Today, we hear from someone in the know on Iowa State football. Thanks again to Kevin Fitzpatrick of Wide Right Natty Lite, the SB Nation site for the Iowa State Cyclones. Let’s jump in!
1) What has the general consensus been in Ames about the start of Matt Campbell's tenure at ISU?
K: After losing to the in-state FCS school (UNI) and getting blasted by Iowa to start the season, many fans questioned whether Campbell truly has the stuff to turn this program around. Then, over the next three games (TCU, San Jose State, Baylor), Iowa State got a little better each week and most people are back to #TrustingTheProcess.
Even though we lost to Baylor, for three quarters the Cyclone offense looked as good as we've seen it in a long time. Of course, it went kerplunk in the 4th quarter, but to hang 42 on a team with as much talent as Baylor is not something you see out of the product in Ames every game. If the ISU offense can sustain any sort of offensive success, while getting the defense to perform at an average level, we're going to be in a lot of games on the rest of our schedule. And that's enough for most fans who realize that Campbell can't rebuild (or just build, really) Rome in one season.
2) Iowa State has had a disappointing start to the season, but took a step in the right direction last weekend against Baylor. Do you expect to see more of that team, or was it an anomaly?
K: My suspicion is we'll see more performances this year that are similar to how we played against Baylor as opposed to how our first two games of the year went. There will be some down games, sure, but it looks like the players are getting their assignments figured out and are starting to believe, which can go a long way for a program with a losing tradition.
3) Has the offense changed much with the addition of a new, offensive-minded coach?
K: A bit, yes. The main part I'll point out is we have used much more motion this year than under the Rhoads regime. And offensive coordinator Tom Manning already appears to be making logical decisions when it comes to play calling as opposed to pulling stuff out of his butt like it often seemed Courtney Messingham and Mark Mangino did during the last few seasons. I'm talking about getting numbers and then trying to take advantage of those numbers.
ISU still runs a lot of spread concept plays. Campbell believes in using the run to set up the pass, and with Mike Warren having come on during the past few weeks, it's worked pretty well.
4) Who should Oklahoma State watch for on both sides of the ball?
K: On offense, look for Warren to have another nice outing on the ground. A highly-depleted offensive line has performed admirably as of late, which has helped pave the way for Warren to rip off some good chunks of yardage. Another offensive player to watch is speedy true freshman Deshaunte Jones, who often plays out of the slot and has scored 3 touchdowns in the last two games.
On defense, Kamari Cotton-Moya is our hard-hitting strong safety, though he was banged up last week against Baylor, so hopefully he's good to go against the Cowboys. If you're looking for an answer as to who might get to the quarterback, I'll point to Jhaustin Thomas, who has 2 sacks so far this year, but has gotten a few more QB hurries that haven't showed up on paper.
5) What is Iowa State's biggest strength, and what is their weakness?
K: I think Iowa State's biggest strength is having playmakers at RB and WR. Warren does a great job toting the rock, and junior wide receiver Allen Lazard is one of the best pass catchers in the Big 12. Both TCU and Baylor often shaded Lazard with a corner and a safety over the top, showing how much they respect his ability. He's the kind of guy you can lob it up to and he'll come down with it. It's pretty easy to do that at 6-foot-5 with his athleticism.
By far the biggest weakness for the Cyclones is their inability to stop the run, and that mainly stems from subpar play on the defensive line and at linebacker. There's some talent at the top for the D-line (mainly Demond Tucker clogging up the middle), but staying on the field and making the initial tackle have both been issues. The linebackers on our roster right now aren't the best, to put it nicely. We lost the incumbent Jordan Harris to transfer during the offseason. He likely would have led us in tackles this year had he chosen to stay.
6) How do you see this game unfolding? Do you have a score prediction for me?
K: I'll start by saying I don't expect to see ISU win this game. But I see two possibilities.
#1: ISU's offense continues to show progress and looks like they belong on the field with Okie State.
#2: We finally get that "come back down to Earth" following two good performances against SJSU and Baylor.
I'm thinking (and hoping) it'll be scenario 1. Give me a final tally of 38-24 Pokes.
Kevin, I won’t hold it against you for referring to us as “Okie State.” Best of luck on Saturday.