The Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas State Wildcats have played one another every year since 1917 and will meet for the 105th time Saturday to extend college football's longest uninterrupted series. Iowa State has won two of the last three against the Wildcats, including a dominant 45-0 performance last season, but hasn't beaten K-State in Manhattan since 2004 (the only Cyclones victory on enemy soil since 1988).
Matt Campbell's squad enters with a 3-2 overall record, including a 1-1 mark in Big 12 play following a 59-7 win over Kansas on Oct. 2. However, the 31-29 loss to Baylor the previous week knocked the preseason top-10 Cyclones out of the AP poll and hurt their odds of returning to the conference championship game. Kansas State started 3-0, including impressive non-conference victories over Stanford and Nevada, but has come up short in its first two Big 12 games against Oklahoma State (31-20) and Oklahoma (37-31). Like Iowa State, the Wildcats have had an extra week to prepare for "Farmageddon."
Iowa State at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -6.5
When Iowa State Has the Ball
Breece Hall started slower than expected in 2021, rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown in each of his first two games, but the junior running back has picked up the pace considerably in recent weeks. Hall has gained at least 100 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns in each of his last three games, giving him 551 yards and eight scores on 104 carries this season. He now ranks third in the Big 12 in rushing (110.2 ypg) and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (eight). Hall has also been valuable as a receiver with 117 yards and one touchdown on 16 catches.
Quarterback Brock Purdy had a similar slow start, including a three-interception day in the Cyclones' 27-17 loss to Iowa that led to him being benched late in the game. But Purdy has responded well in his last three games, throwing for an average of 265.3 yards per contest, 10.1 yards per pass attempt, and eight touchdowns with only one interception over that period. In all, Purdy has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns, with an average of 8.6 yards per pass attempt. He has been picked off four times and has chipped in with 140 rushing yards on 33 attempts.
Xavier Hutchinson has been by far the most productive Cyclones wide receiver, with 31 receptions, 381 yards, and three touchdowns. Tight end Charlie Kolar ranks second on the team with 17 catches for 238 yards and two scores, followed by Hall, and fellow tight end Chase Allen ranks fourth with 112 receiving yards on nine catches. Wideout Joe Scates had a 44-yard touchdown in the win over Kansas, and there is hope he and Tarique Milton (9 rec., 90 yds., TD) will have more of an impact as the Cyclones enter the meat of the Big 12 schedule.
When Kansas State Has the Ball
Quarterback Skylar Thompson suffered what appeared to be a potential season-ending injury in Kansas State's 31-23 win over Southern Illinois on Sept. 11, but he missed only two games and had one of the best performances of his career against Oklahoma. Thompson was 29-for-41 for 320 yards and three touchdowns without an interception against the Sooners, just 14 yards shy of a career high and only his second 300-yard passing game in 33 starts. Thompson may no longer offer much production as a runner (he suffered a nine-yard loss on a sack on his only rushing attempt against Oklahoma), but his return offers a huge boost to a Wildcats offense that ranks seventh in the Big 12 and 68th nationally in scoring (28.8 ppg).
Running back Deuce Vaughn led K-State with 10 catches and 104 receiving yards against the Sooners and was one of three receivers with a touchdown catch in the game. Vaughn leads the Wildcats in receptions (20) and touchdowns (two), and his 206 receiving yards rank just behind Phillip Brooks, the team's top wide receiver with 17 catches for 225 yards and one score. Malik Knowles (14 rec., 172 yds.), tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (4, 117, TD), and Landry Weber (7, 106, TD) could all see an increased role with Thompson back.
Of course, Vaughn should continue to lead the way on the ground as well. The sophomore has 444 yards and five touchdowns on 90 carries this year, followed by Joe Ervin's 169 yards and a touchdown on 32 attempts. Backup quarterback Will Howard contributed 93 rushing yards and three scores while Thompson was sidelined.
Iowa State entered 2021 with lofty expectations, but two early losses largely removed the Cyclones from the national conversation. However, advanced metrics say the team is better than its record would indicate. Iowa State ranks fifth nationally in net yards per play (2.97), adjusted for non-garbage time against FBS opponents, as well as No. 12 in net points per drive (1.62), and No. 4 in EPA per play margin (0.169) in the same scenarios. Meanwhile, K-State ranks No. 39 (0.76), No. 56 (0.38), and No. 77 (-0.008), respectively.
Iowa State has been particularly tough on defense — the Cyclones rank 15th or better in each category mentioned above. Thompson and Vaughn will provide a tough test, and it can be difficult to overcome a long road losing streak in a longstanding series, but Campbell's team still has Big 12 title aspirations — and is good enough to make a run. Expect a close game early but for the Cyclones to pull away late on the road.
Prediction: Iowa State 34, Kansas State 21
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