This Oklahoma State-Iowa State game got an added bit of luster after the Cyclones inched their way into the rankings this week, landing at No. 23. The Cyclones (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) took down Texas Tech 34-24 in Lubbock last week to improve to 5-2, are now No. 16 in the FPI, and have a win probability of at least 70 percent in four of the last five games.
And the Cowboys (4-3, 1-3) come into this contest snorting fire out of their nostrils after allowing Baylor to score 21 points in the final 10 minutes of last Saturday's game, a 45-27 defeat. The Pokes had a lead at halftime, in the third quarter, and even in the fourth quarter, before the Bears' offense caught fire and pegged them with an L in the loss column. And now the natives are getting restless, prompting head coach Mike Gundy to say, "We're not in a corner."
Nobody puts baby in a corner.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -10.5
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Give it to Chuba. Like, often. Just going to state the obvious here, Chuba Hubbard, the nation's leading rusher (averaging 180.7 ypg), will be a huge key this week. Again. Hubbard is also the only running back in the FBS over 1,000 yards already, sitting on 1,265 — so yes, he leads the nation by a wiiiiiiide margin. ISU's defense is second in the Big 12 against the run, giving up just 111 yards per game, so the skating won't be easy. But the Pokes must get the ground game going in this one.
For crying out loud, hold onto the ball. The Cowboys have suffered eight turnovers in their last two games. Frosh QB Spencer Sanders has had a hand in all eight of them by throwing four interceptions and dropping the pill four times. His fumble in the fourth quarter against Baylor was picked up by Terrel Bernard and returned for a TD, essentially ending the Pokes chances.
Look for a quick hook. Staying on the subject of Sanders and his butterfingers, if he drops the pill or throws an early pick again, look for senior Dru Brown to be inserted in short order. Somebody has GOT to lead this offense while playing error-free.
When Iowa State Has the Ball
Breece is the word. Freshman RB Breece Hall has been a wunderkind in the last few games. And just like Chuba Hubbard, the idea here is to give Hall the ball as much as possible. Hall arrived on campus as the No. 7 overall running back prospect in the country and has not disappointed, garnering two of the top five rushing marks this season by a freshman. He also won two straight Big 12 Newcomer of the Week nods with 315 yards and 7.0 yards per carry in those games. If Hall gets his yards again this week, that's good news for the Cyclones.
Stick with the hot hand. How about this stat: the Cyclones have suffered just five three-and-outs this season, tied for tops in the country. The key has been the outstanding hot hand of Brock Purdy, who has won three straight Big 12 games by going 70-of-98 for 975 yards and eight touchdowns as the 'Clones have outscored those opponents 142-65. FYI, Purdy is also the career leader in completion percentage (68.2 percent) for Iowa State.
Stay disciplined. ISU has been flagged just 30 times this season, which ranks fourth in the NCAA. Compare that with Oklahoma State and the 48 penalties for 441 yards in their seven games so far this season. If this trend continues, that's a HUGE advantage for the Cyclones.
Last year's showdown with the Cowboys was a coming-out party for ISU quarterback Brock Purdy, a third-stringer at the beginning of the season who went 18-of-23 for 318 yards and four touchdowns in the 48-42 track meet. He hasn't relented the starting spot since then.
With a win here, the Cyclones go into a bye week with a four-game win streak and a general positive attitude. But they can't get caught looking ahead to the week off and then back-to-back games with Oklahoma and Texas. Their Big 12 title game hopes depend on their staying focused. The last four games in this series have been shootouts, with both teams scoring 30-plus points.
Only ISU will surpass that number this time.
Prediction: Iowa State 41, Oklahoma State 20
— 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.