2021 WRNL Digital Game Program IV: Iowa State at Baylor

Time to open up conference play with a trip to Waco.


WRNL Insights: How 2021 Has Looked So Far

The expansion into analytics in college football has been hot the past three years. With advanced stats becoming more accepted in the sport it only makes sense to check in on the 2021 Cyclones and their progress through the non-conference slate.

By KnowDan

It’s been north of 1,000 days since I last wrote for WRNL. In that time careers expanded, other web sites dissolved, a global pandemic happened, CM Punk returned to professional wrestling, and football analytics started to receive more and more adoption throughout the industry.

Sometime early in 2019 I had a discussion with a member of Iowa State’s staff about how Jon Heacock and the defense used a number of metrics from CFB Analytics to inform their game planning and self-audit of the defense. The discussion was eye opening for me personally as I had yet to hear of a staff using something so novel in such a granular way.

Since that discussion I’ve heard of staffs using every site they can to get an edge and sites like Hudl and PFF have integrated more stat-based analytical work into their film coverage. Not to say anything about the Twitter traffic you see on Sundays that so frequently mentions something more informative than total yards.

In a way, the evolution the past few years has brought me back to where it all started over a decade ago. These first few articles will be on the lighter side as I work the muscles back into shape, but strap in because we’re gonna be talking numbers.

The Offense

SP+: 22nd

FEI: 22nd

Brock Purdy: A lot has been said about Brock this season, but he’s still playing at a level on par or better than he has in the past. Digging into data from Sports Info Solutions, we can see the following:

  • 71.4% completion rate (2020: 66.5%)

  • 87% catchable ball rate (2020: 87.4%)

  • 79.7% on target rate (2020: 76.3%)

  • Pressured on 24.4% of targets (2020: 34.4%)

At worst, Brock is looking a lot like the 2020 version of himself. An argument can be made that he hasn’t progressed enough to take this offense to the next level, but let’s see what he can do if that pressure rate that’s 10 points lower than last year keeps up.

Breece Hall: Similar to his partner above, there’s been scuttle that Breece has taken a step back so far this season and it would be hard to argue that’s incorrect. Through three games Breece is only averaging 79.3 yards per game on the ground and an average 4.0 yards per carry, both significantly lower than last year’s 130.6 and 5.6 yards, respectively.

A big culprit in this is how often Breece is being hit at the line, which is up nearly four points since 2020. In 2020 he was hit at the line 39.8% of the time and that has increased to 43.3% to start 2021. While you may point at the Iowa game as the driver, you’d be wrong. Iowa only hit Breece at the line six times on his 16 carries, compared to 13(!) hits at the line on his 21 carries in Las Vegas. A lot of this has to do with how UNLV attempted to slow Iowa State down with blitzes, and it gives hope that as more teams play their traditional defenses things should open up.

Offensive Line: This line is struggling to find its footing early in the season. One of the ways to show this is through Points Earned per Snap, which is a player’s addition to expected points scaled for the competition level and divided into the number of snaps played. Here is the starting offensive line’s PE per Snap in 2021 vs. 2020:

  • Sean Foster (LT): .048 vs. .032 (improvement)

  • Trevor Downing (LG): .044 vs. .054 (decline - limited snaps in 2020)

  • Colin Newell (C): .032 vs. .039 (decline)

  • Darrell Simmons Jr. (RG): .035 vs. .040 (decline)

  • Derek Schweiger (RT): .010 vs. .042 (decline)

On one hand the line is playing at just a hair below 2020 levels, but on the other we can clearly see their growing pains with Downing coming off injury and Schweiger playing outside. If this was a concern with the coaching staff I would have expected a change in Vegas, but at this point I believe this lineup is here to stay. Let’s hope they can progress past 2020 levels quickly.

The Defense

SP+: 14th

FEI: 9th

Will McDonald: Dude is an animal and accounted for three holding calls at UNLV, all while generating four QB pressures. In the pass rush he’s grading out at .073 points above average per play, slightly ahead of last year’s mark while on pace to play more snaps in 2021. His rush defense stats do not jump off the page, which is more of a system factor than anything to do with him (e.g., the goal is for linebackers and safeties to make the tackle).

