Baylor Bears (3-2) (0-1)
1. Baylor has lost 12 straight Big 12 road games – last win was at Colorado in 2006
2. Robert Griffin had surgery on his right ACL and is officially out for the season. Backup Blake Szymanski has a bruised right shoulder and missed the last two weeks. Freshman Nick Florence has done a nice job in their absence. If Szymanski is healthy he is the likely starter, Blake threw for nearly 3,000 yards in 2007.
3. The Bears are dead last in the conference in rush defense giving up 171 yards per contest.
4. Punter Derek Epperson is 3rd in the nation and 2nd in the conference averaging 47 yards per punt. However, the Bears are just 49th in the nation in net punting with a 37 yard average.
5. Baylor may try the Bearcat offense against ISU. WR Kendall Wright and TE Jarod Monk have both been seen time in this formation. The Cyclones had trouble with Kansas State’s version of this offense two weeks ago.
6. Three Bears showed up on the First Team Midseason All Big 12 team – DT Phil Taylor who transferred from Penn State and Seniors LB Joe Pawelek and S Jordan Lake.
7. The kick return game has been a strength for Baylor. Kendall Wright and David Gettis have averaged 25 yards per return.
8. Wright and Gettis are also the top receivers (Wright 26 catches, 330 yards, 2 TD) (Gettis 19 catches, 234 yards, 2 TD)
9. Baylor would love to have RB Jay Finley back at full strength this week. The third team All-Big 12 RB in 2008 , who is battling an ankle injury, managed only two carries over the last three weeks.
Iowa State Cyclones (3-3) (0-2)
1. The Iowa State offensive line is statistically the best in the Big 12. The Cyclones are #1 in rush offense (209.5 yds/game) and #1 in sacks allowed (2 total).
2. ISU has lost 8 fumbles this year, the most in the Big 12.
3. Austen Arnaud is getting better each week and the stats show it. He now averages 245 yards in total offense, which is good for 6th in the Big 12 and 39th in the country.
4. The Cyclones are last in the Big 12 in total defense surrendering 391 yards/game
5. Don’t be surprised if true freshman Josh Lenz and Beau Blankenship are more involved in the offense. Lenz looked good in limited playing time last week. Beau is likely the first RB off the bench this week.
6. Jesse Smith leads the Big 12 in tackles with 64 and is 9th in the nation.
7. Alexander Robinson (109 rushing yards/game) was named to Midseason All-Big 12 first team. Reggie Stephens and Jesse Smith earned second team and Marquis Hamilton, David Sims and Grant Mahoney third team. Where is Michael Brandtner? Ben Lamaak and Scott Haughton also deserved mention.
8. Brandtner is averaging 43.6 yards/punt, but more importantly Iowa State is 2nd in the Big 12 and 4th in the country in net punting.
9. Iowa State is #2 in turnovers gained in the Big 12, unfortunately they are at the bottom of the conference in turnovers lost.
10. Iowa State has lost 11 straight Big 12 games.
Keys to Cyclone Victory
1. Winning Special Teams – It isn’t fair to say that special teams lost the last two games for ISU, but the inconsistent kicking game has put the Cyclones in a hole in both contests. Iowa State will need a consistent, solid effort across the board on special teams to get a victory. Keep an eye on Iowa State’s punt return unit Saturday, this could be the week we break a big one.
2. Pressuring the QB – The Cyclones were unable to get any pressure on Todd Reesing last week and he picked the defense apart. The Baylor QB’s are very capable and Wright and Gettis are good receivers. The front four need to cause some disruption in the Baylor backfield. Bailey Johnson moves into the starting lineup at NT this week and Nate Frere slides over to DT.
3. Austen Arnaud Development – Austen has improved each week and he needs to continue that progression this week. The running been there all year and the passing game came around last week. Austen needs to show that same balance against Baylor.
Players to Watch
1. Josh Lenz – Josh should have opportunities to make big plays in the passing game and returning punts.
2. Grant Mahoney – Grant and the kicking unit had a rough first half against Kansas, but rebounded with a solid performance in the second half. He needs to put the last two weeks behind him and finish off the season strong.
3. Leonard Johnson – Johnson was on the wrong end of a couple Reesing to Briscoe TD passes last week. Expect a big rebound game from ISU’s best cornerback.
Baylor and Iowa State both need this game to keep their bowl chances healthy. The Bears dominated the Cyclones in Waco a year ago behind a strong effort by Robert Griffin. Griffin won’t be playing on Saturday and that levels the playing field significantly. The Cyclones offensive line is really coming on and becoming a dominant unit. The running game is consistently getting 200 yards and doing it against defenses that stop the run well. Baylor doesn’t play the run well, which should lead to a huge day for Alexander Robinson and Austen Arnaud on the ground. The special teams have lost the last two weeks, they win this week and so do the Cyclones.
Iowa State – Baylor Interviews
Video: Iowa State Player Interviews (Austen Arnaud, Patrick Neal, Fred Garrin, Derrick Catlett, Mike O’Connell)
Video courtesy of Cyclones.com