What will it take to leave Ames with a win against a red-hot and ranked Iowa State? We take a look in this week’s keys to the game.
Special Teams: Iowa State’s punter is excited to face KaVontae Turpin. Someone check Iowa State’s punter for concussion-like symptoms, please. If he truly isn’t going to kick away from the Frogs’ dynamic return man, this could certainly be the swing point for TCU in Saturday’s game. The fear is, of course, Turp trying to do too much against a team not named Kansas and taking a big loss, but ultimately you have to let your best weapons loose. Not many teams have dared kick at KT, so if he gets a shot to break one, it will be appointment viewing.
On that note as well, cold weather turns leather footballs into granite, which will make things tougher for Adam Nunez and Jonathan Song. Hopefully TCU’s kickers can overcome the weather and kick em straight.
Mountain Out of a (Kenny) Hill: Most games come down to quarterback play, and Saturday won’t be any different. Kenny doesn’t need to outplay Kyle Kempt - though he’s certainly capable - he just needs to out execute him. Hill has been so good over the last three games - he has a 6:0 TD:INT ratio, is completing 67% of his passes, has thrown for 763 yards, and has two rushing scores as well. If Hill can just keep playing like he’s been playing, the Frogs will be just fine in Ames. This will be the best defense he has faced since WVU though, and a secondary that’s aggressive and ball-hawking. I expect to see more of him in the run game in response, stretching the pocket and having to make throws on the move. He was very good in that department against Kansas last week (yes, it was Kansas), so hopefully that accuracy and the ability to step into throws continues on the road.
Lean on the Run: Kyle Hicks has rounded nicely back into form, and appears to have regained his lead-back role. The Frogs will need him at his very best Saturday, in the run game, as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, and against the blitz - something that the Cyclones are likely to use a lot. With the weather, TCU will likely look to run the ball 35+ times, and while Hicks will likely carry the heavy load, there should be plenty of touches for Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua, as well as Kenny Hill on designed runs and RPOs. The offensive line hasn’t opened massive holes like we saw early in the year since the loss of Patrick Morris, but has still been very good and should be up to the challenge presented by a really good ISU defensive front.
Well Kempt Man: Kyle Kempt is a great story - a walk on redshirt senior who had to wait until several games into his final season to make a start. And boy did he grab hold of the opportunity and run with it. Kempt displays great accuracy, but doesn’t have the big arm, which is the perfect recipe for the TCU defense to shine. Without the threat to run (he has 25 yards on the ground this season), the TCU front four should be able to pin their ears back on passing downs and keep Kempt uncomfortable. A good pass rush, one that doesn’t allow him to put his accuracy to use, could be all the difference, and help the secondary hold up against the massive WRs the Cyclones roll out in bunches. Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen will need to live in the backfield, while Ross Blacklock and Chris Bradley have to plug up the middle and limit the running game.
We are certainly in for a good game, but if a disciplined, focused Frogs team handles their business, they have a great shot to come home 8-0.