We all remember 2017. In the ugliest, least satisfying game of that season, the Frogs fell - HARD - in Ames, dropping a 14-7 decision to Iowa State that was as sloppy and disheartening game we have seen TCU play in recent history.
But, it’s a new year, and while many of the issues that presented themselves that day are making a comeback, this is a different Horned Frogs team and a different Cyclones team meeting Saturday.
Let’s take a quick look at what we can expect from Matt Campbell’s squad.
Best Win: Akron
Well, it’s their only win, so... But Iowa State looked much sharper from week one to week two, bouncing back from an ugly loss to instate Iowa to put it on the Zips. Akron is a good football team (they beat Northwestern at Northwestern), so that’s a quality win.
Worst Loss: Iowa
Wooooof. Losing to your in-state rival sucks. Losing like that to your in-state rival is a whole different kind of suck. The Cyclones had their opener cancelled, and it showed is this sloppy affair - they managed just three points on less than 200 total yards and lost their starting QB. The defense was good, but the offense was... somewhere else.
Know a Guy - Offense: Hakeem Butler
Did you see this:
Zeb Noland ➡ Hakeem Butler on an acrobatic play into the end zone to get us on the board. #Cyclonitas pic.twitter.com/CwU2krNsgF— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) September 22, 2018
That’s a grown man, my friends. Butler is second on the team in receptions with 14, but leads yardage by a mile - 297 - and has three touchdowns. Those are the ONLY three touchdowns that the Cyclones have scored through the air. At 6’6” and 225 pounds, Butler is the latest in a long line of “where do they find these massive wide receivers” for Campbell and ISU. He’s going to be a nightmare on Saturday.
Know a Guy - Defense: Jaquan Bailey
On a defense that doesn’t feature a ton of individual talent, Bailey stands out. He leads the team in TFLs (5.0 for 22 yards) and sacks (1.5 for 11). The junior defensive end seems to always be around the football, and has the potential to wreak havoc against an offensive line against TCU that looked shaky last Saturday.
How Do You Beat Them:
If the Frogs want to remain undefeated at home, the recipe is outscore them. We have seen what happens when these two teams play a defensive slugfest, and it doesn’t favor TCU. Iowa State is averaging less than 20 points per game - 18.67 to be exact - but they are holding teams to just three touchdowns to combat that. This isn’t a team that’s going to run off 40 points on the road, so the Frogs have to be a lot more efficient on the offensive side and continue to play at a high level defensively.
Iowa State is... not great on offense. They are dead last in the Big 12 in third down conversion rate, at less than 35%, last in first downs per game (less than 18), and rushing offense - despite having the league’s third best running back as far as ypg in David Montgomery. This offense is not great.
Kyle Kempt has been out due to injury since the first game, and wasn’t great in that one - just 15 for 21 for 126 yards and no touchdowns. Zeb Noland took over and has been better, but despite completing 68% of his passes, he hasn’t been able to get the offense going. Matt Campbell seems to be using the philosophy that worked so well for Texas - play great defense and don’t let your offense beat you - but it remains to be seen if Noland can go win a game by himself if he has to. TCU needs to be the team to find out, if they want to protect their home field.
While the Frogs have had significant turnover issues this season, the Cyclones aren’t great at forcing them - just one interception and one recovered fumble through three games. Win the turnover battle, win the game. That much we know.
Oh, and where the heck is the running game? I am starting to worry that Darius Anderson isn’t 100% - the junior star has just 37 touches on the season, has yet to have more than 12 in a game, and was held to just 15 yards on eight carries against the Horns. There’s certainly reason to ask questions.
How Do They Beat You:
Simply pound you into submission. This isn’t a defense with a lot of star power, but they sure do play well together. The Cyclones are only allowing 3.5 yards per carry (fourth best in the Big 12), 222 yards per game through the air, and less than 350 yards per game in total. They lead the league in first downs allowed, at less than 18 per, and they’ve only allowed three red zone TDs in eight opportunities.
They are really good on special teams - doing a great job in the return game and converting field goal opportunities at a perfect rate so far.
If Zeb Noland can protect the football, remaining efficient, and find Butler for big plays (something the TCU secondary has shown itself to be vulnerable to), it could be a long 60 minutes.
Bigger Than Football:
There are things that matter more than this game being played on Saturday, and Iowa State certainly knows that. On September 17th, former Iowa State golfer, and 2017-2018 Cyclone Female Athlete of the Year, Celia Barquin Arozamena was murdered in a senseless act of violence. The Iowa State community has rallied around their slain member, and paid moving tribute to her prior to last week’s game.
Iowa State honored slain former golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena in a ceremony prior to Saturday's game with the band forming her initials and with a video tribute. pic.twitter.com/UXzW84Sy3J— ESPN (@espn) September 22, 2018
Fans wore yellow in honor of her favorite color, and I expect we will see more of that this weekend.