Offensive Player to Watch vs. Oklahoma: Brock Purdy
Iowa State faces Oklahoma for the second time this season, seeking similar offensive firepower as they showed back on October 3rd. Breece Hall led the offensive attack last time around, racking up 139 yards on 28 carries with a pair of touchdowns. Brock Purdy did not have his best outing, going just 12-24 with 254 yards and a touchdown. I think it is safe to say that Brock Purdy is gone.
In the last 14 quarters of play, newly-minted 1st Team All-Big 12 Quarterback Purdy has completed 77% of his passes and has 10 touchdowns to zero INTs. Ever since his 3 interception first half performance against Baylor, he has played some of the best football of his career. Folks, he’s baaaaaccckkkk.
Not only has Purdy been slinging the rock around the yard like his old self, he’s gotten a lot of his confidence and his swagger back. He’s playing with a lot more poise and has some of the best pocket presence we’ve ever seen. Not that Iowa State was struggling, but Purdy really turned the season into the right direction by creating a steady passing attack.
Oklahoma’s defense has given up the fewest amount of rushing yards on the season, so Breece Hall might not have the easiest time gaining yards consistently. OU’s pass defense is in the middle of the Big 12, giving up 234 yards per contest. The Cyclone receivers are in an entire different universe compared to where they were a few months ago, as well. Oklahoma has been a lot better defensively as of late, but I think it’s fair to say Iowa State’s offense has improved just as much.
Brock Purdy is going to make plays as always, but the biggest difference in his game has been his timing. He has stopped making risky plays.
As the season has gone on, he has become a lot better at what Matt Campbell has been preaching: doing the little things right. He’s not forcing deep balls, making poor reads by being greedy, or even trying to make a play that is simply not there (definitely not talking about the play against TCU). BP is playing some efficient football, and Iowa State will need it to continue in hopes of “upsetting” the favored Sooners this Saturday in the Big 12 Championship (11 am, ABC).
Defensive Player To Watch vs. Oklahoma: Mike Rose
To win a championship, you need your stars to come out when the lights are brightest. Mike Rose is going to have to play a big role in stopping this Oklahoma offense on Saturday if they want to do just that.
On the season, Rose has 81 total tackles and 1.5 sacks, including 11 total tackles and a half of a sack in the first matchup with Oklahoma. He’s the team leader in tackles and he also happens to have the most interceptions in the country among linebackers with 4. Matching up against Oklahoma, Rose is going to be paired up against a ton of players with a wide variety of skills. A tough assignment for anyone, but Rose takes it all in stride.
Since the loss in Ames, Oklahoma has averaged 46 points per game, including scoring 62 two games in a row. They are the eight-best passing and seventh-best scoring offense in the country, which is essentially on par with any Lincoln Riley team.
Ideally, this would be a perfect game to snag one of those in the right place at the right time Mike Rose interceptions. Iowa State is going to have to come up with an opportunistic turnover to change the tide of the game in their favor if they want to bring home the title. Should be a fun one to watch.
WRNL INTERROGATES: Crimson and Cream Machine Part II
Matthias Schwartzkopf and Jack Shields
1. So we meet again. I am not sure about you but I could get used to a little rivalry starting up here between Iowa State and Oklahoma given how close the games have been over the last few years, you down? Probably could brush Texas to the side.
I think that sounds like a lovely idea. Honestly, I’ve been saying for a few years that Iowa State would be my dream Big 12 Championship opponent. I’ve been attending the Big 12 Tournament since the Kemper Arena days and have seen firsthand how devoted ISU’s fan base happens to be, and I would love to see droves of folks from both schools bonding over Busch Lights (or Lattes, as I believe y’all call them) in the JerryWorld parking lot. It just sucks that it had to happen in 2020, but this is also my premature pick for the 2021 championship game, so the dream is still alive.
2. Iowa State and Oklahoma played a hell of a game in Ames and Oklahoma is obviously a much better team since then. What has been the biggest difference since then?
