The Iowa State Cyclones (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) will look to keep pace in the conference race as they travel to Lubbock on Saturday to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-4, 2-4).
The Cyclones are coming off a blowout victory last weekend over Texas, 30-7, in which they limited the Longhorns to just 207 yards of total offense and 3.2 yards per play. That was Iowa State's fourth win in its last five games, moving the Cyclones into a tie for third in the conference with Baylor. They are just two games back of Oklahoma and will get their shot at the conference leaders next weekend.
It's a strange situation for Texas Tech these days. The school just hired its next head coach this week in former Baylor associate coach Joey McGuire, yet the Red Raiders are still very much in the conversation for a bowl berth with five wins. The Red Raiders are on a five-game losing streak to Iowa State, the longest in the series between these two schools, and have yet to beat the Cyclones since Matt Campbell arrived in Ames.
Iowa State at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -10.5
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The Iowa State offense doesn't blow anyone away, ranked just fifth in the Big 12 in scoring (31.9 ppg) and fourth in total yards (433.6 ypg). But we know what to expect on a week-to-week basis from this group, and that consistency is part of the reason the Cyclones have won four of their last five. Brock Purdy continues to have a bounce-back year, completing 73 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns. Since the benching against Iowa in Week 2, Purdy has thrown just one interception in the last seven games.
Breece Hall is not in the Heisman conversation that many felt he would be in leading up to the season, but remains one of the best running backs in college football, averaging 125 yards per game on the ground with six 100-yard rushing performances in the last seven games. Hall has found the end-zone in every single game to date. When Purdy looks to throw, Xavier Hutchinson and Charlie Kolar are usually on the receiving end, accounting for about 49 percent of the team's total production.
This should be a favorable matchup for the Cyclones against this Texas Tech defense no matter what method they use to move the football, as the Red Raiders are allowing 33 points per game and are in the bottom half of the conference at defending both the run and pass.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Amid all of the hoopla with the coaching hire, there is still a game to play on Saturday for the Red Raiders, and we don't know yet who the starter will be at quarterback between Henry Colombi and Donovan Smith. Colombi got the nod last time out against Oklahoma but was replaced by Smith in the second quarter and saw his most extended action of the season, completing 17 of 22 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. Smith's size (6-5, 230) can offer a different dynamic to the Red Raiders' offense with his legs, as he had been utilized in zone-read plays prior to his insertion into the starting lineup.
As is usually the case with a Texas Tech offense, they don't lack for talent at the skill positions. It's a committee approach in the backfield with a pair of talented running backs in SaRodorick Thompson and Tahj Brooks, who've combined for 12 of the team's 24 rushing touchdowns. At receiver, junior Erik Ezukanma is second in the Big 12, averaging 78.9 yards per game, though has just two touchdown catches despite his 6-foot-5 frame.
The Cyclones have fallen behind Oklahoma State in numerous defensive categories but remain an elite unit that is second in the Big 12 in total defense (281.4 ypg), first in passing defense (179.3 ypg), and 11th nationally in run defense (102.1 ypg).
Both teams have plenty to play for this week, so motivation shouldn't be an issue. The Iowa State defense is the difference here as the best unit on the field, facing what is likely a quarterback making his first career start. A physical dual-threat like Smith can be the ultimate unknown for a defense — as we saw last week in the Big 12 with TCU's Chandler Morris — but the Cyclones don't have many weak spots for opposing offenses to pinpoint with their weekly preparation. A win Saturday for Iowa State sets up a massive matchup next weekend with the first-place Sooners.
Prediction: Iowa State 31, Texas Tech 20
Podcast: Week 11 Preview, Predictions + Picks Against the Spread & the Latest in Coaching and Realignment News
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.