Saturday marks the return of Big 12 football, and although the conference schedule hasn’t begun just yet, several teams will be getting in their first game reps of the 2020 season.
Six Big 12 programs are taking the field this weekend including the Iowa State Cyclones, who will host the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in what could be the toughest matchup for a conference team Saturday. TCU fans will be watching closely, as the Horned Frogs will face the Cyclones in their season-opener on Sept. 26 at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Louisiana-Lafayette tested Mississippi State early last season, and the Ragin’ Cajuns could pose a serious threat to Iowa State after posting a promising 11-3 campaign in 2019. Louisiana-Lafayette returns two senior running backs in Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, who teamed up to score nearly 30 rushing touchdowns this past year. The Ragin’ Cajuns also held opponents to just under 20 points per game on defense.
Here are the keys to the game for Iowa State as the Cyclones gear up for their first game.
Stop the Run
The Ragin’ Cajuns are at their best offensively when their backfield is doing damage. Louisiana-Lafayette averaged 6.3 yards per carry in 2019 while compiling 42 touchdowns on the ground, and the Sun Belt Conference team will look to establish the run early in Saturday’s game. It will be up to an Iowa State defense that recorded 85 tackles for loss this past season to put the clamps down on the Ragin’ Cajun ground attack.
Find a Rhythm
The 2019 Cyclones went 4-1 in games where quarterback Brock Purdy completed at least 70 percent of his passes. Purdy only had two games in which his completion percentage was below 60, but both games resulted in Iowa State losses. Getting Purdy involved early with high-percentage throws will be critical to jump-starting the Cyclone offense. Look for tight end Charlie Kolar to be a top target after he compiled only four catches for 45 yards in Iowa State’s season-opener against Northern Iowa in 2019.
Iowa State scuffled early in its 2019 season-opener against Northern Iowa, and the Panthers nearly walked away from Jack Trice Stadium with a stunning triple-overtime upset as a result. While the offense posted quality numbers in the box score, the Cyclones managed only three first-half points and settled for three field goals in the game. Iowa State will need to get on the board early so its defense can take over and control the pace Saturday.