Preview/Prediction: Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State

Chris Williams

Publisher

What: Iowa State (1-5, 0-3) vs. Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1)
When: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 11 a.m.
Where: Jack Trice Stadium
TV: Fox Sports Net

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Bouncing back from a 64-point drubbing is easier said than done. It is hard to do against a team like Kansas. It is nearly impossible to accomplish against Oklahoma State.

Paul Rhoads was very honest about the status of his football team earlier this week in a small media conference after Wednesday night’s practice.

“I think we are down quite honestly,” Rhoads said. “It’s not like we’re out there skipping around and tossing each other mini Snickers bars or anything like that. We’re acting like we got our ass whipped. We should be, quite honestly as we are working towards this next game.”

Mentally and physically, Iowa State is a beaten up football program right now, which reminds me of the following saying:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

My dad used to preach this to me when I was a kid. I love that adage. I think about it all of the time during my adult life. Should I be blessed to be a father someday, I’ll pass it along to my children as well.

For the Cyclones, the going is most definitely tough right now – tougher than at any point in Paul Rhoads four and a half years as Iowa State’s head coach.

How will the Cyclones respond to the shellacking they took a week ago? We will all find out together at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Until then, here is your preview. 

The Cowboys will win if…

…They can finally get that offense rolling because after all, there really is no way that Iowa State can win a shootout is there?

This ought to sound familiar to Iowa State fans…Oklahoma State’s offensive struggles have all started up front. A banged up offensive line has underperformed all season long in Stillwater and as a result, it has led to shoddy quarterback play and numbers that don’t exactly scream “Oklahoma State.”

Consider the following: Last week against TCU, the Cowboys turned the ball over four times. In addition to that, Oklahoma State went into the red-zone six times against the Horned Frogs in which it didn’t score a point.

Very un-Mike Gundy-like.

It all starts up front with this group. 

“They got better as the game went on, but they are still playing very average,” Gundy said earlier this week. “I'm looking forward to getting settled in on a group and them adjusting and working well together. We went a number of years here and had five guys playing together throughout the season. We'd have one guy get hurt. A couple years ago we were playing A&M and we lost the center and put another guy in and then those guys played the rest of the year. Continuity is very important to the offensive line and we haven't had that up to this point. They'll improve and get better as we get a grasp of the same guys playing all the time.”

That is almost the EXACT same quote that Paul Rhoads gave during his press conference on Tuesday. Iowa State will enter game seven of its 2013 campaign on Saturday with its seventh different starting combination on the offensive line.

“I don’t think you people appreciate how big of a challenge that is for a young football team to be playing with seven different starting offensive lines,” Rhoads said. “I looked out there on Sunday, we had a sophomore, a sophomore, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman across the board tackle to tackle at offensive line, not a league that you want to be playing with those kinds of young people at those positions. But, that’s what we’ve got. I don’t talk about it very often. I certainly don’t use it as an excuse. But, it’s facts and you people need to appreciate that a little bit.”

We still don’t know whom Mike Gundy is going to start at quarterback on Saturday. J.W. Walsh started against TCU and has played more this season for the Cowboys. Walsh has a completion percentage of 59.9 with nine touchdowns and five interceptions on his resume. Meanwhile. Clint Chelf has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and a pick.

To Iowa State, it doesn’t really matter.

“Four (Walsh) runs more both by design and taking off,” Rhoads said. “As far as the offense, there isn’t that much more of designed run when four is in the game. Preparation and what’s on the game plan will be called.”

For the most part, Gundy agrees.

“Other than a few scrambles with J.W. (Walsh) that we don't do with (Clint) Chelf, the concept is the same,” Gundy said. “It's not like having a wildcat quarterback and then a pocket passer.”

So there goes that storyline.

The Cyclones will win if…

…The offensive line makes some colossal improvement from that of the last two weeks. Now obviously, Iowa State has issues all over the place. Most 1-5 teams do. But the root of these issues starts in the trenches, where Iowa State has been absolutely killed the last two weeks.

A better line would protect its quarterback more. The running game would open up. That would open up the pass. The chains would move and the weight of the world wouldn't always be on the defense. 

Sure, there are other issues but this is where it all begins for the Cyclones. 

Three key storylines to watch for:

Containing Josh Stewart – He’s one of my favorite players to watch in the Big 12 and as far as explosiveness goes, this is the prime guy for Oklahoma State. Stewart has been relatively quiet so far this year by catching 31 balls for 473 yards and two scores but he did house a kickoff return last week vs. TCU.

Iowa State’s defensive line – Oklahoma State’s issues up front on offense have been well documented. But will Iowa State be able to take advantage of them? Rodney Coe is coming off of his best game as a Cyclone and this could be a game where Iowa State is able to consistently put pressure on an opposing quarterback. 

Play calling – Regardless of how well it plays, Iowa State’s offensive line will only be able to do so much in its current form on Saturday. Having said that, what adjustments will offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham make to put his group in a better position to consistently move the chains?

Prediction

Coming back home, Iowa State should be a spirited group on Saturday afternoon. If the Cyclones don’t come out fired up, I'll be really disappointed. I think that they will but even so, I just don't trust this offense enough to pick Iowa State for the upset. The line is too depleted. They have to show me something before I can pick Iowa State to win against a good team in Oklahoma State. 

The pick

Oklahoma State 31, Iowa State 14

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