Linebackers: Gerry Vaughn quietly had as many pressures (two) as Mike Rose and Enyi Uwazurike against UNLV. He’s not at O’Rien Vance levels of production in the pass rush - Vance grades out 1.49 points above a replacement player, Vaughn slightly below - but he’s a capable replacement when called into action.

Rose is currently saving about .12 points per play in the running game, compared to .08 last season when he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. His points saved per rush (.08) is ahead of last year as well (.06).

I could go on all day about this defense, but the eye test and the stats line up well on this one. It doesn’t mean we won’t have some games where points are scored, but this defense is as good as we think it is.

Special Teams

SP+: 71st

FEI: N/A

The SP+ ranking of 71st comes with a value of 0.0, which makes the special teams unit a net neutral for Iowa State. This number will move around a lot over the coming weeks without preseason weightings baked in. It was -.2 (118th) after the Iowa game and will be prone to changes based on both the return and kicking game.

For the record, Andrew Mevis is one of two Big 12 kickers (OU’s Gabe Brkic is the other) to make a 50+ yard field goal this season. While it was great to see Mevis settle our nerves on kicks, I sure am hoping that last season’s 4th down aggressiveness inside the Opportunity Zone (< 40 yards to the goal line) continues.

Follow of the Week

Parker Fleming (@statsowar) is one of the emerging voices in football analytics and has done a masterful job in both expected points added (a measure of efficiency and quality) and data visualization.

Baylor Preview

SP+: 34th (76th/11th/31st)

FEI: 32nd (53rd/21st)

Dave Aranda is a good coach and a great defensive tactician, so it’s no surprise to see Baylor already performing well on defense early in his 2nd season.

However, FEI points out how an Elite, Great, or Average team would perform against a team’s schedule as viewed through expected losses. To date, those splits for Baylor are .04 expected losses for an Elite team, .17 for Great, and .54 for average. All ranking sub-120 in strength of schedule. For reference, ISU’s split is .32/.62/.99 - not great, but ranging from 52nd to 84th in SoS.

In short, Baylor ain’t played nobody.

Final Thoughts

Two thoughts have come to mind while writing this article.

First, it takes a few games for teams to find out who they are each season and stats typically reflect that. Both the SP+ and FEI models keep some weighted preseason ratings in the model until about Week 6, and we did similar at CFB Analytics in the past. Do not be surprised if Iowa State’s rankings move quite a bit over the next few weeks as more 2021 season data is accrued.

Second, we have yet to give the benefit of the doubt to the offensive coaching staff and their in-game adjustments. The defense has been open about how they feel out an opponent and adjust accordingly, but you can see the offensive staff doing the same - especially against UNLV. This is still an experienced staff with an experienced unit and I have no doubt the fun will come. Let’s never forget to Trust the Process.


Betting the Big 12: Week 4

Conference play is here. Time to jump on board.

By: Austin Keeney

Vegas week turned out to be a rousing success. I hope you all followed along because we went 6-3 without a ton of stress all things considered. That’s back to back winning weeks. We’re also 2-0 on NFL picks. The confidence is high as we finally head into Big 12 conference play. This is a very appealing slate of games. We’re ready to keep this thing going and win some more. On to the games!

THE GAMES

Texas Tech (3-0) at Texas (2-1)

Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: ABC | The Line: Texas -9.5

The Texas Back-Meter is still sitting on “Not Back” and beating Texas Tech won’t change that. I think the Texas QB change might have been the spark they needed. This is a big home game that they need to win or the Sark questions may start to be asked already. Longhorns win it by 10.

Pick: Texas -9.5

SMU (3-0) at TCU (2-0)

Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: FS1 | The Line: TCU -9.5

SMU can really move the ball through the air. I’m torn here because I think TCU will end up being pretty good but this game screams shootout so I’ll take the points with the underdog. TCU wins the game but SMU makes it interesting in their biggest game of the season.

Pick: SMU +9.5

#14 Iowa State (2-1) at Baylor (3-0)

Kickoff: 2:30pm | TV: FOX | The Line: Iowa State -7

Baylor ain’t played nobody. And this is not a rivalry, no matter who is pushing for it. But this game will be close for comfort. I like Iowa State’s chances to win, but I’m skittish about laying more than a touchdown on the road. I can see this being a 24-20 type game which is enough for Baylor to cover.

