Ready for a knock-down, drag-out Big 12 matchup between Texas Tech and Iowa State? These two teams seem really even when you take in all the factors. Even the ESPN Football Power Index shows Iowa State with a 50.5 percent chance to win and Texas Tech at 49.5 percent. Can’t really get any closer than that.
The Cyclones do have the advantage of coming into this game brimming with confidence having beaten two straight ranked opponents in No. 25 Oklahoma State (48-42) and No. 6 West Virginia (30-14). Those two wins evened their overall record at 3-3 and 2-2 in Big 12 play and have featured new wunderkind starting quarterback Brock Purdy, who has provided a shot in the arm.
The Red Raiders have a better record at 5-2 (3-1 in the Big 12), but have been a roller-coaster ride as well. Still, their defense has been really solid since the 42-34 loss to West Virginia, holding TCU to 14 points and Kansas to 16. The Double T stops unit has allowed only 65 points in the second half of games through the first seven.
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 27th at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback vs. quarterback
It’s not often you get a pair of high-quality freshmen facing off in a Big 12 game but that’s what we have here in Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman and Iowa State’s Brock Purdy. Bowman comes in tops in the Big 12 with 348 passing yards per game. In the lone game he missed this year, the Raiders scored just 17 points in edging TCU 17-14. There is just a different kind of confidence with Bowman at the controls of that tempo offense. Meanwhile Purdy has been a lightning bolt since taking over for Kyle Kempt. The first four games ISU averaged 17 points and 299.5 yards of total offense. In the last two games, Purdy has led the Cyclones to an average of 39 points and 481.5 yards of offense. It will be interesting to see which newbie keeps firing here in Ames on Saturday.
2. The sack attack
You don’t normally think of Iowa State as a great defensive squad, but so far the Cyclones have played really well. They have held every opponent under their season average and lead the Big 12 in total defense at just 317 yards per game. Best of all? The sack pack has gone on the attack. Against both Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the Cyclones' defense tied the school record for sacks in a game with seven. To date, they are eighth nationally in sacks per game at 3.3 and have had 14 different players get in on the sack dance party. And you know how pass-happy Tech will be of course. This could be a bad omen for the Techsters if their O-line can’t keep Bowman upright.
3. Don’t underestimate the running game
Even though the QBs and the passing game will be the main modus operandi, both rushing attacks have been very effective for these two teams. Though they don’t have a dominant back, Ta’Zhawn Henry (336 yards) leads of stable of six ball carriers with triple-digit rushing totals. In fact, as a team Tech has its second-highest rushing yardage through seven games since the 2000 season. For Iowa State, the Cyclones have been uncharacteristically deft at passing and believe it or not, one of the worst teams in the country in running the ball (ranking No. 109 in the FBS at 124 yards per game). But this belies the fact that workhorse David Montgomery is 16th in the country in rushing at 105 yards per game. So go figure.
Possession and ball security will of course play a huge role, as it always does. Especially since Texas Tech went into last weekend’s game with Kansas second in the country in ball protection, having fumbled just once this season. But the Jayhawks pounced on two fumbles while forcing two others and also nabbed an interception. The Raiders can’t afford to go all butterfingers on themselves again this week, or they’ll be in for a long day in Ames.
Iowa State has played the toughest schedule in the country so far this season according to the Sagarin Rankings as their first seven opponents have a combined record of 32-15 entering this week. And as mentioned above the last two wins have been against quality competition. Having had an off-week also is a big bonus for the homestanding Cyclones here. When two teams are fairly even on paper, go with the one that is a little better rested.
Prediction: Iowa State 27, Texas Tech 19
— 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.