This week we've got the Cyclones and a trip to Ames. A few weeks back this probably looked like one of the few winnable games on the calendar. Not that it was a gimme or an easy one by any stretch but on paper it looked like a possibility.
Some of that hope has faded with the embarrassment against Kansas State, the offensive ineptitude in Austin and Iowa State's destruction of Texas Tech. But looking at this one on paper and in terms of the matchup, it still presents the best opportunity in recent weeks so maybe there is some reason to hope. Needless to say I'll turn on the television Saturday morning hoping for the best.
Of course we do have the wildcard of what appears to be a coach fighting for his job. That can work for or against you depending on how the team feels about the staff or how much a team believes in a staff. It's impossible to say where exactly this teams mentality is at the point, but we continue to hear that they are behind the staff so for now I'll stay on that wagon.
For the sake of the breakdown I'm going to go into this one giving the full benefit of the doubt and under the assumption that this team is still capable of putting together a strong offensive performance and that the defense has shown very modest improvement at times.
Kansas Offense vs. Iowa State Defense
If the Kansas offense plays like it did a week ago in Austin then there is no way that they have an edge over anyone at anytime. But here's the good news. Iowa State is near the bottom of division one football in terms of run defense. Kansas has been fairly effective at running the ball when motivated.
Provided the team is motivated and the offensive playcalling is designed to win the game and NOT "lose by less", I expect this to be a matchup that Kansas can compete and possibly win. Now if the Jayhawks come out flat and lay and egg then it doesn't matter what the numbers say and that will be another indication that this staff has either lost this team or isn't capable of righting the ship. In short the Kansas offense needs to produce or the finger points right back to coaching.
The key matchup here will be the Kansas offensive line against the Iowa State linebackers. The Jayhawk offensive line has been solid this year minus last weeks debacle in Austin. Iowa State's linebackers are experienced and can create problems for any potential running attack. If the lineman can't get a push up front and get to the second level, then we might be looking at a long day in Ames.
Today, I'm giving Kansas the edge here because I do think that with proper coaching we have the better unit head to head based on the body of work. With that as my reasoning, this pick might be against my better judgment.
Kansas Defense vs Iowa State Offense
So what to make of the defense. We've been awful at times, we've been somewhat improved at times but at the end of the day that has still been a fairly frustrating showing. Last weeks game against the Longhorns and perhaps the game against Oklahoma were two situations where the defense seemed to show up and make some things happen, only to be let down by the offense. That's not to say there weren't plenty of problems on the defensive side of the ball but there was plenty of blame to be passed around.
This game takes us back to a place where you would hope the Kansas offense can produce and that puts the onus back on the defense (this is how this game is working in my optimistic view). So what does Iowa State bring to the table on offense? Well it's a middle of the pack offense and that is certainly dangerous enough to pose some serious concerns for a bottom of the pack Kansas defense.
Key matchup in this one will be the Kansas front against the Cyclone running game. Iowa State has several weapons out of the backfield including a quarterback that can move. They have been decent running the ball and it would have to be pointed to as the strength over the passing game. A week ago against Texas Tech the Cyclones ran for over 350 yards on the ground. If the Kansas defensive line can't get a push and the Kansas linebackers aren't able to make plays then we're looking at situation where Iowa State can pick and choose their passing plays and that is a bad situation for our defense to be in.
If you've been watching Kansas on the defensive side of the ball this year it's fairly easy to understand why that's a huge concern and it's fairly easy to understand why the only choice here is to give the edge to the Cyclones.
There isn't a whole lot separating these two teams from a special teams standpoint. Iowa State has a decent kick return game but it's nothing to write home about. They are pretty average at returning punts and in general the coverage team isn't a position of strength but it doesn't hurt them either. At the end of the day they sound and look a lot like Kansas in this area.
I'll go push with this one but I am a believer that coaching and the famous Roy Williams "wont to" is huge in this department so I'm having mixed feelings about not going with Iowa State.
Here's the thing. Paul Rhoads is everything that Kansas fans wish Turner Gill was in terms of being able to get his players to perform. No the Cyclones aren't going to win every game, but for the most part they are competitive, they aren't embarrassing and they will steal a win here and there. At the end of the day this might be a bowl team once again and that would make it a three for three run for Paul Rhoads since the 2-10 disaster by Gene Chizik before he was hired by Auburn. I think we all remember who Auburn passed on too.