Pick: Baylor +7

Kansas (1-2) at Duke (2-1)

Kickoff: 3:00pm | TV: Why? | The Line: Duke -16

Bet it and forget it. Check the score the next morning to see how it went.

Pick: Kansas +16

#25 Kansas State (3-0) at Oklahoma State (3-0)

Kickoff: 6:00pm | TV: ESPN+ | The Line: Oklahoma State -5.5

So we have a ranked team as an underdog on the road to an unranked team again? That’s a system play. The real analysis here is that Kansas State is flying pretty high after beating up a good Nevada team, and I’m not sure if Will Howard is ready to hit the road. The line is a little high for my liking, but I’ll take the home team anyway as they look to prove how good they are.

Pick: Oklahoma State -5.5

West Virginia (2-1) at #4 Oklahoma (3-0)

Kickoff: 6:30pm | TV: ABC | The Line: Oklahoma -17

This many points is a lot considering what both of these teams did last week. I think Vegas is trying to bait us a bit, but I like Oklahoma to have an offensive breakout here. They own this series and I think they break 40 points in this one.

Pick: Oklahoma -17

BEST BET FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY

Air Force -4 vs Florida Atlantic

FAU is heading out to Colorado with only a week to prepare for the triple option. Air Force looks tuned up and could be a sneaky threat in the Mountain West. I’m certainly expecting them to take care of business at home and win by at least a touchdown.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEKEND

Patriots -3 vs Saints

The Patriots throttled the Jets last week with a turnover-prone QB. Do you think this week will be any different with Jameis Winston in Foxborough?

PROP OF THE WEEK FOR KANSAS FANS

Sideline temperature on Iowa State’s side in Waco?

O/U 115 degrees

SEASON RECORD: 12-13 (-2.3 units)


Defensive & Offensive Players to Watch: Week 4

Cyclones Look to Right the Ship Against UNLV.

By: Dylan Coon

Iowa State

Offense I’m going to cheat a little bit here, and just say Iowa State’s run blocking. Really the only thing that wasn’t working at full capacity against UNLV was Iowa State’s run game. Breece Hall has gotten his fair share of touchdowns, but is yet to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season after doing it almost weekly lasts season. Iowa has a legitimate run stopping defense, but coming into the season I would’ve put money on Breece Hall having two 100 yard games by week 3. The O-Line does take some time to gel, and hopefully it can find itself as we start conference play. If they can make some holes for Breece Hall, that’ll make this offense a whole lot harder to stop.

Defense As the proud president of the TJ Tampa fan club, it seems only right that I pick him here. Datrone Young was out against UNLV because he was ‘banged up’. Iowa State injuries staying very non-descript as always. It was next man up and TJ Tampa played fantastic. Iowa State hasn’t given a timetable for Young’s return, but even if he is back there might be a cornerback competition for the starting spot on the outside. Tampa is in his second year, and could grow into a big play threat in the secondary. I’m telling ya, he has the ‘it’ factor.

Baylor

Offense Baylor has two running backs with over three hundred yards, through three games. Now you have to weigh strength of schedule into that equation, but that is an impressive stat nonetheless. Iowa has a great run game, good o-line, Tyler Goodson is a very talented running back, and Iowa State all but negated their run game. Field position aside, Goodson only had 21 carries for 55 yards coming out to around 2.5 yards per carry.

Trestan Ebner and Abram Smith have almost equal attempts through three games, but Smith has 5 touchdowns to Ebner’s one. Another thing to keep any eye on, Ebner is an explosive return man on special teams (sorry Matt Nelson in advance) which could be a breaking point in this game. If Iowa State controls the run, limits special teams yardage, we’re in good shape.

Defense Looking at the numbers, there’s no runaway favorite here. An oddity, 10 different players for Baylor all have one pass deflection. This defense is opportunistic they’ve forced two fumbles, and had three interceptions already. They’re also allowing only 12 PPG but the offenses they’ve faced are Texas State, Texas Southern, and the worst of all three, Kansas.

I think it’s hard to pick a sole defender here because the defense hasn’t really had to come up big this season. They had a scare in their first game, but the last two games have been home cookin’. Iowa State’s offense should pose more of a threat than the first three they’ve faced.


WRNL Interrogates: Our Daily Bears

Get to know Baylor.

