GAME NOTES: The Iowa State Cyclones will face a ranked opponent for the second straight week as they invade Floyd Casey Stadium for a Big 12 Conference battle with the No. 12 Baylor Bears.
Iowa State suffered another close loss and dropped to 1-4 on the campaign last week as it fell, 42-35, to the 20th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders. All four of the Cyclones' losses have been by eight points or less, including a one-point setback to Texas that featured a controversial call. Paul Rhoads has led ISU to a win over a ranked opponent in each of the last three seasons, making him the only coach in school history to do so.
The Bears improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 play last week with a 35-25 decision at Kansas State. One more win will give them their first 6-0 start since 1980. They have now won nine games in a row overall and their victory over the Wildcats tied the program record of five straight Big 12 wins. Coach Art Briles could make school history with a win on Saturday as no Baylor squad has ever won its first three Big 12 games since the school joined the league 16 years ago. Baylor's success moved it up to No. 12 in the most recent polls, its highest ranking since 1991. The Bears have never been the highest ranked team in the Big 12 before in history.
Iowa State holds a narrow edge in its rivalry with the Bears and holds a 6-5 all-time series lead. Both teams entered last season's bout with five wins in the history of the rivalry before the Cyclones downed Baylor, 35-21, at Jack Trice Stadium on Oct., 27 2012. The Bears have not been held under 30 points in 11 games since their loss to ISU.
Although the Cyclones posted 35 points their last time out, they were outgained by Texas Tech, 666-311, in total yards. ISU got a lift from Jarvis West, who returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. The team has still scored 30 points or more in each of its last three game and averages 32.5 ppg in Big 12 play. The Cyclones have netted 174.3 yards rushing and 228.3 yards passing per contest over the span of their last three games. Junior running back Aaron Wimberly has emerged as a feature player in the offense with 319 yards and three touchdowns on 67 carries in those three contests.
Sophomore quarterback Sam B. Richardson has helped on the ground as well, averaging 52.3 yards per game on the ground over the last three. Although he struggled with his efficiency last week, completing only 15-of-38 attempts for 168 yards, he extended his consecutive streak of games with a touchdown pass to eight by throwing one. Texas Tech was the first team this season that managed to hold Richardson to less than two touchdown passes and 240 passing yards. Quenton Bundrage is a big play threat in the aerial attack and paces ISU with 323 yards and four touchdowns on 18 catches. ISU is now 17-of-17 in the red zone this year with 13 touchdowns and four field goals, good for first in the nation.
Defensively, ISU has been decent with allowed averages of 393 yards of total offense and 26.8 ppg. However, the Cyclones conceded 666 yards and allowed the Red Raiders to break a 24-game streak of holding foes under 40 points last week.
"We gave up 42 points this past Saturday. That is a lot of points to give up as a defensive coach. This team is averaging 63," said Rhoads. "I don't like to see it. You've got to do something about it as an opponent and as a defensive football team. We're working fast to figure that out, we're not going to score 64 points on Saturday."
They were able to keep the score close by forcing three turnovers, giving them 11 takeaways on the season. The defensive unit is anchored by a pair of seniors in linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington. George ranks 15th among FBS players and leads the conference in tackles at 10.2 per contest, while Washington is second in the Big 12 with 10.0 per outing.
Rhoads's concern with getting his defense on point is well placed as Baylor is leading the nation in total offense (715.4 ypg) and scoring (63.4 ppg) while showing off incredible balance by ranking second in passing (414.2) and fourth in rushing (301.2). The Bears became the first team ever to post 69 points or more in their first four games to begin a season, including a season-high 73 on West Virginia in their Big 12 opener. Last week they were slowed down for the first time in 2013, amassing only 451 total yards of offense and 15 first downs against Kansas State. Senior tailback Glasco Martin thinks the best is yet to come.
"There definitely is (more that you haven't seen), said Martin. "Bryce's (Petty) confidence is growing more and more. I'm getting better each game. Lache (Seastrunk) is a completely different player than he was last year. The way I see it, our offense is limitless. Antwan and Tevin are playing great. We can do anything we want to really on offense."
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty still had a sensational performance by any measure versus the Wildcats as he completed 13-of-22 attempts for 342 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Tevin Reese made five receptions for 184 yards and two scores. Reese's made a huge play with a 93-yard touchdown reception before Antwan Goodley made a 72-yard touchdown grab seven minutes later. Goodley finished with 139 yards on five grabs. Martin tallied 70 yards on 16 carries to pace the rushing attack.
Goodley is second among FBS players with 135.8 receiving yards per outing. Reese is right behind him on the Big 12 leaderboard with 121.8 ypg. Petty leads the conference in a handful of passing categories, including yards (1,690), touchdowns (13), efficiency (230.6) and has been picked off only once.
The Bears' defensive unit had no trouble through the first three games against a trio of weak non-conference foes, surrendering only 23 points before Big 12 play. They have allowed 33.5 ppg in two conference games and allowed KSU to compile 327 yards and three touchdowns on the ground last week. Junior linebacker Bryce Hager did his best to stifle KSU as he registered a career- high with 18 tackles, including two for loss and one sack. Hager is just behind ISU's Washington on the Big 12 tackle leaderboard with 9.6 per tilt. Sophomore defensive end Shawn Oakman is also an impact player with a conference-leading average of 1.8 TFL per game.
The Cyclones have little to show for an overall solid effort through five games this season. Their record is most likely going to stay at a disappointing level as they make their way through a treacherous Big 12 schedule. Baylor holds a clear upperhand on both sides of the ball and should be able to win convincingly if it avoids turnovers. ISU is a tough team to count out, but defeating the fully-loaded Bears seems like an impossible task.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 41, Iowa State 24