poor quarterback play, but it seems the Cyclones have gotten that all straightened out.

But, take a closer look at the schedule. Yes, the wins over OU and Tech are impressive, but Iowa State’s other wins come against Northern Iowa, Akron, and Kansas. It’s not exactly the toughest slate of games.

It’s also odd that both of Iowa State’s losses have come at home this season, when Ames is typically an incredibly difficult place to play.

Offense

Things have shaped up on offense for Iowa State ever since they inserted Kyle Kempt at starting quarterback. Through three starts, Kempt has thrown for 657 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception. He’s managing the offense well without making mistakes, getting the ball out on time to guys like Allen Lazard, and putting it in the hands of the Cyclones’ electric running back David Montgomery.

Montgomery is rushing at 4.9 yards per clip, with eight touchdowns and 642 rushing yards on the season. He’s also a threat through the air, with 204 receiving yards on the season.

Of course, Allen Lazard, in his 56th year at Iowa State, once again leads the team in receiving, with 33 receptions for 371 yards and five touchdowns. He’s far from Iowa State’s only receiver though, as guys like Hakeem Butler, Trever Ryen, and Marchie Murdock all have 20+ receptions on the season. Of those four receivers, Butler, Lazar, and Murdock check in at 6-6, 6-5, and 6-1 respectively, meaning that TCU’s secondary may have height issues on Saturday.

Currently, Iowa State has the 32nd best scoring offense in the country, averaging 35 points per game. They’ve only scored fewer than 31 points once this season, in a 17-7 loss to Texas where defense was everything and endzones were lava.

Defense

Iowa State currently has the 34th best scoring defense in the country, allowing 20.4 points per game. Opponents have broken the 30-point barrier twice this season, and the Cyclones held high-powered Texas Tech to just 13 points on their home field.

Joel Lanning, born four or five years before Allen Lazard, leads the Cyclones in tackles with 78. He’s also recorded six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery, 75 rushing yards, and 25 passing yards. The quarterback-turned-linebacker is a literal “do everything” guy for Matt Campbell, and his selflessness seems to have rubbed off on his teammates.

The Cyclones defense has eight interceptions and 14 sacks on the season (compared to 7 INTs and 19 sacks for TCU), and they’re allowing just 120 rushing yards per game.

Prediction

The weather in Ames is supposed to drop into the 30s on Thursday night, and stay in that range through the weekend. The high for Saturday is 40. In other words, it’s gonna be cold.

Cold weather always affects receivers and kickers the most, because the ball turns into a rock. Drops have affected TCU already this season, and the kickers have missed three extra points.

If TCU can establish the ground game, that’ll work in their favor. I trust TCU’s defense to present problems for Kempt that he hasn’t seen to this point, but I feel like this will be a low scoring affair.

TCU 27, Iowa State 17

Go Frogs.