The defense has just been lights-out since the last matchup. Even before Ronnie Perkins was reinstated, the defensive front as a whole has surpassed my most optimistic expectations. Hell, when OU’s offense sputtered against Baylor, the defense was there to save the offense’s bacon. It’s not exactly the dynamic people have long come to expect from this program, but it’s nice to know that this team can win a game without the offense feeling as if it needs to score a touchdown on every possession.
3. We are used to seeing Oklahoma quarterbacks torch everyone alive. Rattler has yet to really “take” over if you compare him to Baker, Kyler and Jalen, which ultimately may be unfair. I think we all know he is going to have a phenomenal career in Norman. What has been the best thing you have seen from him since Ames and even the benching against Texas.
The impact of said benching can’t be understated. Rattler’s primary flaw entering the season was his noted tendency to try to do too much on a play. Early in the season, this would result in turnovers, and this was particularly true in the first half against Texas. Since the benching, he’s thrown only two picks – one of which wasn’t his fault. He’s simply taking fewer risks and grasping the offense a bit better. Additionally, the playbook has opened up for him a bit as the season has progressed.
4. Iowa State has also improved since then, what is the one thing that Oklahoma needs to key on during the game on Saturday?
As great as Iowa State’s offense is, I’m less worried about that matchup than I am the Oklahoma offense/ISU defense showdown. Do I think the OU is capable of having a big day? Sure, but Jon Heacock has never really allowed Lincoln Riley’s offenses to get completely confortable or find a rhythm. I’m also still a little concerned about the OU offensive line, which had a rough outing against Baylor two weeks ago.
It’s not necessarily something to ‘key on’, but the offensive line’s matchup against Iowa State’s front has sure been an area of heavy emphasis this week.
5. The Oklahoma defensive line is going to be at full strength and this matchup against the Offensive Line against Iowa State can arguably be considered one of the best offensive lines in the country against one of the best defensive lines in the country. I really think the game is won or lost here. Is that kind of your thoughts or do you look elsewhere?
I think that’s fair, and while I expect the OU pass rush to be much more effective this time around, it’s not going to come as easily as it has against the Baylors and Oklahoma States of the world. The OU defense and Iowa State offense will both have their moments, and probably at a fairly even clip.
6. Give us your prediction and why.
I went with 31-28 Oklahoma on our podcast, and I’m sticking to it. I think OU’s sheer talent will win the day in the end, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m not expecting Jon Heacock’s defense to allow the OU offense to get into a rhythm. On the other side, the OU defense has improved by leaps and bounds, but Iowa State’s offense is going to get theirs. I’m looking forward to the game, but not the stress that will accompany it.
One final note – I made the mistake of drinking Busch Light during the last matchup and inadvertently gave Iowa State some positive juju. I’ll go with PBR just to be safe this time. Should put OU over the top.
Opposing Player to Watch vs. Oklahoma: Spencer Rattler
It all comes full circle.
Iowa State’s 37-30 win over Oklahoma back on October 3 helped turn the Cyclones’ season around, but that very game also gives the Sooners added motivation heading into the Big 12 Championship game tomorrow. Quarterback Spencer Rattler has added even more fuel to the fire after he clearly perceived his lack of first or second team conference honors as a snub. He certainly has an argument, as he’s leading the conference in multiple offensive categories.
Rattler leads the Big 12 in total passing yards (2,512), overall rating (174.7), completion percentage (68.5), and is second overall with 24 touchdown passes, behind Sam Ehlinger (25). Moreover, Rattler’s rating is 24.8 points higher than Ehlinger’s and 29.1 points higher than Brock Purdy’s. Rattler, without question, creates problems whether he’s in the pocket or not:
Now, that’s not all to say that Oklahoma’s offense is a complete juggernaut, because the Cyclones field a much more balanced attack with Breece Hall in the backfield. For context, Hall’s 1,357 total yards lead the conference, whereas Oklahoma backs T.J. Pledger and Rhamondre Stevenson have posted has posted a combined 831 yards.
