Iowa State football controls its own destiny in the Big 12 title race and that quest for a championship continues versus Kansas State on Saturday.
The job that Matt Campbell has done with this Iowa State program could get more attention to blue blood schools that are struggling. Over the next 12-18 months, it wouldn’t be surprising if a Michigan or Michigan State comes calling to try and reel in the man from Massillon, Ohio.
For now, the Cyclones are off to a 5-1 start in conference play and sit atop the rankings of the Big 12 in the latter half of November. The Cyclones are lead on offense by dynamic running back Breece Hall. The absence of David Montgomery two years ago had Cyclone fans wondering if they would have another running back with that level of success.
The sophomore from Wichita has answered the call, and then some.
The long term answer didn’t wait too long, as Hall has rushed for a staggering 1,034 yards and 13 touchdowns in just seven games played. He currently ranks first in the nation in rushing yards and third in rushing touchdowns. Even with quarterback Brock Purdy not quite meeting preseason expectations, it has not stopped this Iowa State offense.
Defensively, Iowa State has one of the best run defenses in the entire conference. Lead by Mike Rose and JaQuan Bailey, the Cyclones lead the conference in tackles for loss and has one of the better pass defense units in the conference.
Rose has been all over the place, as he leads the team in tackles (56), 3rd in tackles for loss (6), and leads the team in interceptions (3).
For Chris Klieman’s squad in Manhattan, they got off to a roaring start, including beating then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman, 38-35. The momentum started to get away from them when starting quarterback Sylar Thompson went down for the season with a shoulder injury. His replacement in Will Howard has not been great as he’s thrown for 884 yards and five touchdowns to go along with five interceptions. Howard can be a running threat though as he has added 232 yards and two touchdowns with his legs.
Kansas State has a lot of youth at skill positions, but they are dangerous. The star of that unit is running back Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn has immediately become one of the most dynamic players in the Big 12 with his ability to avoid tacklers and his electrifying speed.
Defensively for Kansas State, they have struggled at times with giving up a lot of yardage. Although they give up 25 points per game, they give up 250 per contest through the air alone. Jahron McPherson has been a bright spot for the secondary, leading the team in tackles and two interceptions.
The defensive line has been solid and the best part of the team. However, they are coming off giving up 37 to Jarrett Doege-led West Virginia just two weeks ago.
This matchup features two of the most exciting running backs in the conference, as both have their impact in separate ways. Vaughn is quite possibly, the best receiving back in the conference and wins with his acceleration after first initial start speed. For Hall, he is the most complete back in the conference as he has a great blend of speed, strength, and finish in each of his runs.
Here’s how to watch the matchup between the Cyclones and the Wildcats:
Keys to Victory
For Kansas State, they have to find a way to contain Breece Hall. Over the season, Kansas State’s run defense has done a solid job and have impact players on the front seven with Drew Wiley and Wyatt Huber to plug up holes (combined 12 tackles for loss and nine sacks). However, the Wildcats have not faced a rushing attack like Iowa State’s.
Hall has rushed for over 100 yards in all seven of his games this season and if Kansas State wants to win this game, they need to limit him to under 100.
For the Cyclones, it’s defensively to harass Will Howard. He stepped in early in the season when Skylar Thompson got injured but has not been overly impressive to say the least and Kansas State’s run game isn’t over powering.
Defensively, the Cyclones just need to keep everything in front of them and don’t let a team that is not explosive, get chunk plays. Securing tackles on speedsters like running back Deuce Vaughn and wide receivers, Chabastin Taylor and Phillip Brooks is going to be key. If Iowa State is able to limit big plays, it should roll easily.
The faith in Will Howard has dwindled over the weeks and Kansas State just doesn’t have much going right recently. After a 4-1 start, they got throttled by West Virginia and lost a close heartbreaker last week while only scoring 18 points. Iowa State’s defense is impressive as the Cyclones have something to prove and a statement win will do just that.
Final Score: Kansas State 17, Iowa State 34