2-Minute Drill: Iowa State Cyclones at Baylor Bears

Iowa State football travels to McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas, to take on Baylor on Saturday. (Original image via USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa State football travels to McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas, to take on Baylor on Saturday. (Original image via USA TODAY Sports)

Breaking down Saturday’s Big 12 football game between Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) and Baylor (1-9, 1-6) at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m., televised on Fox Sports Net.

Iowa State rush offense vs. Baylor rush defense

Baylor’s run defense is not good. The Bears surrender 195 yards per game and more than five yards per carry. Both are last in the Big 12.

Iowa State touts, statistically, the second best running back in the Big 12. David Montgomery averages 93.6 yards and has 11 rushing touchdowns, both rank second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill.

Read more: Inexperienced ISU offensive line shows it's capable

While Iowa State doesn’t get a lot of production on the ground beyond Montgomery, the powerful sophomore running back shouldn’t have a problem getting yards on the ground.

Advantage: Iowa State

Iowa State pass offense vs. Baylor pass defense

Iowa State’s quarterback carousel hasn’t seemed to affect the its passing attack this season. The Cyclones have played four different quarterbacks, including linebacker Joel Lanning. Iowa State averages 279 yards per game.

Redshirt freshman Zeb Noland threw for 263 yards in just over a half of football against Oklahoma State. Noland brings more of a gunslinger mentality to the quarterback position than Kyle Kempt did. Noland averaged more than 15 yards per completion against Oklahoma State, showing no aversion to throwing the deep ball.

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Baylor’s pass defense is middle of the road in the Big 12, ranking sixth. The Bears give up 270 yards through the air.

Baylor freshman defensive back Harrison Hand is tied for eighth in the Big 12 in pass breakups with eight. He also as an interception to go along with the breakups. However, the Bears don’t have a much size in their secondary. Their biggest defensive back is 6-foot.

Iowa State’s big receivers — Allen Lazard, Hakeem Butler and Matt Eaton — have the definite size advantage, all of whom stand over 6-foot-4.

Advantage: Iowa State

Iowa State rush defense vs. Baylor rush offense

Baylor doesn’t run the ball well. The Bears average 119 yards, third worst in the Big 12. They don’t have a running back in the top 10 in the conference in yards. John Lovett is Baylor’s lead running back with 448 yards, averaging just 46.6 yards per game.

Iowa State uses a three-man front, so running lanes at the line of scrimmage tend to open up, but the Cyclones boast three linebackers who are in the top 15 in tackles in the conference. Lanning and Marcel Spears are No. 2 and No. 4, respectively.

hile there appears to be a running lane at the line of scrimmage, ISU’s linebackers quickly fill it for a minimal gain. The Cyclones rank fifth in the Big 12, allowing 137 yards on the ground.

Advantage: Iowa State

Iowa State pass defense vs. Baylor pass offense

Baylor found something in true freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer. Brewer has played in six games and completed better than 67 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns. The Bears passing game isn't as prolific as it once was, but still gets 294 yards per game through the air.

Iowa State’s pass defense is the second best in the Big 12, statistically, holding teams to 245 yards through the air. It struggled against the Mason Rudolph-led Oklahoma State offense, but Baylor’s offense isn’t Oklahoma State’s.

Defensive backs Brian Peavy and Kamari Cotton-Moya and even linebacker Spears are opportunists. Peavy and Spears have two interceptions and Cotton-Moya has three. They have an opportunity to take advantage of a young quarterback.

Advantage: Iowa State

Special teams

Iowa State had its worst special teams performance of the year last week. Punter Colin Downing had two punts travel less than 25 yards and the Cyclones made a critical error on a kick return, touching a ball that was headed out of bounds. Special teams are normally a strong suit for the Cyclones, who boast a potent punt returner in Trever Ryen, a reliable kicker in Garrett Owens and a normally solid punter in Downing.

Even after last week’s debacle, Downing averages 41 yards per punt, including 19 inside the 20-yard line. Owens has made 12 of his 16 field-goal attempts, which is the fifth most in the Big 12. Ryen is 12th nationally in punt return yards.

Baylor’s special teams also can be a force. Bears kicker Connor Martin has hit 16 of his 19 attempts and punt returner Tony Nicholson has returned six punts for 70 yards with a long of 46 yards.

Neither Baylor nor Iowa State boasts a potent kick returner.

Advantage: Iowa State

Intangibles

1. Lazard watch — Lazard has a chance to break two Iowa State receiving records this weekend. He’s 26 yards away from the all-time record and he’s one touchdown away from tying the season touchdown record. Lazard already owns four other career receiving records.

2. Closing in — Montgomery is 64 yards away of a 1,000-yard season. The sophomore running back has proved to be very difficult to tackle in the open field, resulting in a lot of yards after contact.

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3. The series — Iowa State hasn’t beaten Baylor since 2012. The Bears own a 9-6 series advantage.

3 and out

Three keys to victory.

1. Turnovers — Iowa State has done an excellent job taking care of the ball and taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes. The Cyclones have a +10 advantage in turnover margin. Baylor lost three fumbles to Texas Tech last week and is minus-9 overall in turnover margin.

2. Balanced offense — Iowa State has the ability to attack through the air and on the ground with potent weapons like Montgomery and Lazard. All offensive coordinator Tom Manning asks of his quarterback is to get it to his playmakers’ hands.

3. Deep ball — Iowa State has been burned by the deep ball a few times in games against West Virginia and Oklahoma State. The Cyclones need to get back to limiting the big play.

Iowa State-Baylor prediction

Iowa State will win if ... It plays solid, fundamental football. It needs to establish the run and take shots down field on offense. On defense, take advantage of Baylor’s mistakes. The Bears have turned the ball over 20 times, the second most in the Big 12 behind only Kansas.

Baylor will win if ... Brewer can find seams in Iowa State’s secondary to complete the long-ball. Baylor also needs to contain Montgomery if it has a shot at winning.

Prediction: Iowa State 35, Baylor 17

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