Random thoughts on Saturday’s Iowa State (2-1) at Baylor (3-0) football game, the Big 12 opener for both.
The Bears have one of the more lethal quarterback-receiver combinations in the Big 12.
Junior quarterback Charlie Brewer and senior receiver Denzel Mims have connected 18 times for 249 yards and three touchdowns.
“Mims, in my opinion, is one of the best receivers in the league, and probably one of the best receivers in the country,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said.
Brewer, too, is in the top tier of Big 12 quarterbacks. While Texas’ Sam Elingher, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Iowa State’s Brock Purdy get most of the recognition, Brewer has shown he can hang with the Big 12’s best.
Brewer has completed 72 percent of his passes so far this season for 665 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s in his third year in the system and when you watch him play, he has the unique ability to own the offense,” Campbell said. “The one thing I’ve seen from him in the first three games is the ability to know where to go with the football with great confidence. I think that’s the thing that shows up — and it certainly has in the last three games.
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“The ball is getting out of his hand really fast, he knows where to go with the football, he doesn’t make mistakes, he doesn’t put his team in bad situations. Then when people get to him, he has the ability to scramble and make plays down the field with his feet — both running and throwing the ball. He’s a great challenge.”
Iowa State defensive end JaQuan Bailey has taken note of Brewer’s excellent play.
“This dude that we’re facing this week is tremendous,” Bailey said. “I was just up here watching him on film and he drives you crazy because he can throw on the run going to his left. Even when a guy is in his face, he’s out there hitting his receivers in the hands. Oh man, this dude is just crazy — we’ll see. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Defensively, Baylor has been one of the early adopters to Iowa State’s defense. It plays with a 3-3 front with five defensive backs focused on not letting up big plays.
“Defensively they have a lot of confidence right now, and deservedly so,” Campbell said. “They’re playing fast, and they’re really physical on that side of the ball. They’ve played great defense in their first couple of games.”
Baylor has only allowed 14.67 points and 261 yards of total offense per game. But the Bears haven’t exactly played stiff competition, either. Their first three games have been against Stephen F. Austin, UTSA and Rice.
Iowa State Cyclones
Last week, Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock noted how teams are trying to attack his defense differently than they attack any other defense. He likened it to how teams play against Army’s option offense.
Campbell has noticed the same thing. Teams can’t attack Iowa State’s defense like they could a defense they know is going to play quarters defense or Tampa 2 the whole game.
Even against Iowa, the Cyclones showed they’ll give you different looks from drive to drive, switching from a 3-3, to 4-3 to 3-4 almost interchangeably.
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“I think the thing that’s unique about what we do defensively is it’s hard to go on video and figure out how we’re going to play you,” Campbell said. “With us being unique and different, you almost have to know that’s not exactly what you’re going to get because our scheme is drastically different than what a lot of people are doing.
“That’s changing, obviously, as some other teams are adopting what we’re doing.”
Campbell actually believes that as more and more teams copy Iowa State’s defense, that will actually help the Cyclones because they’ll figure out how a team plans to attack that style of defense.
Baylor has been one of the teams that has taken a lot of what Heacock has created.
Campbell knows it’s going to be important for Purdy and the offense to stay ahead of the chains and limit mistakes.
“They’re unique in what they’re doing,” Campbell said. “I said this about our defense going into the season — you can’t minor in this style of defense. They can’t minor in what they’re doing, they’ve majored in this style of defense. What they have the ability to do is not give up big plays.
“Having the ability to be efficient offensively is really critical. Once you get behind the chains, it’s really hard against this style of defenses to put yourself in position to have success. Staying ahead of the chains and being efficient is going to be really important for us.”
Iowa State-Baylor prediction
An argument could be made that this is Iowa State’s most important game of the season. It’s easily the most important game in the first half of the schedule. This game will set the tone for Big 12 play. I think Campbell’s team is up for the challenge.
Iowa State 27, Baylor 24
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