Matchups: Iowa State vs. Texas Tech

Scott Fitzgerald looks at the matchups between the Red Raiders and cyclones heading into Saturday's game.

Run D – Obviously, the Iowa State run game is going to be the top item on the list for the Texas Tech Defense. This will be the first of several tests in a row of a team running the football until the run can be stopped. James White is the first true starting running back the Red Raiders have faced this season and it's concerning, but also not anything they can help. At this point, they are either good enough to stop him or they aren't we'll find out. I'm also hearing that starting FB Jeff Woody will be at best a game time decision for the Cyclones. He's Iowa State's key on short yardage. Don't think he'll be 100% even if he plays. When QB Steele Jantz runs the football, it will be up to the DEs and OLBs to keep playing consistent assignment football that they played against Texas St. and New Mexico. Also, be aware that we'll probably see an appearance by backup QB Jared Barnett. He carved up the Red Raiders for

Pass D – I've given them an incomplete grade on the season because we really don't know how they'll react when it's up to them to make a crucial stop. If Texas Tech gets an early two score or more lead, I think that will force Iowa State to try to throw the football.  We'll see how much practicing against the nation's #2 overall offense and top 10 passing offense has helped this group improve. I also think it's key to have a pass rusher step up and earn the reputation of one that will be feared.  I don't care who it is, before this defense is dominant, the pass rush must be established to a point where an opponent will fear it and gameplan for it.

Special Teams – The Red Raider punt team is the key ST unit to focus on versus Iowa State. Not because they have only had two snaps of game action this season, but because they must stop an Iowa State punt return team that averages over 21 yards per return on 4 returns. The punt team will probably work as hard as they have all season against the Cyclones, as Iowa State is 2nd in the conference at 3rd down defense. When the time comes for Tech to punt, helping the defense out with field position will be imperative.

Running the ball – I don't expect the run game to be too effective against Iowa State…until the Cyclones start dropping 7-8 into coverage after being burned on the outside and with the occasional screen.  If Texas Tech has 100 yards plus running the football, it will be a sign of a well-executed game plan for the Red Raiders. If the rushing yards are low, this will be a lot closer game than Tech fans want it to be.

Passing Game – This is where you beat Iowa State early. Use the size mismatch of your outside receivers on their corners and exploit it. Get Moore and Kennard involved in the game early, then when they think they are ready for the fade and comeback routes, burn them deep with Jevon Bell or with a screen to Jakeem Grant.

Most important matchup: Iowa State LBs versus interior Tech OL: It's time to see if LaRaven Clark and Alfredo Morales are ready for prime time. Jake Knott and A.J. Klein lead the most talented position group for Iowa State. Both have NFL potential. If the Cyclones come after Doege early, then these two will have to answer the bell and pass their first true test. If the pressure gets to Doege and he is forced into making a couple of hurried throws and decisions, that is going to play in the hands of the Cyclones.

 

Biggest mismatch: Tech WR vs. Iowa State DBs  Texas Tech has the size and talent advantage against the ISU secondary, but Iowa State is physical at the line of scrimmage to make up for it. That said, Darrin Moore is 6'4'', Marcus Kennard is 6'3'' and Eric Ward is as physical as anyone. Throw up top until they stop it. I look for a similar game plan to Texas St.

 

Keys:

Win 3rd Down: Iowa State and Texas Tech are 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Big 12 in 3rd down defense. I'd be willing to bet that whichever team stops the other on third down more will win on Saturday night.

Get an early lead: Iowa State has had leads of 24-0 and 21-0 in the first half the last two years against the Red Raiders. This can't happen for a third year in a row, can it?

Force the hand of Steele Jantz: The Cyclone's QB is responsible for 5 of the 7 turnovers for Iowa State this season. He's prone to turning the ball over. Force him to make a bad decision and then capitalize on it.

Make a Statement: Win this game and prove to the rest of the conference that the Texas Tech Red Raiders are a team to be feared and taken seriously in the Big 12.

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