Don't adjust your computer monitors or smartphones. The Iowa State Cyclones are at the top of the Big 12 standings. The freaking Cyclones. In case you're wondering, ISU last won a conference championship in 1912 on the strength of a stellar 2-0 record in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Right now, the Cyclones' 4-1 mark has them tied for first in the Big 12 with Kansas State, who just lost 37-10 to West Virginia.
Meanwhile, the Baylor Bears (1-3) has played just four games after having three others postponed in the first month of the season. The Bears are fresh off a 33-23 loss to TCU, a game that was not as close as the score indicates.
Baylor at Iowa State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -13.5
When Baylor Has the Ball
Get the jumper cables for this offense. Three minutes into the second quarter vs. TCU last week the Bears had 21 yards on 20 plays and trailed 27-zip. Yowza.
Four-year starting quarterback Charlie Brewer has sputtered with accuracy issues, and his receivers had a case of the dropsies. Larry Fedora was brought in as the new offensive coordinator and so far he has been met with groans from the Bears fan base. The phrase "if it weren't for Kansas" is used a lot to discuss BU's second-to-last offense in the Big 12. The offense could use some creativity and take some chances to get early momentum.
Gotta establish the run. Get creative? Yes. But also, go back to the basics too and get the ground game to establish some consistency. Due to COVID-19 issues, last week's TCU game was the first time the Baylor O-line was finally able to start the five guys they intended to have to begin the season. That should be a good sign. In their three losses, the Bears have run the ball for 27, 64, and 75 yards. For the season, Brewer has run the ball 40 times, more than any of the running backs on the team. Not good.
Protection. In the last three games, Baylor's offensive line has given up 13 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss overall. Iowa State ranks third in the conference in sacks with 18 so far this season with Will McDonald (5.5) and JaQuan Bailey (5.0) at the top. Again, the O-line is finally intact with all hands on deck. Time to establish an identity and assert themselves. Or time to mail it in.
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The offense looks Purdy. It all starts with quarterback Brock Purdy, who commands the short passing game for the Cyclones. His numbers aren't going to wow you but he is a steady force who makes good decisions, has zero career turnovers in the red zone, and distributes the ball very well. In the first quarter vs. Kansas, he was 9-for-9 for 82 yards, connecting with six different receivers. In ISU's case, the pass sets up the run. Which brings me to...
Breece Hall's Heisman campaign. I'm being a little facetious but really, why NOT have the ISU running back in the discussion? The sophomore from Wichita has been very consistent, passing the century mark in all six games and averaging a healthy 6.7 yards per carry to go with his 901 yards and 11 touchdowns. Watching him run is like watching butter melt, he's just so smooth and so effortless. Averaging 150 yards per game, Hall leads the Big 12 in rushing (yes, well ahead of Chuba Hubbard's 110 ypg) and will face what can be an iffy Bears run defense (gives up 177.3 ypg).
The Baylor D actually ain't *that* bad. Despite that terrible start vs. TCU, prior to that game, the Bears had some good moments on defense. They currently sit fourth in the Big 12 at giving up 372 yards per game allowed and are also 13th nationally in third-down defense holding opponents to a 32 percent conversion rate. The key is getting their offense to sustain some drives to help keep the defense fresh and competitive.
This is a little bit of a mismatch, especially when you compare the offenses and the sideline enthusiasm. The Bears are punchless and listless. The Cyclones are clicking and confident. Another poor start for the Bears and the result here won't be much different than that 30-0 first-half lead that TCU put on BU.
If I was on the Baylor coaching staff, I'd put on the game film of Iowa State's loss to Louisiana and wear that sucker out to find some dents in the armor. But it still may not help. Cyclones will roll on.
Prediction: Iowa State 31, Baylor 13
Podcast: Week 10 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.