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Breaking down Iowa State (1-3, 0-1) vs. Baylor (4-0, 1-0). Kickoff is 11 a.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium (FS1).
Mike Warren and the ISU rushing attack are continuing an upward trend dating back to Week 1. The sophomore is coming off consecutive outputs of 95 and 103 yards and has helped the Cyclones to 138 rushing yards against TCU and 187 against San Jose State.
Baylor poses a different challenge than any of Iowa State’s first four opponents. The Bears run a 3-4 scheme that has helped them to 41 tackles for loss through four games (10.3 per game) with 2.3 sacks per game.
Aiavion Edwards, a 6-foot-1 and 230-pound linebacker, leads the team in tackles (33), but Patrick Levels has 30 tackles and 7.0 tackles for loss on the year.
Iowa State will have its same five starters on the offensive line for the third straight game, but expect Baylor to bring pressure early and often to try to expose that young group.
Iowa State will maintain its two-quarterback system with Joel Lanning and Jacob Park sharing duties. The five total passing touchdowns against San Jose State — Park 3, Lanning 2 — marked the first time a pair of ISU quarterbacks threw for two or more scores in a game since 1976 against Air Force.
In the last two games, Park and Lanning have combined to complete 41 of 67 passes for 533 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Allen Lazard continues to be the top target with 18 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns, but is flanked by Dondre Daley, Trever Ryen and true freshman Deshaunte Jones to give Park and Lanning options.
Baylor is the third-best pass defense in the league, allowing just 142.5 yards per game through the air. The Bears are tied for a league-high four interceptions — alongside Iowa State and West Virginia — and will rely heavily on its front seven to affect the quarterback. Whether it’s Park or Lanning at signal caller, they’ll have to deliver quick throws.
Baylor possesses the best rushing attack in the Big 12, averaging 245.5 yards per game with 189 total carries. The Bears have run for a touchdown in 33 straight games, longest streak among Power 5 teams, and have a combination of three running backs that can fill a stat sheet.
Terence Williams, JaMycal Hasty and Shock Linwood average 71, 66.5 and 54.2 yards per game.
Iowa State has shown an inability at times to stop the run and ranks eighth in the conference in rush defense, giving up 209 yards per game.
Linebacker Reggan Northrup has been consistent through four games with 32 tackles, but the next highest tackler in the front seven is linebacker Kane Seeley (23) and after that it’s Willie Harvey (16).
San Jose State gave a blueprint on how to gain yards on the ground against the Cyclones and with the number of options Baylor boasts, it could prove to be a handful.
Quarterback Seth Russell, who suffered a season-ending neck injury last season against Iowa State, is back to lead Baylor’s passing game. He’s fifth in the Big 12 in passing yards per game (287.0) and has 13 throwing touchdowns through four games, second highest in the Big 12.
Wide receiver K.D. Cannon leads the Big 12 in receptions per game (6.8) and is fourth in receiving yards per game (92.5) with four touchdowns. He missed the latter part of last week’s game against Oklahoma State as he dealt with a groin injury, but the Bears have Blake Lynch and Chris Platt averaging 39.8 and 48 yards receiving, respectively.
Iowa State’s defense got four interceptions last week — its first interceptions of the season — and held San Jose State quarterback Josh Love to 13-for-27 passing for 155 yards and sacked him four times to gain some confidence.
The ISU secondary is the fourth-best pass defense in the Big 12, but Baylor isn’t San Jose State and Russell isn’t Love.
Baylor kicker Chris Callahan was suspended last week for an altercation with a teammate in the previous game. He is 5-for-7 on field goals this season while punter Drew Galitz is averaging 43.2 yards per punt, has downed three inside the 20 and had four 50-plus yard kicks.
Iowa State has had an uptick in special teams with freshman kickoff returner Kene Nwangwu and punt returner Trever Ryen.
Nwangwu is fourth in the Big 12 and 21st nationally in kickoff return average (27.7) while Ryen is second nationally in punt return at 26.0 yards per punt return.
Kicker Cole Netten has made 12 straight field goals and has the best field goal percentage in school history (76.4).
Punter Colin Downing is averaging 39.7 yards per punt with eight inside the 20.
Advantage: Iowa State
1. Baylor leads the all-time series with Iowa State, 8-6. The Cyclones are 4-3 against the Bears in Ames. Iowa State’s last win in the series was in Jack Trice Stadium in 2012, 35-21.
2. Baylor’s acting coach Jim Grobe was 0-2 against Iowa State when he was a head coach at Ohio. The Cyclones beat the Bobcats, 36-21, in 1995 and, 25-15, in 2000 with both games at Jack Trice Stadium.
3. Former ISU running back and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Troy Davis will be honored during Saturday’s game before he is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December. He finished second in the Heisman voting in 1996 and still is the only player in FBS history to rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
1. Iowa State has to stop the run. Baylor already utilizes a fast-tempo offense, averaging 84.8 plays per game, with 14 touchdown drives in under two minutes and has the third-lowest time of possession in the Big 12 (27:23). The Cyclones have to find a way to plug gaps and get off the field. The Bears are seventh in the league in third-down conversions at 42.4 percent.
2. Baylor owns the best red zone defense in the Big 12 with its opponents scoring just 66.7 percent of the time. The Bears also have forced three turnovers with that field position. Iowa State owns the top red zone offense — along with Kansas State — and has converted on all 10 opportunities.
3. Turnover margin will be crucial either way. Baylor is plus-two while forcing nine turnovers. Iowa State is minus-one, but has forced five turnovers and committed just one in the last two games.
ISU WILL WIN IF ... It can stay within its own tempo and have success in the ground game while forcing Baylor’s offense into some mistakes.
BAYLOR WILL WIN IF ... It can score quickly and take advantage of deficiencies at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
PREDICTION: Baylor 38, Iowa State 17