Williams Blog: Final look at Utah

Ian Smith

Staff Writer

By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher

Iowa State vs. #10 UtahSaturday, Oct. 9 @ 6 p.m. – Jack Trice Stadium Television: FOX College Sports Radio:Cyclone Radio Network

Remember to tune into the Cyclone Fanatic/Wilson Toyota of Ames pregame show on Saturday from noon-1 on Des Moines’ Sports Station, 1460 KXNO and www.kxno.com As always, Tron Smith will be my co-host as we’ll be broadcasting live from Wilson Toyota in Ames. Stop by and meet Iowa State head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg. The Mayor and assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger will be our guests to kick off the program. Brent Blum of the Cyclone Radio Network will also stop by.

ISU OFFENSE VS. UTAH DEFENSE

ENCORE! ENCORE! Is Iowa State's offense capable of producing one this week against 10th ranked Utah?

That's been the question of the week here at CycloneFanatic.com.

Last week’s breakout by the Cyclone offense certainly was refreshing.

Austen Arnaud looked like an All-Big 12 quarterback going 20-for-28 to toss four touchdowns.

Two Cyclone running backs ran for over 100 yards in the game.

Unlike the four prior weeks, big plays weren't scarce for the Cyclones. They were the norm!

But can Iowa State do that two weeks in a row?

If you look strictly at the numbers, Utah’s defense is legit. Just take a look at where the Utes rank in different defensive categories.

Total Defense: 7 Scoring Defense: 7 Rush Defense: 11 Pass Defense: 16 Sacks: T-11

Those numbers are scary good and they shouldn’t be ignored. Having said that, I also think that they’re a tad bit skewed. Utah’s four victims so far in 2010 combine for a record of 4-15. Their best win came in week one against Pitt, who ranks 77th nationally in total offense. Utah did hold Dion Lewis to only 83 yards in that game, so that’s a plus for them.

But still, as a whole, we don’t really know how good this Utah defense actually is, with only four starters back from last year’s group that ranked 19th nationally.

“There is a lot more man coverage,” said Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman when comparing the Utes to Texas Tech. “They are really good in the secondary. They feel like they can play man coverage so we need to help our receivers out a little bit. By playing man coverage, they bring a lot of pressure.”

“They are very similar to Pitt,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham about Iowa State’s offense. “Their personnel is what you see in a typical Big 12 football team. They are big up front on offense and have hard-running tailbacks. They employ tight ends on nearly every snap. Their defense is active - their secondary in particular is very good. It's about what you expect from a Big 12 football team.”

Iowa State showed everybody a new look in last week’s win over Texas Tech. It wasn’t by design either. At this point, it is no secret that Alexander Robinson has a tweaked ankle. Because of that, three Cyclone running backs got 12 carries in the win. Robinson and true freshman Shontrelle Johnson each eclipsed 100 yards in the win. Jeff Woody chipped in with 34 yards of his own while Arnaud ran for 22.

What a difference a year makes. Without Robinson a season ago, Iowa State’s offense was inept.

“If it were up to him (Robinson), he’d get the ball every time because he is that kind of player,” Herman said. “He says that if the game is on the line to put it in his hands. I don’t think that he ever feels pressure but I think that he is relieved a little bit because he can at least get some water in the middle of a series or whatever.”

But with a dynamic player like Johnson waiting in the wings, everybody is freed up just a little bit.

“Certainly we have been trying to get Shontrelle a few more touches,” Herman said. “How that plays out throughout the course of a game is kind of a hot hand, what formations work best, what is the defense giving you sort of thing. There is a general idea that those guys need to touch the football.”

ISU DEFENSE VS. UTAH OFFENSE

Wally Burnham’s scouting report on the Utah offense is really pretty simple.

"Run the ball. Run the ball. Run the ball and then throw it,” Burnham said after Tuesday’s practice. “They will get you sitting on your heels. They want a balanced attack. They are going to run as much as they can and throw as much as they can according to the four games that we have broken down.”

It all starts with sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynn. Wynn missed the UNLV and New Mexico games with a sprained thumb in his throwing hand. Still, in two games, he’s thrown for 407 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception.

“He can throw the ball,” Burnham said. “He commands the respect of the players and you can tell that he is in control. He knows where he wants to go with it and he gets it there.”

Wynn’s backup, senior Terrance Cain, was outstanding as a replacement. In his two starts, Cain threw for 486 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown.

“He’s a little bit better runner probably than Wynn. But they’re basically the same guy. You can tell that Wynn is their first-team quarterback.”

Two seniors in Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata lead Utah’s rushing attack. Wide has run for 210 yards and three touchdowns this season. Asiata has accounted for 187 yards and two scores.

Utah's offense is a ranked sixth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 44.25 points per game. Here are their opponents’ rankings in scoring defense.

Pitt: 56, 22.75 UNLV: 101, 32.60 New Mexico: 120, 52.60 San Jose State: 96, 31.20

Like the Utah defense, their offense has yet to be seriously tested. Those numbers prove that.

KEY STORYLINES

-       This Utah team has only gone on the road once. That was in front of around 24,000 fans at New Mexico, who might bet he worst football team in division one football. A hostile Jack Trice Stadium will be a factor on Saturday.

-       Will Iowa State’s offensive momentum carry over from last week to Utah?

-       A win would be Iowa State’s first vs. a top 10 team since beating Iowa 23-3 in 2005. It would be another first in Paul Rhoads’ tenure at Iowa State.

-       Utah is a program that is attempting to win a national championship. In my opinion, there is way more pressure on the Utes coming into this game than Iowa State.

-       How healthy is Alexander Robinson? Keep an eye on his carry numbers, along with Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody.

-       Iowa State is currently ranked 12th nationally in turnover margin at +1.00. Will the defense keep this trend up against the Utes?

-       Looking at stats is fun but at the end of the day, Utah has a culture of winning that tromps all of that. This team will be ready to play and they’ll expect to beat Iowa State.

GAME UPDATES ON TWITTER

Be sure to follow @CycloneFanatic on Twitter for game updates tomorrow night. Ian Smith will be manning that ship. For my opinions on the game, follow @ChrisMWilliams.

CHRIS’ FINAL PREDICTION

I have been 50-50 on this game all week. To me, it is a toss up. Because of that, I’ll lean towards the good guys.

Iowa State 31, Utah 28

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