Still, Rattler’s play as of late has been great, throwing 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions since the team’s loss to Iowa State. The Sooners have outscored all opponents 225-78 in their last five games, scoring 40 or more points in three of them. Not that he needed it, but the earlier loss to the Cyclones, combined with what he perceives as an All-Conference snub, gives Rattler plenty of motivation heading into the Big 12 title game.
2020 Game XI Big 12 Championship: #6 Iowa State vs. #10 Oklahoma Football Preview
Date: Saturday, December 19, 2020
Time: 11:00 A.M. CST
Location: AT&T Stadium (Jerry World), Arlington, TX
Capacity: 80,000, (25% fans are allowed)
Line: Oklahoma -5.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – “Crimson & Cream Machine”
Well, we may have come up the “rough side of the mountain,” as Matt Campbell says, but Cyclone Fans – we are finally here – The Big 12 Championship!
In a lot of ways, (other than COVID), this year has been different. Especially for Iowa State, as they have continued to trail-blaze their way to victories. We have truly seen a Cyclone tearing through the path of the Big 12, dominating the likes of Kansas State and West Virginia (by a combined score of 87-6), and beating both Texas and Oklahoma in the same year (for the first time in school history). Now while there may be a lot of firsts, this team simply is NOT finished.
After the Texas win, I got a call from my brother (who is getting married in 2021), and he said, “I think I want to go to Dallas for my bachelor party.” I don’t know about you Cyclone fans, but I am about as giddy as a toddler on Christmas morning. Hope to see you WRNLers at the game so we can drink Texas out of Busch Light.
Bring it On Boomer!
When we last left off….
Senior Day was special for the Cyclones, as they completely dominated West Virginia in all phases of the game, and won convincingly 42-6. It was a workmanlike performance. One that we have seen all year, where Iowa State plays their brand, their style of football, and simply does not matter who the competition is.
That’s the thing – this roster is so damn malleable, as they were built to compete against not only pass-happy Big 12 offenses, but also ground-and-pound programs. Physicality will be at its finest form on Saturday, and the only reason OU is favored is because of their history.
Now don’t get me wrong, Oklahoma deserves all the credit to get to where they are. But this Iowa State program simply doesn’t care. Teams of old would have had the shit scared right out of them in big moments – but not the 2020 Cyclones. Their laser-focus has been on display all year, and I for one, am NOT ready for this season to be over.
Talk about going up the wrong side of the schedule. This OU team stared a 1-2 record in the face, and all they have done is win SIX straight! Only one of those wins was by single digits (Texas in 4 OTs), as they have taken the rest of the Big 12 to the woodshed.
Typically, when you think of Oklahoma, you think offense, but what has impressed me most is the play of their defense.
Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch has upped the ante, and his “Speed D,” as they call it in Norman, has improved tremendously. Not only are they stout against the run (3.0 yards per carry), but over the last three games, have allowed a crazy 45% completion rate, and picked off 5 passes.
The biggest difference between ISU/OU Game 1 to now is the return of two playmakers coming off suspension. Senior running back Rhamondre Stevenson carries his lunch pail to work, as this monster has averaged 96 rushing yards per game, and defensive end Ronnie Perkins has a sack per contest since his debut.
Led by offensive savant Lincoln Riley, this Sooner program thrives on big plays, and there is no one better at drawing up one-on-one matchups down the field than Riley. Freshman Quarterback Spencer Rattler has come into his own recently. He is just as dangerous with his legs as he is with his howitzer for an arm.
This Sooner team is loaded with talent, but one thing that is missing – senior leadership. The OU depth chart has only FIVE senior starters, and honestly only SEVEN that contribute to their success. The Sooners are one of the hottest teams in America, but have also played very little football over the last month, as their last game on the schedule (WVU) had to be cancelled due to COVID concerns in Morgantown, WV.
Quite the lopsided affair this is, as OU leads the all-time series 76-7-2, BUT the two teams have split the last four meetings, as ISU even owns a +3-scoring advantage.
