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Breaking down Iowa State (1-4, 0-2) at Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1). Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium (ESPNU).
Iowa State has progressively rushed for more yards as the season has gone on, and running back Mike Warren turned in his best performance last week. He had 30 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and needs to average 87.7 rushing yards per game the rest of the year to eclipse 1,000 yards for the second year in a row.
The Cyclones offensive line has gained continuity through the last three weeks, once again starting the same five guys. Offensive coordinator and line coach Tom Manning has seen his group begin recognizing keys and learn through film study, but experience has been the biggest factor in its improvement. The group has allowed just one sack in the last two games.
Oklahoma State is No. 7 among Big 12 teams in rush defense, allowing 180.4 yards per game, and No. 91 nationally.
Advantage: Iowa State
Joel Lanning was particularly efficient last week and took every snap at quarterback, but ISU Coach Matt Campbell indicated backup Jacob Park still was in the mix for snaps going forward. Lanning had the best game of his career, completing 17 of 23 passes for 261 yards and two scores before the offense sputtered in the fourth quarter. Park is 28-for-49 for 334 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
Allen Lazard still is the team leader in receptions (21) and receiving yards (328) and has two touchdowns. He still is dealing with a foot injury, but has had plenty of his fellow of receivers step up. Trever Ryen, Deshaunte Jones and Dondre Daley have shown flashes while defensive backs have keyed on Lazard.
The Cowboys have allowed 267.4 yards per game through the air with quarterbacks completing nearly 60 percent of their passes. Oklahoma State is eighth in the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency, but has four interceptions. Success for Iowa State will hinge on its ability to gain positive yards on first down to set up manageable situations.
Advantage: Iowa State
Oklahoma State hasn’t made it a point to run the ball, but that could change this week. Justice Hill is the team’s leading rusher, averaging 69.2 yards per game while the team averages 134 yards per game, but Iowa State’s inability to stop the run might change some of the game plan.
The Cyclones have been gashed the last two weeks — they gave up 469 yards to Baylor — and have allowed a Big 12-worst 14 rushing touchdowns. Iowa State has seen flashes from defensive ends Jhaustin Thomas and JaQuan Bailey and Demond Tucker in the middle, but opposing offensive lines have been able to get their ball carriers to the second level of the ISU defense in a quick manner.
Read more: ISU focused on improving rush defense
Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State teams have typically had a pass-first identity, but with Iowa State giving up 261 yards per game — league-worst by nearly 67 yards — expect the Cowboys to mix up their offensive schemes.
Advantage: Oklahoma State
Quarterback Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma State are third in passing averages and overall pass offenses among conference teams. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Rudolph owns a 15-5 record as a starter and averages 337.6 passing yards per game with nine touchdowns and just two picks.
“He’s as big as a lot of our d-linemen, linebackers for sure,” said ISU defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. “(He) stands in there and throws and the impact of the pressure doesn’t phase him a bit. He took a few shots and he stands in there and keeps rifling the ball around. He can make all the throws. He’s a legit dude.”
Iowa State has fielded a respectable pass defense with its five-defensive backs scheme. The Cyclones created four interceptions two weeks ago and allow just 191.4 yards per game through the air. Wide receiver James Washington (6-5, 205) leads the Big 12 with 579 receiving yards while Jalen McCleskey has averaged 93 receiving yards per game in Big 12 play.
Advantage: Oklahoma State
Iowa State punter Colin Downing has the longest punt in the Big 12 this season (67 yards) and is averaging 40.9 yards on 29 opportunities — most punts among conference teams. Kicker Cole Netten has the fourth-longest made field goal streak in the nation (12) and is the only league kicker without a miss. Kick returner Kene Nwangwu is second nationally with three 40-plus yard kickoff returns, and has 326 return yards. Punt returner Trever Ryen leads the nation in punt return average (22.3).
OSU kicker Ben Grogan is 7-for-9 on field goals, the most makes and attempts of any Big 12 kicker. Last week against Texas, Oklahoma State blocked three extra-point attempts in a half.
1. Oklahoma State leads the all-time series against Iowa State 29-18-3 and has a 16-6-2 record in games played in Stillwater. The last ISU win in the series was the program’s highest-profile win when, on Nov. 18, 2011, the Cyclones upset the No. 2 Cowboys, 37-31, in two overtimes.
2. Iowa State has lost its last four games against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, with its last win a 33-26 victory in 2000. The Cyclones scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, the final score coming on a 33-yard pass from Sage Rosenfels to Lane Danielsen with 18 seconds remaining.
3. Only four players from Oklahoma are on the ISU roster, with Mike Warren (Lawton) and Carson Epps (Jenks) playing so far.
1. Iowa State has shown the last two weeks it can score points. The offense generated back-to-back 40-point outputs for the first time since 2008, and was a few seconds and a 19-yard field goal from possibly upsetting a top-15 team. The tipping point for the Cyclones closing out Big 12 games — if their offense continues to click — comes with the defense. It won’t matter how many points Iowa State can score if it can’t string together some stops.
Read More: Learning how to win is the next step for ISU
2. Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell has talked about winning situational football, and his team did that last week. The Cyclones were 9-for-13 on third down conversions and are 14-for-14 through five games in the red zone with 11 touchdowns.
3. Time of possession helped Iowa State establish its offense last week, but Oklahoma State is the best in the Big 12. The Cowboys have the ball for nearly 30 minutes per game.
ISU WILL WIN IF ... It can regain whatever mojo it had for three quarters against Baylor offensively and get off the field on third down — ISU opponents convert 42.5 percent of their third-down opportunities.
OSU WILL WIN IF ... It can establish the run and keep a thin defensive line on the field as long as possible.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 42, Iowa State 28