By Matthias Schwartzkopf

We checked in with out sister site Our Daily Bears to get a feel for Baylor and what that will bring to the table on Saturday. Travis Roeder, football contributor for the site took the time to give us some answers!


1- Year two of Dave Aranda and the Bears are off to a 3-0 start. What is the most noticeable difference for this team compared to last season?

Travis: With Aranda being a defensive coordinator his entire career and Baylor bringing back more or less everyone from last year, the defensive has been as expected just continuing to look better and like a legitimate top 25 national unit. The real difference is on the offensive side of the ball. Baylor was absolutely dreadful on offense all of last year. The scheme, led by Larry Fedora and Jorge Munoz, was totally incoherent and even incompetent. Coming into this season, after Aranda fired Fedora and Munoz and hired BYU OC Jeff Grimes, I was just hoping for a competent, coherent offense that could settle for just being average or even below average (instead of woeful like last year). They’ve looked much better than average. Yes, the competition has been terrible, but reviewing the tape play by play shows a completely different identity and level of execution. Gerry Bohanon looks like a legitimate top 2 or 3 QB in the conference (yes I’m sure your readers will roll their eyes at this – come back to it at the end of the year!). I could get really down into the details but overall the offense just overall looking good is the easiest answer here.

2- Biggest strength and weakness for Baylor to start off 2021?

Travis: Strength – the offensive line as a whole. Baylor has had bad/terrible OL play for 4 or so years now. When Matt Rhule arrived in 2017, Baylor only had 4 scholarship OL. So even when they’ve had a good player or two, they’ve had no depth. This year is really the first year that they’ve had 7-8 guys who are legitimately good. They’re still rotating in guys and it’s not because anyone is struggling. They play 3 OTs and all of them are rated in the top 13 nationally in PFF’s ratings (not opponent adjusted, but if you’re rated that highly you’re not bad). The new wide zone scheme requires that everyone plays in sync and they’re clearly doing that. I expected a lot of mental errors early in this season but there have been very few. Baylor’s running game is tough to stop because the OL is playing so well, they have a running threat at QB, and their RBs are very competent.

Weakness – While the defense has looked good as a whole, Baylor’s pass rush has been poor, both in getting to the QB and containing the QB when they do get pressure. Baylor is unique in that their best pass rushers, Jalen Pitre and Terrel Bernard, are both off-ball linebackers. In pretty much any big passing situation, one of those two is probably rushing the passer. The problem has been that if one of them doesn’t get home then probably nobody is. Furthermore, Bernard suffered a nasty season-ending shoulder injury against Iowa State last year and doesn’t look like he’s fully back yet. I think the pass rush will improve over the year (they have a couple of rushers hurt who are getting healthy) but it is not a strength of the team currently.

3- Give us one player on Baylor that Iowa State fans don’t know yet but most certainly will by the end of the day on Saturday?

Travis: I could try and be cute and come up with a surprising answer, but the correct answer is Gerry Bohanon, Baylor’s QB. I expect that ISU fans have not watched him yet (I don’t know why any non-Baylor fan would watch Baylor play Texas State, Texas Southern, or Kansas), but he’s the real deal. I’m aware of how this comes across – if a fan of another team was declaring a QB the real deal after 3 terrible opponents I’d be skeptical to say the least. But at QB it’s all about the inputs, and Bohanon has shown things already that translate against better opponents. Namely, he has great pocket presence, can go through post-snap progressions, has a tremendous arm, and is a great leader. Baylor centers their offense around the run and the pass game plays heavily off that, with most passing attempts coming on play action and boot game. A big key in this game will be whether Bohanon has enough time when Baylor runs play action against ISU’s great defensive ends and linebaackers, because I think the chances down the field will be there.

4- Iowa State opened as a 6.5 point favorite and one could make the argument that Baylor has looked better all-around compared to Iowa State. Do you think the line was justified?

Travis: I think the line was justified because Baylor ain’t played nobody yet, and I understand why linemakers don’t fully know what to make of Baylor yet. Would I set the line there? No. I think these teams are very evenly matched. Back in 2019, Baylor and Iowa State played about as even of a game as you possible can, I’m pretty sure that Baylor’s post game win expectancy was 52%. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see another similar game.

5- Biggest thing that Baylor will have to stop on Saturday?

