Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Cowboys look to bounce back after a tough loss in Bedlam this past weekend. That will be no small task, though, with the giant killers of Iowa State looming.
I went behind enemy lines and spoke with Wide Right & Natty Light’s Levi Stevenson, giving us an inside look at the Iowa State Cyclones and detailing why they’ve had so much success this season. Levi is all in on “The Process” and it’s safe to say that he’s confident in his Cyclones pulling off another upset on Saturday. Check it out:
1. We're nine games into the 2017 college football season and Iowa State is 6-3. They have knocked off two top 6 teams and control their own destiny for the Big 12 championship game...WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON IN AMES!?
The Process is what's going on in Ames. Players have bought in wholesale to the idea and fact that they can compete with and beat anyone on any given night. Beyond that, player driven leadership and accountability have been a driving factor. Prior to Campbell, the coaching staff had to worry about little things like making sure players watched film, ate right, got in the weight room, etc., instead of being able to dedicate their time to gameplanning, as they should be. Now, players are leading themselves and teaching the younger guys what it takes to win in the Big 12.
2. With Jacob Park at quarterback the Cyclones were 2-2. After the switch to Kyle Kempt, they have gone 4-1. What is Kempt giving the Cyclones that they weren't getting with Park?
A game manager. Park is a gunslinger in every sense of the word. He certainly made the offense more explosive with his ability to make every single throw on the field, but he could be turnover prone at times. Kempt plays within his limitations and doesn't make mistakes. If your team can consistently win the turnover battle, you'll always have a shot to win the game.
3. Joel Lanning has been an iron man for the Cyclones this year and probably hasn't paid for a single drink in Ames all year long. What does he bring to this team and how much can OSU expect to see him on offense on Saturday?
On defense, he brings incredible toughness and leadership, along with excellent open field tackling and intelligence. His emergence as one of the best linebackers in the Big 12 has been nothing short of remarkable, but if you ask the coaching staff if they're surprised, they'll say no. Joel is too smart, too athletic, too driven, and too tough not succeed, even at a position as difficult as middle linebacker. His work ethic and leadership are infectious to everyone on the team.
4. Who are some players on each side of the ball that OSU fans may not be familiar with, but should definitely keep an eye on this weekend?
Among Iowa State's redwoods at receiver is junior Matt Eaton. After coming in as a heralded JUCO recruit, Eaton has slowly emerged as one of Iowa State's best route runners. Given the presence of Allen Lazard and Hakeem Butler, Eaton almost always has single coverage, making him that much more dangerous.
5. A big reason for Iowa State's success this season has been the play of their defense, especially in the second half of games. OSU brings the second ranked scoring offense to town on Saturday (45.3 ppg). What will the Cyclones do to try and slow down Mason Rudolph and company?
Stopping the deep ball will be priority #1, and the Cyclones are very good at it. They will force Mason Rudolph to make accurate throws into tight windows, and virtually never beyond 15 yards. Rudolph would do best to be patient and take the underneath routes the defense will give him, or put himself at risk of turning the ball over.
It will also be important for the Cowboys to get a fast start, as scoring points against Iowa State gets exponentially harder after halftime. Just ask Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU, and West Virginia.
6. I'm a huge fan of Matt Campbell and what he's building in Ames. Are Cyclone fans optimistic that they can keep him at Iowa State when bigger programs come calling?
While it's difficult to say, Campbell could become another Gary Patterson that stays for a long time and turns down tons of big offers along the way, but Campbell certainly seems like he's interested in turning Iowa State into a perennial winner. He just built a house in Ames, and money has never been a priority for him, so I think he stays around for a lot longer than people think.
In Matt Campbell's mind, if Tom Osborne can build Nebraska into a powerhouse, why can't he do it at Iowa State? I think Cyclone fans are even starting to buy into that as well.
7. Prediction time. Who do you have, and why?
I like Iowa State's ability to force turnovers and the massive special teams advantage they have. Field position could be critical in this game, and Iowa State's ability to flip the field with special teams can give them a serious advantage over the Pokes' special teams unit that ranks dead last in the FBS. I think the Cyclones win this one with special teams and defense, the way Bill Snyder and Frank Beamer meant it to be.
Do you agree with our frenemies at Wide Right & Natty Lite? Leave your comments below!