This is all too familiar territory for OU, as they have been here before, and then some. In fact, the Sooners have more Big 12 Championship WINS (10) than any other program has appearances. Read that one again…
Iowa State Offense
This is where the game will be won. As Oklahoma brings with them a tremendously athletic and deep defense. Gone are the bone-head coverage lapses and missed tackles from earlier in the season. Obviously Iowa State is going to play their brand of football, which is running the ball with Breece Hall. I expect a tough day trudging the football for #28, as his opportunities will be limited. But as good as a back that Breece “The Beast,” is, he will wiggle his way for close to 100 yards, and will have to gain most of his ground on the outside.
I expect a heavy dose of the three-tight-end set, as Campbell projects lead-blocker (and tremendously important) Dylan Soehner to suit up on Saturday. Watching the OU game back from earlier this year, those tight ends were mammoths moving the line of scrimmage late in the game. Charlie Kolar is a mismatch for any opponent, but more so against the Sooners, as they only have ONE defensive back who is 6-feet-tall.
First Key to Victory – Gotta Start Fast out of the Gate
I can’t emphasize this more, as this Cyclone team has had to dig themselves out of holes the last two times they played OU. Get this - in 2020, the Sooners have outscored opponents by a 127-17 margin in the first quarter (that is not a misprint)… Brock Purdy and company have to put together effective drives to keep the Sooners on their heels. That means positive yards on early downs, manageable third-downs, and finish in the red zone. PS no penalties at the goal-line please?
If I were OU, I would load the box and man-up tight on the outside receivers. Their safeties are aggressive as all get-out, but that can be combatted by the downfield speed of Joe Scates and Tarique Milton. Even if those deep passes are not caught, it will still keep the defensive backs honest. Look for multiple targets to go to Xavier Hutchinson, but most importantly Sean Shaw, Jr., as the sophomore has come into his own in the last few.
A big test on Saturday will be the play of the offensive line. ISU has done a tremendous job of keeping Brock’s jersey clean, only allowing 10 sacks all year (9th best in the country), but they will be in for a showdown with this front-four. Expect those tight ends to stay in and help chip on passing downs, but also more roll-outs and play-action for Purdy to move him out of the pocket.
Like I said in my opening statement, there is not a more improved unit than Oklahoma’s defense. After being the laughing stock of previous CFB playoff contenders, this Sooner D has clamped down, finally forced turnovers, and have one of the best front-sevens in the country.
Their rush defense is good for FOURTH in the nation, as Breece Hall is the only back to garner more than 73 yards any game this year. Defensive tackle Isaiah Thomas has been the unsung hero, as he was just a reserve in 2019, but is playing lights out, and leads the Big 12 in sacks. Speaking of quarterback take-downs, this team has wreaked havoc, collecting 27 sacks (4.5 per game), which is good for tops in the country in the last six games.
Iowa State will have to keep an eye on #7, as their best edge rusher is Ronnie Perkins, who after missing the first five games, has transformed this attack with 4 sacks in his last 4 games. Oklahoma runs a 4-2-5 scheme, and stand-up defensive-end Nik Bonitto missed last game due to COVID, but should be good to go.
Bonitto is only 230 pounds, and also plays outside linebacker. I noticed a lot of position changes in the offseason, as defensive coordinator Alex Grinch loves multiplicity (hmm. Sound familiar?), with safeties playing linebacker, and linebackers moving to edge rushers. They’ve replaced girth for speed, but that beef up front can still hold their own against the rush.
The biggest name that jumps off the page is Brendan Radley-Hiles, who is a jack-of-all trades nickel-back, and came in as one of the top recruits in country. He plays down in the box and will most likely be matched up with Kolar. Iowa State took advantage of his aggressiveness and 5-foot-9 frame in the first contest, and no doubt, will do so again.
The Sooners are led in tackles by ultra-fast linebacker Brian Asamoah, but after that, the next second-level defender in stops is David Ugwoegbu, who is sixth on the team in tackles. That means a very aggressive defensive backfield, who has tremendous closing speed, and ability to get back in coverage if need be.
Probably the weakest link of this team is the secondary. Albeit their improvement in the last two-thirds of the season, they are still apt to miss assignments. They have impressively only allowed all of TEN passing touchdowns all year, and do lead the Big 12 in Pass Defense Efficiency.
