Close games are expected from Iowa State. The Cyclones have played six games decided by one score or less, including five games decided by no more than three points.
A walk-off field goal last week enabled Iowa State to beat Texas. The win propelled the Cyclones (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) into the College Football Playoffs rankings at No. 22 and gives them a chance to finish in the upper division of the Big 12 standings.
Time for a breather, perhaps? A matchup Saturday against Kansas (3-7, 1-6) seemingly offers that opportunity, but coach Matt Campbell is not willing to label Iowa State’s final home game in Ames as a cakewalk.
Campbell senses a renewed sense of enthusiasm for Kansas under first-year coach Les Miles, though the Jayhawks occupy last place in the Big 12.
“Obviously, Coach Miles coming in and doing an incredible job,” said Campbell, “and the spirit and toughness that those kids are playing with right now, that’s the first thing that catches your eye.”
Iowa State features ample firepower behind quarterback Brock Purdy, who ranks third nationally with a 320.3-yard passing average after exceeding the 3,000-yard mark for the season in the stirring win over Texas.
Tailback Breece Hall has found his stride against conference rivals, averaging 120.4 yards rushing over the past five games. Incorporating tight end Charlie Kolar into a passing attack that also features receivers Deshaunte Jones and La’Michael Pettway provides Purdy a diverse array of targets.
Campbell, the first Iowa State coach since the 1928 inception of the Big Six to beat every conference opponent during his tenure, has the Cyclones bowl-eligible for the third consecutive season.
“For our kids, hanging in there has kind of been the staple of us,” Campbell said. “My hope is when you watch our team play, you say, ‘Man, the kids at Iowa State play really hard and play the full 60 minutes.'”
Kansas has lost six of seven. A walk-off field goal against Texas Tech accounted for the Jayhawks’ only Big 12 victory. They have not won a Big 12 road game since 2008 and have lost four straight in the series with Iowa State. Kansas is bidding for its first four-win season since winning five in 2009.
After showing strides offensively stemming from a midseason change promoting Brent Dearmon to offensive coordinator, the Jayhawks failed to generate 300 yards in each of their past two games.
They totaled 23 total points in losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma State after totaling 85 against Texas and Texas Tech.
Quarterback Carter Stanley was benched to begin the second half last week at Oklahoma State. Running back Pooka Williams also has struggled recently to find his breakaway capabilities. Stanley averages 224.1 yards passing, while Williams (87.9) ranks third among Big 12 rushers.
In their back-to-back defeats, the Jayhawks alternated between spread and power tendencies, though Miles said of Dearon’s up-tempo attack: “This is the style of offense we want to attack with. There is a great deal of experience, and we will recruit to this style of offense extremely well.”
–Field Level Media