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Keys to Victory: TCU at Iowa State

How can the Horned Frogs regroup after a tough loss last week?

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Christian Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The TCU Horned Frogs will travel to Aimes, Iowa to take on Iowa State this weekend. The Cyclones are 2-3 on the year, and Matt Campbell seems to be near shambles (see tweet below). Once again he has a team that plays solid defense but just cannot seem to do anything right on offense. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something in the water in Iowa that does not allow competent offensive football.

In this week’s keys to victory, we won’t be looking at any film because I absolutely refuse to watch Iowa State play football any more than I have to. Last year TCU beat Iowa State in Fort Worth 62-14, ending a 3-game winning streak for the Cyclones in the series. The wild thing is that TCU put up 62 on one of the best defenses in the country that day.

When looking at advanced stats, there really isn’t much that points to an Iowa State victory on Saturday night, but you never know what might happen in a night game at Jack Trice Stadium. However, it’s hard to imagine this TCU defense giving up too many points to Iowa State. The TCU fan base was feeling some type of way after the Colorado loss, but the Horned Frogs defense has rebounded pretty well since the loss, allowing just 15 points and 322 yards per game. On offense, Iowa State ranks 131st nationally in success rate (34.5%) and 116th in EPA (expected points added: The difference between the Expected Points (EP) at the start of a play and the EP at the end of they play). The passing game is the biggest threat, if you want to call it that, where the success rate jumps to 39.5% (90th nationally). The run game for Iowa State has been abysmal, to say the least, as the Cyclones are 120th in the country at 96.6 rush yards per game. The Cyclones rank 132nd in the nation in yards before contact on rushing attempts. Defensively, the plan seems relatively simple this week: don’t commit too many numbers to stopping the run because Iowa State can’t run the ball. If TCU is able to shut down Iowa State’s passing game (and they shouldn’t have to load the box to stop the run) then they should have a good night.

The other side of the ball isn’t so simple. Iowa State is not a bad defense, but they are not nearly as good as they were last year either. The Cyclones rank 37th nationally in defensive success rate at 37.4%, and the defensive EPA ranks 45th in the country. It is worth noting, however, that in their 2 Big 12 games the Cyclones have given up 27 and 50 points. In those 2 games, they gave up 523 and 409 yards respectively. The biggest key here will be taking care of the football. Defensive back Jeremiah Cooper has 4 interceptions on the year, so Chandler Morris needs to be aware of where Cooper is at all times. If Morris takes care of the ball, TCU’s run game should be able to get going. The Frogs are 37th in the nation in rushing success rate, and the rushing EPA comes in at 12th.

What to watch for.

  1. TCU’s offensive line has to be better this week. The offensive success rate against West Virginia was 44%. Emani Bailey only averaged 3.5 yards per carry on the night.
  2. Red zone opportunities have to result in touchdowns. If TCU can’t score in the red zone, watch out.
  3. Prevent explosive plays from Iowa State’s pass game. The Cyclones will more than likely struggle to get the run game going. If TCU doesn’t give up big plays in the pass game, Iowa State will have a hard time creating touchdowns.