Iowa State will travel to Waco this weekend for a Big 12 matchup with No. 25 Baylor, which suffered its first loss of the season to Kansas State last weekend.
Iowa State is coming off a 37-14 loss against nationally-ranked Texas in a game that was defined by three first half turnovers from the Cyclones, who outscored the Longhorns 14-3 in the second half. Iowa State meets its second Top-25 opponent in as many weeks on Saturday against Baylor, and head coach Paul Rhoads is fully aware of the challenge presented by a prolific offense, led by Robert Griffin III.
"(Griffin) is a highly explosive and talented athlete who's proven he can beat with his legs as well as his arm," said Rhoads. "He does a great job of leading their offensive football team."
Baylor lost for the first time in 2011 last weekend, after Kansas State hit a field goal with 3:10 remaining to secure the upset. Baylor had a chance to go 4-0 for the first time since 1991, and nearly fell out of the AP Top-25 for the first time since upsetting TCU in the first week of the season.
"They're down. Of course they're down because we played with a whole lot of passion and effort Saturday and played a good football team," said head coach Art Briles. "You grow from it. We all learned some tough lessons the other day, and we'll move forward and be ready to go Saturday, no doubt. We better be because Iowa State's a good football team. I can promise you they're not concerned about what our feelings are."
Iowa State leads the all-time series 5-4 over Baylor, including a 24-10 win over the Bears in 2009 in Ames.
The Cyclones are led by quarterback Steele Janz, who is completing 56.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for 917 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, and has added two rushing touchdowns.
"I think they've been on the cutting edge for a while, quite honestly. They've got a guy that can do it in [Steele] Jantz," said Briles. "He's a big, strong kid that is fearless and they believe in him. He's a guy that can keep the plays alive."
Iowa State averages 380.5 yards and 25.5 points per game, and last week Texas held the Cyclones to 380 yards and 17 points. The most reliable receiver for Janz has been Darius Reynolds, who leads the team in both receptions and receiving yards per game with 4.7 and 77.5, respectively. The Iowa State rushing attack averages 141.2 yards per game, with Shontrelle Johnson leading the charge with 61.7 yards per. Johnson has yet to rush for a touchdown this season.
Iowa State ranks 62nd nationally in defense, allowing 373.2 yards per game (154.7 rushing, 218.5 passing). Texas posted 400 yards of total offense on the unit, including 145 yards rushing, and the Cyclones were unable to create any turnovers. Iowa State averages just 1.2 sacks and five tackles for loss. The top playmaker defensively for Iowa State has been Jake Knott, who averages 10.2 tackles per game and .88 tackles for loss, while Patrick Neal leads the team with 1.5 sacks so far this season.
"I've seen a couple of their games and they are very physical and they play fast," said running back Terrance Ganaway of the Iowa State defense. "They have beaten some really great teams, so we're going to have to get after it."
Robert Griffin has been one of the country's most electrifying playmakers, but threw his first interception at an inopportune time in the fourth quarter in the loss to Kansas State last weekend. Griffin has thrown for 1,308 yards and 18 touchdowns (including 10 touchdowns in the last two games against Rice and Kansas State combined) so far in 2011, and has accounted for 1,481 yards of total offense. He has one of the nation's top receivers at his disposal in Kendall Wright, who has accounted for 40 catches, 621 yards and seven touchdowns thus far. The rushing attack has also been on point, gaining 201.2 yards per game behind Ganaway's 81.7 average. Baylor ranks fifth nationally in total offense (552.7 yards per game) and is tied for fourth in scoring offense, averaging 47.5 points per game.
"Nobody out of Waco is going to say one guy is going to beat us," said Rhoads. "They have a very, very good top-25 football team. We're going to have to play excellent defense, offense and special teams to have a opportunity to win the football game."
The Baylor defense gave up 36 points and 356 yards in the loss to Kansas State. The unit is allowing 361.2 yards (166.5 rushing, 194.7 passing) and 28.7 points per game. The Bears have recorded six takeaways this season (four interceptions, two fumbles) and opponents are converting 42 percent (27-of-65) on third down. Baylor is tied for 74th nationally in sacks per game (1.7) and is 74th in tackles for loss (5.5). Chance Casey leads the team in tackles with 30 so far in 2011, and Gary Mason Jr. leads the team in tackles for loss with five, including 1.5 sacks.