1. At a Glance:
- Team: Iowa State
- Game Number: 7th game on October 21st
- 2016 Record: 3-9 (2-7)
- Head Coach: Matt Campbell (2)
- Offensive Coordinator: Tom Manning (2)
- Defensive Coordinator: Jon Heacock (2)
- Starters Returning: 21 (5 offense; 3 defense)
- S&P+ Offense Rank: 48
- S&P+ Defense Rank: 95
2. The 2016 Season:
This is probably a game getting circled by Texas Tech in some form or fashion. The season for ISU started with three losses, at home against Northern Iowa, at Iowa and at TCU before beating San Jose State handily. ISU then lost five in a row to a very tough part of the schedule: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas Statea nd Oklahoma. Then, ISU took down Kansas and Texas Tech. Oh, that Texas Tech game. The Cyclones then lost the final game of the year to West Virginia in blowout fashion. The interesting thing about that five game losing stretch is that a few of those games were close. Losing to Baylor by 3, Oklahoma State by 7, Kansas State by 5 and Oklahoma by 10. That’s not exactly blowouts.
3. Key Players:
Player: Jacob Park
Park *only* had a quarterback rating of 247.45 when he played against Texas Tech, the highest of any of the games he played, but it appears that Park has surpassed Joel Lanning as the quarterback for Iowa State (Lanning has moved to linebacker and played there during the spring, but would imagine that he could maybe come in and do what he does at quarterback if needed). For comparison purposes, Patrick Mahomes best game in terms of quarterback rating was 228 against Louisiana Tech. For the year, Park threw for 1,791 yards, completing 59% of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt, 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Player: Kamari Cotton-Moya
Cotton-Moya was named as the second team all-Big 12 last year, and deservedly so. Cotton-Moya finished with 73 tackles, 2 intereceptions, 2 tackles for a loss, 5 passes broken up and 1 forced fumble. Cotton-Moya is very solid, and he has been for quite some time and I think that the Iowa State defense is going to be improved. They didn’t graduate a ton of high-end seniors. Leading tackler Kane Seeley graduated, as did Jomal Wiltz and defensive lineman Desmond Tucker, but the Cyclones really do return quite a bit on the defensive side of the ball.
Player: Mike Warren | David Montgomery
Ht/Wt: 6-0/205 | 5-11/222
Position: Running Back
Really, you can’t include one without including the other. Montgomery was a freshman last year and ran for 563 yards on 109 attempts for 5.17 yards per attempt and 2 touchdowns, while Warren ran for 559 yards on 134 attempts for 4.17 yards per attempt and 3 touchdowns. Both Montgomery and Warren are a terrific combination and I would guess that their touchdown numbers increase quite a bit this next year.
4. Reasons for Optimism and Despair:
As for reasons to be optimistic, there’s plenty. When discussing the three key players, I didn’t even mention Allen Lazard (6-5/223), who is by far the Cyclone’s best player and an absolute stud receiving the ball. Lazard caught 70 passes for 1,029 yards and 7 touchdowns and speedy freshman Deshaunte Jones (5-10/175) was tied for second on the team with 37 catches for 536 yards and 6 touchdowns. That’s a really good 1-2 punch for Park who will have two very capable running backs. I don’t know a ton about the offensive line, but they do expect Jake Campos, who was out all of 2016, back and that should be a boost to the line.
Defensively, I think linebacker is a fairly thin position group and the defensive line has to replace three starters. That’s probably the biggest chore for the defense. However, the Cyclones really don’t look to their defensive line to make plays as the DL was 88th in havoc rate, but the key here is that the team was 65th in linebacker havoc rate and the defensive backs appear to be the key to the defensive success, were 15th in havoc rate. Those are your play-makers. As mentioned before, the Cyclones do lose Jomal Wiltz, who had 9 pass break-ups, but right there is D’Andre Payne who was really effective as a sophomore with 7 pass break-ups and Brian Peavy, who had 11 pass break-ups.
5. Thoughts on 2017 Game:
Generally speaking, the thought is that Campbell has Iowa State on the up-tick, despite only winning three games last year. The blowout win against Texas Tech, I think, really was pivotal for both programs as it left a really bad impression for what Texas Tech is about (only mustering 10 points and generally just absolutely falling apart) while this was an important win for Iowa State because I think is was somewhat of a springboard for the Cyclones in terms of national perception over and above Texas Tech. That game, and perhaps rightfully so, changed a lot of the perceptions about these two programs. So, I think this is an important game for Texas Tech overall because of that. Texas Tech can’t afford to lose this game at home.