They carry tremendous depth, and have been rotating fresh legs in lately. Their best cover corner is redshirt freshman Woodi Washington, and his counterpart Tre Brown is the only senior that starts on this side of the ball. Safety Delarrin Turner-Yell is second on the team in tackles, and has a nose for causing explosions in the backfield.
The Verdict – OU
This is going to be the toughest matchup of the year for the Clones. It will be very similar to the Texas and OSU contests, where yards will be hard to come by, and Breece Hall will struggle to get going. That means the load will fall on to Brock Purdy’s shoulders.
Iowa State Defense
One major part I worry about are the first few drives. In game’s past it has taken Jon Heacock a few possessions to see what hand he has been dealt, and then boom – in-game adjustments are made, and ISU is back in the saddle again. In the last 8 games, ISU is allowing an absurd 8.6 points in the second halves. Absurd.
Take away all the non-offensive touchdowns we have pissed down our leg, and this defense should be tops in the league in scoring D (17.1 PPG). Obviously it starts with stopping the run, and while many think OU is a pass-happy, throw-it-all-around type offense, they actually run the ball more than they throw it.
Second Key to Victory – Force Turnovers
Its as easy as meat and potatoes. In a game as closely matched up as this, flipping field position with a turnover will make or break either team. I’m confident ISU can “rattle” Rattler with not only their blitzes, but also blitz disguises, as no one is better at that than the Scientist Jon Heacock himself.
I expect OU will try and establish the run early. That means players like Enyi Uwazurike and Jaquan Bailey will have to continue to play unselfish football, taking themselves out of the play, that way linebackers like Mike Rose and Jake Hummel can run free. The Sooners’ bread and butter run play (and many RPO versions off it) is the combo guard/tackle counter concept, where they pull both linemen and form a swinging gate of sorts as lead blockers. The key is to dirty up the run lane, and their last foe (Baylor) stopped it to perfection (76 rushing yards on 31 attempts). You better believe that master plan is in the playbook for Saturday.
I’m a tad worried about the scrambling ability of Spencer Rattler, but Iowa State will have to keep a “Spy” on him at all times. Easier said than done, but O’Rien Vance and Mike Rose are up for the task. Iowa State’s unsung hero on the inside (Isaiah Lee) is expected to play, as he is a difference maker up front.
This will be a big test for the secondary, namely our safeties on downfield throws. There is no one better at putting speedy receivers in one-on-one situations than Lincoln Riley, so it will be important for the likes of Lawrence White and Isheem Young to play their best version of Centerfield.
This Sooner offense has hit its stride as of late, as they lead the Big 12 (surprise) in both scoring and total offense. Again, not only are they ultra-efficient at passing the ball (9.7 yards per attempt), but have really churned out the yards on the ground.
The debut of running back Rhamondre Stevenson changed the dynamic of this offense midway through the year, as he is a powerful back. His counterpart T.J. Pledger is more of a change-of-pace runner, and has the wheels to break one. The offensive line is led by All-American Creed Humphrey, as he anchors the front and has the experience to communicate effectively against ISU’s blitz packages.
There are a smorgasbord of options at receiver, but the best one is probably freshman Marvin Mims. He has already tied the OU freshman record of seven touchdowns, and is their big-play threat. Other names to keep an eye on are: possession-receiver Charleston Rambo, slot-man Drake Stoops, and red-zone threat Theo Wease.
Tight End Austin Stogner, (who I think is second best tight end in the conference), is doubtful to play with a leg injury, but his backup Brayden Willis did find the end zone last game for a score.
The quarterback Spencer Rattler is a dandy. He has improved greatly since he first played Iowa State, and has completed passes at nearly a 70% clip. He has thrown for at least two touchdowns in 8 of last 9 games, and has the legs to extend plays. His maturation has grown tremendously, but he still tries to fit balls in tight windows.
