Taking the field as a 31-point underdog last week, and with a walk-on and starting linebacker splitting snaps at quarterback, the Iowa State Cyclones pulled out a dramatic 38-31 upset win over Oklahoma in Norman. Iowa State overcame an early 14-0 deficit to end a string of 18 straight losses to the Sooners. Dating back to 1961, the Cyclones had as many ties (one) as wins against their conference rival. Now 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play, Iowa State has its sights set on a bowl game.
Kansas had a very different experience last week, losing 65-19 to Texas Tech to fall to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the league. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Jayhawks after a 38-16 victory over FCS opponent Southeast Missouri State in the season opener, and a quarterback controversy is brewing after Carter Stanley replaced starter Peyton Bender midway through the loss to the Red Raiders.
Kansas at Iowa State
Kickoff: Saturday Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX Sports Net
Spread: Iowa State -20.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The hangover effect
The win over Oklahoma was arguably the biggest in Iowa State football history. Not only were the Sooners Big 12 favorites, OU also was ranked No. 3 in the nation, had the longest active winning streak (14 straight dating back to 2016) and hadn’t lost to the Cyclones since 1990.
Matt Campbell’s squad proved itself capable of beating the conference favorite and a legitimate national championship contender, but the matchup with perennial Big 12 cellar-dweller Kansas likely won’t be easy. The Jayhawks played Iowa State close last season before falling 31-24, and KU has a potent offense that has averaged 458 total yards per game this season. Plus, the Cyclones have spent the last week getting pats on the back and the game kicks off at 11 a.m. local time – a combination that could impact proper preparation for a potential trap game.
Also, Jacob Park, the Iowa State starter the first four games this season, took a leave of absence from the team before last week’s game against the Sooners, which opened the door for walk-on Kyle Kempt to make his first start. Kempt was outstanding and earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week as well as Davey O’Brien National QB of the Week honors after completing 75 percent of his passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Nevertheless, even after guiding the Cyclones to a huge win, Kempt has minimal experience and his performance will be difficult to repeat weekly throughout Big 12 play.
2. Question marks on offense and defense
Kansas has shown improvement on offense in head coach David Beaty’s third season. The passing attack has averaged 296.6 yards per game, which ranks sixth in the high-flying Big 12 and in the top 25 nationally. Peyton Bender ranks fifth in the conference with 1,373 passing yards and has thrown eight touchdowns, but he also leads the league with eight interceptions, which opened the door for Carter Stanley. The Jayhawks also have benefited from explosive running back Khalil Herbert, who has 493 rushing yards (7.6 ypc) over the last three weeks, but left the game against Texas Tech with an apparent hamstring injury.
However, the Kansas defense – which was expected to be a strength of the team – has struggled. The Jayhawks rank last in the Big 12 in total defense (506.2 ypg), pass defense (305.6 ypg) and yards per play (6.77), all of which rank in the bottom 10 nationally. Led by defensive linemen Dorance Armstrong Jr. and Daniel Wise, the Jayhawks were expected to have one of the best pass rushes in the league. Instead, Armstrong was held without a sack until last week and Wise leads the team with just two. Overall, the Jayhawks have recorded just six sacks, the second fewest in the Big 12 and No. 110 in the FBS.
3. Iowa State Ironman Joel Lanning
Kempt is a great story, and Allen Lazard is one of the best receivers in the Big 12 (if not the nation), but the most interesting man in Iowa State football is Lanning, the Cyclones’ multitalented senior. The starting quarterback for the Cyclones at points during the 2015 and ‘16 seasons, Lanning gave way to Park atop the QB depth chart and moved to linebacker during the spring and summer.
The move has paid off as Lanning leads the team with 54 total tackles and ranks second with 3.5 tackles for a loss. He recorded eight tackles and a sack against the Sooners, and also recovered a fumble, earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors as a result. But with Park out of action last week, Lanning also saw action on 13 offensive snaps and contributed on special teams. The senior threw for 25 yards and ran for 35 and played a total of 78 snaps spread across all three phases, and as long as Park is on the shelf, it’s likely we’ll continue to see a package for Lanning on offense.
Iowa State is riding high following one of the biggest victories in program history, which would usually put the Cyclones in danger of a letdown. And though hosting Kansas the following week is arguably the best-case scenario to avoid the hangover effect, it could be a trap game. The Jayhawks can move the football through the air or on the ground (especially if running back Khalil Herbert is healthy enough to play), but have struggled mightily defensively, which bodes well for an Iowa State offense in transition. A win over the Jayhawks would put Iowa State in a great position to make its first bowl game since 2012. Kansas will pose a challenge, but the Cyclones should prevail.
Prediction: Iowa State 31, Kansas 21
– Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.