Iowa State is 6-5 overall, including a lackluster 3-5 in league action, and the team would certainly strengthen its postseason prospects with a win in this contest. The Cyclones recently ripped off three consecutive victories, culminating with a shocking 37-31, double-overtime victory over the previously unbeaten Oklahoma State Cowboys. Unfortunately for head coach Paul Rhoads, his club couldn't extend the streak to four games last week, falling to Oklahoma by a 26-6 final.
"We are a confident football team and I do not expect to leave Norman with any less confidence with how we are playing right now," said coach Rhoads after that defeat.
Kansas State enters this game having posted back-to-back victories to move to 9-2 overall. Bill Snyder's team was most recently in action back on November 19 when it edged Texas on the road by a 17-13 final thanks to a tremendous defensive performance.
"It wasn't just the final stand, our defense had to stand up all day, because our offense didn't," said Snyder after his defense stifled UT's final drive of the game.
Iowa State holds a 49-41-4 series edge over Kansas State, but the Wildcats have won the last three meetings.
Cyclones' tailback James White injured his shoulder against Oklahoma, but he is fully expected to be back on the field this weekend. White has run for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, solid numbers for a team that generates a modest 23.5 ppg and 395.1 total ypg. Steele Jantz has connected on only 53.9 percent of his passes for 1,322 yards and 10 TDs with nine INTs. Jared Barnett has seen plenty of time under center and has fared no better than Jantz overall and worse in some key statistical categories. Regardless of who takes the snaps this weekend, the best bet for either signal caller will be to throw the ball to Darius Reynolds, who has racked up 599 yards and seven TDs on 37 catches.
Defensively, the Cyclones clearly have some room for improvement, as they are yielding 29.5 ppg and 439.0 total ypg. They have permitted 34 TDs to opposing offenses, 19 of which have been of the rushing variety. Sure, Iowa State has come up with 24 takeaways, but the club has posted a mere 13 sacks and gives up too many big plays. Jake Knott has made 104 tackles to lead ISU, and he has forced three fumbles to date.
In the loss to Oklahoma last time out, Iowa State scored its lone touchdown in the first quarter on a 10-yard pass by Barnett. Unfortunately, the offense finished the affair with a mere 245 total yards and averaged just 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. As for the defense, it yielded 509 total yards to the Sooners, who were only able to notch two TDs.
"The guys on the defensive side of the ball are really playing well together," said Rhoads. "You have pieces that you have to fit together to form a puzzle, and they have that figured out."
Kansas State leans heavily on versatile QB Collin Klein, and he has responded with a big statistical season. Klein has run for 1,013 yards and 25 TDs while passing for 1,587 yards and 11 scores with five INTs. His top option in the passing game is Chris Harper, who has posted 536 yards and five TDs on 39 receptions. The Wildcats are generating 33.4 ppg and 342 total ypg this season.
Against Texas last week, Kansas State struggled mightily on offense, as the team finished with an embarrassing total of 121 yards, including 38 rushing yards on 39 attempts. Coach Snyder was bitterly disappointed with the play of his offense, as was the team's quarterback.
"I was very frustrated that we weren't able to get anything going and weren't able to support the kind of performance our defense gave," said Klein. "We're just going to come back to work and keep getting better."
The Wildcats have been rather mediocre defensively this season, as they are permitting 28.3 ppg and 401.5 total ypg. Of the 39 touchdowns that they have surrendered to opposing offenses, 23 have been passing scores. Sure, 17 sacks and 17 INTs have been registered by the defense, but there is plenty more room for big plays. Arthur Brown continues to pace K-State with 83 total tackles.
Give Brown and company plenty of credit for the effort against Texas last week, as they were able to limit the Longhorns to 310 total yards and one touchdown.