The Verdict – ISU
I give both defenses the nod here, as there is not a more consistent unit than Iowa State’s D. Oklahoma may win a few battles early, but I think overall Iowa State will win the war, with a collective effort and again the masterful play-calling of Jon Heacock. PS He should have been a finalist for the Broyles Assistant of the Year Award…
Oklahoma carries with it one of the finest kickers in all of college football in Gabe Brkic, as the Lou Groza semi-finalist is a career 87% on field goals. He has only managed to boot one-third of his kickoffs back for touchbacks, so you know what that means!!!
If there was ever a time for fifth-year senior Kene Nwangwu to display his greatness it is now. Look for #3 to take full advantage when the time is right.
OU does have a solid punt returner in Marvin Mims, but not much to speak of on kick returns. They have only made 10 returns all year.
As close as this game will be, you know Connor Assalley will be called upon. If Iowa State has a chance for a game-winning field-goal at the buzzer, I’m confident the kick will go right down ASS-ALLEY!
Verdict – OU
Pretty close, but ISU’s track record hurts them here.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Who would have thought we would ever be here, huh? While it may be unfamiliar territory for us fans, this is exactly what Matt Campbell has been preaching with the “Process” since Day Freakin’ One. This Tweet is all you have to understand how disciplined Cyclone Football is:
Now, for my analogy of 1 to 10. Whew, this one took me a few whiskeys to think of. In the spirit of Christmas movies, on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being dirty old Cousin Eddy (you know his name was probably spelled incorrectly), and 10 being Kevin McCallister (Home Alone is one of the best holiday films of all time), I give Iowa State a Tim Allen “Christmas with the Kranks’” chance of winning.
All you Chris Williams fanatics out there, take that any way you want…
Come at me. Haha
This one is for all the marbles. It will honestly come down to a play or two, and Iowa State needs to hold serve on the first few possessions, and avoid falling behind early. They also need to limit any and all special teams mistakes, and shut down those deep passing lanes. I expect our best players to show up, but it will be the second- and third-tier guys who will go down as heroes if we want to win.
Now for what I’ve been waiting for
Final Key to Victory – It’s all on Brock Purdy’s Shoulders
This game will be WON OR LOST with Brock Purdy. Plain and SIMPLE. OU will load the box and shut down Breece as much as they can, but if ISU wants to take home the trophy at the end of the day, then #15 will take them to the promised land. And folks, he is ready to do it!
Iowa State 35
Letter from the Editor
Over the last two weeks, we’ve had a chance to process and reflect on the place Iowa State football finds itself in, with an opportunity to win its first conference championship since the Teddy Roosevelt administration.
Maybe “finds itself in” isn’t the right expression.
This bunch of Cyclones put themselves in this situation with a confident and gritty intent that previous squads simply couldn’t have mustered.
As they approached pitfall after pitfall, each littered with the cardinal and gold-clad bones of teams and players that came before them, this squad crossed those seemingly infinite voids in myriad of ways. Some through shear power of will, some with hairline precision, and others with overwhelming force.
They embraced Jack Trice’s “I Will” mentality of self-sacrifice in pursuit of goals larger than any single man, and became the We Will Cyclones, capable of toppling mountains and slaying dragons.
In front of them stands their most daunting challenge they’ve ever faced. A Goliath with revenge on its mind, and arsenal of weapons fit for a king.
Yet, here the We Will Cyclones stand, staring down Goliath, just a few solid blows away from certain death. But they’ve been here before.
It fights aggressively, offering huge swings specifically and meticulously designed to end the fight quickly. But the Cyclones know how to counter: Duck, shift your weight to your back foot, and lunge. Find the soft spot, and strike.
The beast won’t be felled by any single piercing lunge or well-timed counter, but through consistent cunning, a clear mind, and an unflinching trust in their armor, their weapons, and their own ability.
These Cyclones have fought and defeated this Goliath before, and though it has returned, bigger and stronger, they have also returned stronger and smarter, and with a confidence capable of carrying them to victory.
Maybe someday the Goliath will finally end up on the better end of tales like these.
Today is not that day, and the We Will Cyclones will do exactly as they say.
Iowa State - 34
Oklahoma - 27