Travis: I think there is really two main ways that Iowa State moves the ball. First, Breece Hall is just terrific, and he’s really good at making a one guy miss near the line of scrimmage and turning a 2 yard gain into 8+. Baylor is going to have to tackle well and take good angles against Hall, he abuses defenders who don’t break down and tackle soundly. Second, Xavier Hutchinson is by far ISU’s biggest weapon (Kolar is good too, but Hutchinson is better). If you play off coverage, ISU is great about just hitting him on short routes. When you play press man, they’re great about targeting him downfield (though Purdy’s accuracy has left much to be desired). Baylor’s corners play a lot of press man, so I suspect that ISU will have to target him down the field. I don’t think ISU will regularly move the ball against Baylor, I think they’re gonna have to string together some big plays.

6- Give us your prediction for the game.

Travis: As I said previously, I think these are two very evenly matched teams. ISU has struggled on offense but the defense remains stout with a great foundation of great DE, LB, and middle safety play. Baylor has looked good on defense but I think they miss some tackles on Hall who rips off a few big runs and Purdy is able to make some plays escaping from the pocket. Overall, I like the matchup more for Baylor in their ability to establish the run (relatively, not just run all over ISU) and hit deep shots on early downs when ISU’s safeties creep up against the run. But I expect this to be a very back and forth game that features a lot of big plays and probably some turnovers.

As far as a score prediction, I usually don’t do that until Friday when I’ve had maximal time to review each team, but since you asked I’ll go Baylor 27-24


Let’s Go Pod-y: Baylor Bears

Your new opponent listening guide for each week.

By cIonesjer

“Let’s Go Pod-y” listens to podcasts from this week’s football opponent so you don’t have to!

The Podcast: Our Daily Bears Podcast

This was a long one! Normally I’d review a couple pods, but Baylor has a smaller inventory of podcasts and Our Daily Bears does a pretty nice and long one (TWSS). The entire pod is 90 mins, if you want exclusive Iowa State chatter start at the 47 minute mark. For even more Baylor talk check out SicEm365 Radio or the Please Bear With Me pod.

Let’s get this started!

First 20 mins or so can be summed up as: We hope Gerry Bohannan is a really good QB. He’s been really good against crappy teams, but here are even more justifications as why he’s probably going to be just as good in conference play and may actually be the second coming of Jes...er...Robert Griffin III himself. (I’m only exaggerating a little)

Gerry is actually GARY! Apparently Baylor’s QB pronounces his name with a hard-G. Who knew? Not this guy. Hours later I would find out on the WRNL Discord that Iowa State’s newly minted starting Mike LB is also a Gary-Gerry, Gerry Vaughn. This has to be the only Big 12 matchup all season of two hard-G Gerry’s right? Starters for sure. Heady times indeed.

On Baylor’s recent crappiness: “Baylor’s been the 3rd, 4th, 5th best recruiting class for the last 8 or 9 years? … so [comparisons to Texas with good recruiting, poor results] … this is still a top 4-5 roster in the league, so there isn’t a reason with good coaching that they can’t finish as a top 4 or 5 team”

“Sundays are a lot more fun around my house [this season], because [last year] I’d just be tweeting ‘wow, this sucks, these plays suck, what do you want me to break down about this game?’ and everyone would be agreeing with me like ‘yeah, this is terrible’ ”

On QB Gerry Bohannan: “and that play, I think I tweeted it out, I was like, the man’s poise is in the pocket, is something … it’s been 5 years since we’ve seen and it is [small moan of pleasure] it is so refreshing”

On the Baylor RBs: “Abram Smith fantastic, again. Ebner, little bit ... the fumble, a couple fumbles [against Kansas] are a little bit frustrating. A bit of a concern going forward, really don’t want to give Iowa State the football”

“Iowa State had that one guy that switched like from Quarterback to Linebacker [Joel Lanning]. Haha! Oh yeah! He was pretty good too – he was fun to watch! But you don’t get it very often where they switch and then switch back like Abram Smith [RB/LB/RB] did”

On the Kansas game concerns: “We didn’t have any sacks against Kansas …he’s right, we don’t have a pass rush … yeah that’s a huge concern”

On Iowa State: “Brock Purdy, he makes plays man, he makes plays … for both teams [giggle-fest ensues while they recount the ISU/TCU game pick-six]”

On Iowa State’s Non-Con games: “Iowa State does their damndest to make the Big 12 look terrible by losing in the nonconference [referring mostly to Iowa] and then winning the Big 12”

A surprising voice of reason emerges: “if you think about it realistically though the real reason why [Iowa State] struggles against like Iowa every year is because that ground & pound game that gets them the success in the Big 12, that’s not gonna fly in the Big 10. That’s what everyone is doing in that league [Big 10], but no one is doing that in the Big 12. Everybody down here is trying to spread you out & throw the ball deep, and so that game doesn’t translate against Iowa, but it’s still gonna translate against us [Baylor]. [heavy sigh] yeah.”

