A closer look at Saturday’s Big 12 football game between Iowa State (1-1, 1-0) and No. 18 Oklahoma (1-1, 0-1) at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. (ABC).
Iowa State offense
Iowa State’s rushing attack has been constant through two games.
The Cyclones’ passing attack, on the other hand, has been hit and miss.
Against Louisiana, quarterback Brock Purdy completed less than 50 percent of his passes and didn’t throw a touchdown pass. Against TCU, he completed 18 of 23 passes and was able to connect on some deep balls. It’s obvious, but for the offense to be at its best, Purdy needs to be at his best.
“The reality for Brock is just keep pounding away at it,” ISU Coach Matt Campbell said. “You take one play away from last week (the fumble) and you’re talking about a really efficient, outstanding football game. I don’t know if you know of a lot of quarterbacks that go 18-for-23 in a Power-5 football game, but that’s pretty good.
“We’re really proud of Brock and where he’s at early in the season, especially with getting some new players around Brock and with those guys starting to get into a rhythm.”
Iowa State defense
Iowa State’s defense has mirrored the offense in a way. The defensive line has been outstanding to begin the season while the secondary has allowed some big plays.
Against Louisiana, the secondary gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass and against TCU, Iowa State gave up seven pass plays of at least 20 yards.
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On the flip side, in both games, Iowa State has held each opponent to less than 3.5 yards per carry. TCU averaged just 2.3 yards per carry and the ISU defensive line recorded six sacks.
The reason the defensive line play has been so good early is because it has at least two players at each position who can play without there being a drop off. At some spots, like nose guard, Iowa State has three interchangeable pieces.
“We played 92 snaps this last Saturday and we probably played about 25 too many,” Campbell said. “The reality is, you’re going to play a lot of tempo in this conference and we’ll get that again this weekend. The ability to get multiple (players) in on the defensive line is important. Then when you have multiples in terms of ability to affect the game, that’s when you have a chance to go from good to great.
“We’ll be tested this week against a very good and veteran Oklahoma offensive line.”
Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler has put up ridiculous numbers through his first two games. Against Kansas State, he led a Sooner attack that totaled more than 500 yards.
The issue is Rattler can be a bit loose with the ball. He threw three interceptions against the Wildcats and fumbled once in the loss.
Even though this is just his third game and he’s made some mistakes early, Campbell knows how dangerous he is, especially with Lincoln Riley as his coach.
“I think the first conversation would be, you’re talking about one of the best quarterback coaches and offensive minds in our sport,” Campbell said. “So I think that’s a huge positive for a guy like Spencer to have as he works and develops and grows. And then No. 2 is the big thing. The reality for all these teams and all these players is, you still have to play the game and you still have to be able to go out and go through tough times. I think every great player, every great team has to have adversity and then obviously have to have the ability to respond to it.”
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We’ll all see on Saturday how Rattler is able to respond to adversity after losing for the first time at the collegiate level.
Oklahoma’s defense will never grab the headlines as long as Riley is the coach and the offense is getting 500 yards and 35-plus points per game.
But the defense shouldn’t be overlooked.
Like many teams, Oklahoma has had trouble tackling in space early in the season. Whether that’s due to the limited practice time because of COVID-19 or because it actually has trouble tackling remains to be seen. But either way, Campbell likes the pieces the Sooners have.
“The amount of guys they have back on defense, the team speed — TCU can really run but this is an elite speed in my opinion,” Campbell said. “Elite speed creates elite coverability. All of us early on are dealing with the efficiency of tackling but there are also some really great plays that this Oklahoma defense made through the first two games. It’s going to be a great challenge for our entire offense because of their team speed.”
Campbell has never lost by more than 10 points to Oklahoma. While Iowa State has one of the better defenses in the Big 12, Oklahoma hasn’t had too much trouble putting up 30-plus points in every game since Campbell’s arrival. If Iowa State wants to win, it has to be able to score with Oklahoma, which is no easy task.
Prediction — Oklahoma 37, Iowa State 31