Random thoughts on Saturday’s Iowa State-South Dakota State football game:
South Dakota State
— South Dakota State lost most of its passing production from last season. Tight end Dallas Goedert and Matt Wieneke graduated. The duo combined for 2,076 yards and 23 touchdowns. But even with their departures, Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell isn’t taking SDSU's passing attack for granted. The Jackrabbits still have quarterback Taryn Christion, who has passed for more than 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns each of the last two seasons.
“I’m beyond impressed with his ability to move, to create and to make plays,” Campbell said. “Their success comes from his ability to make those big plays. I don’t know if I could be any more impressed with a young man that’s had a four-year career like his and what he’s been able to do there.
“As his level of play has risen, so has their success — last year they went to the semifinals of the playoffs. A lot of that credit has to go to his play and his ability to handle and maneuver that offense. He’s in complete control out there and I have a lot of respect from a far, watching him play.”
— The key to SDSU’s defense lies within two native Iowans — Larchwood native and Iowa transfer Brandon Snyder and Sioux Center native Christian Roozeboom.
Roozeboom earned All-America honors last season as a sophomore, recording 127 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss. Roozeboom admitted to the Argus Leader he grew up an Iowa State fan, but neither the Cyclones or Hawkeyes even offered him the chance to walk on. He’ll have a chip on his shoulder.
Snyder, on the other hand, was Iowa’s safety when the Hawkeyes blasted the Cyclones in 2016, 42-3. And he played when Iowa visited Jack Trice in 2015, so he knows the environment SDSU will walk into on Saturday.
— Relevant numbers — The Jackrabbits have three returning players who rushed for more than 490 yards ... South Dakota State tends to be loose with the ball, giving up 31 turnovers and a minus-1 turnover margin — Saturday’s probable rain forecast could make for slippery conditions
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— Every Iowa State fan knows David Montgomery forced 109 missed tackles last season. But a key to this game might be how many tackles he doesn’t have to break. If the line opens up holes for the star junior running back, it’ll be that many more hits Montgomery doesn’t have to take.
Offensive line normally gets credited for how well they protect the quarterback, but on Saturday, they could get credit for protecting the running back. Obviously, once Montgomery is in the open field, all bets are off, but keeping him clean until he gets to the second level should be a priority.
— Iowa State still has two major ongoing position battles — middle linebacker and kicker. Those battles, especially the middle linebacker, have been talked about almost ad nauseam, but for good reason. Campbell has indicated multiple players will play middle linebacker on Saturday, and it doesn’t necessarily matter who starts. The game against the Jackrabbits and a dangerous quarterback should give Campbell ample opportunity to evaluate the position.
— Relevant numbers — Campbell’s favorite stats are detail stats — turnover margin, sacks against, penalties. Iowa State led the Big 12 in turnover margin with a plus-10 differential, gave up the second-fewest sacks with 19 and had the fewest penalties called against with 57 in 2017 ... Montgomery rushed the ball 258 times last year, the second most carries was linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning with 40. Iowa State needs a second or third rusher to step up, especially in a game against an FCS opponent.
Iowa State 38, South Dakota State 17
Win the turnover battle, win the game. Iowa State is 10-2 under Campbell when winning the turnover battle and 1-12 when it doesn’t win.
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