Iowa State Cyclones

Play Action: Iowa State Cyclones at TCU Horned Frogs

TCU hosts Iowa State in Big 12 football Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Forth Worth, Texas. (USA TODAY Sports)
TCU hosts Iowa State in Big 12 football Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Forth Worth, Texas. (USA TODAY Sports)

TCU (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) hosts Iowa State (1-2, 0-1 Big 12) on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, at 6 p.m. Both teams have played difficult schedules early in the season and are looking to get their first conference win.

TCU

— TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson was one of the most coveted recruits in his class as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class. Robinson saw spot minutes last season, but now it’s his offense.

It’s been an up-and-down ride for Robinson through four games. He’s completing 61 percent of his passes and he’s thrown six touchdowns while running for three more. On the other hand, he’s thrown five interceptions, four in the last two games.

— Since TCU has joined the Big 12, it’s had one of the better defenses in the conference. And it’s more of the same so far this year for the Horned Frogs. They’re second in the conference in yards allowed per game with 330 yards surrendered.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said the thing that makes the defense so successful is elite team speed. 

“(TCU coach Gary Patterson) does such a great job of recruiting with a plan of moving guys within his defensive structure so their speed and athleticism can really show,” Campbell said. “When you turn the video tape on and watch them play – I jokingly said this – it’s almost like you’re watching them on fast forward. They know where they need to be, they’re gap sound and he’s adapted his defense to allow that speed and that athleticism to really show up.”

— Relevant numbers: TCU has given up nine turnovers while only taking four from its opponents.

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Even though the Horned Frogs give up the ball, they are a disciplined team, only getting called for 4.3 penalties per game.

TCU uses a two-running back system — Darius Anderson is the speed guy and Sewo Olonilua is the short-yardage power guy. They’ve combined for 486 yards and Anderson’s long this season was a 93-yard run.

Iowa State

Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland has done an admirable job replacing starting quarterback Kyle Kempt and Noland will get another opportunity against the Horned Frogs.

In two games, Noland has completed 69 percent of his passes and has three touchdowns, all at least 24 yards.

“You can definitely see the growth from Zeb from a year ago to Zeb now,” receiver Hakeem Butler said. “He reads what he’s supposed to read, he puts the ball where it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be – he’s even sitting there taking hits like he did on that fourth down. Him being confident will be the best thing for this team.”

Butler and running back David Montgomery grab all the headlines for their ridiculous plays. But receiver Deshaunte Jones actually leads the team in receptions with 16 for 136 yards.

The slot receiver has been a reliable target for Noland. 

“His consistency has come a long way,” Butler said. “Last year, he didn’t get to play as much as he did his freshman year. It’s good to see him getting him back to his old self.”

— Relevant numbers: Iowa State’s leading tacklers are its three safeties. Greg Eisworth leads the Cyclones with 29 tackles. The senior excels at playing downhill in run support and covering underneath routes. Lawrence White and Braxton Lewis both have 15 tackles.

Iowa State only converts 34 percent of its third-down conversions, worst in the Big 12.

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The Cyclones also only have two touchdowns in the red zone. Converting in critical situations will be key against TCU.

Prediction

Iowa State 20, TCU 17

TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson is talented but he’s a little too loose with the ball. Iowa State’s defense is opportunistic and if the defense can create extra possessions for the offense, that will be the difference in the game.

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