Point about Breece: “Breece Hall hasn’t been setting the world on fire … remember last year there was all the hype about Chubba Hubbard, and the hype about Breece Hall, he hasn’t really lived up to that so far”

Counterpoint about Breece: “[Breece Hall] is one of the most threatening running backs in the conference, and he’s one of the most threatening running backs in the country, yeah his stat line doesn’t show it, and he had a really big fumble in the Iowa game … but if you don’t take him seriously, he can absolutely be the difference in this or any game”

More Breece: “Iowa completely sold out to stop Breece, they didn’t respect Purdy at all, and there’s not another running back on the planet that can put up favorable numbers if they’re able to do that .. but when you look at him, that dude makes more guys miss than any guy in the country [compares him to a faster version of David Montgomery with breakaway speed]”

On how to beat Iowa State: “the recipe for success against Iowa State is to contain Purdy and then let him give the game away … at some point his fundamentals breakdown … the turnovers will come”

“I don’t think that Iowa State will be able to move the ball much against Baylor, they’ll be dependent on hitting the big play”

On the Defense: “the real concern I have is on the Iowa State defensive side of the ball … they are incredible”

“Will McDonald and Enyi Uwazurike are incredibly disruptive, based on the advanced stats … even based on the simple stats they just straight don’t give up any yards [nervous chuckle]”

“the 3-3 stack is a nasty defense, I hate the 3-3 stack, West Virginia, TCU, and Iowa State run it … you can run so many things out of it and attack in so many ways … 2nd and long situations it can look a thousand different ways and that just leads to 3rd and long”

“What Baylor’s offense needs to do? They need to score in the 1st half! This defense really dials down in the 2nd half”

“this Iowa State front 7 is nasty, I mean nasty, they have like all 8 defensive ends that are all 5th year seniors, I don’t know how that is possible, they have so many good defensive ends they’re moving them to nose guard [Enyi Uwazurike] just to get more of them on the field. He’s a monster”

On the Baylor offense countering: “Baylor has way more speed on the back-end [WRs vs. DBs] than Iowa State does, but it’s risky to sit in the pocket waiting for them to get open”

Interesting note: “[Baylor] is going for it all the time on 4th down, you’re gonna see it a lot.”

To their fans: “be loud, be excited, because this is a huge game”

They picked the game at the end of the pod. It can be hard to follow who’s talking on a pod with 3 or 4 people like this one, and also I don’t really care about their names anyway. They gave the option to pick outright or against the spread (Baylor +7)

Guy 1) Takes Baylor to cover (+7)

Guy 2) Takes Baylor to win outright

Guy 3) “Baylor wins for sure”

Guy 4) Takes Baylor to cover


2021 Game IV: #14 Iowa State vs. Baylor Football Preview

There will be tents this time.

By Matthias Schwartzkopf

2021 Game IV: #14 Iowa State (2-1, 0-0) vs. Baylor (3-0, 1-0)

Date: Saturday, September 25th, 2021

Time: 2:30PM CST

Location: McLane Stadium. Waco, Texas

Capacity: 45,140

Line: ISU (-7.5)

Television: Fox

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

Baylor Game Notes

SB Nation Website - Our Daily Bears

When we last left off....

The Cyclones offense woke up in Vegas, and the defense stayed dominant in their 48-3 win over UNLV on Saturday. Iowa State outscored UNLV, 493-130. There were only a total of 7 first downs for UNLV, who gained 36 yards rushing. It was also the third straight game in which Iowa State didn’t allow 300 yards of total offense.

Let’s review, shall we? Brock Purdy threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, Breece Hall added 100 yards on the ground with two touchdowns, and Xavier Hutchinson had a career night with 10 receptions, 133 yard receiving and two touchdown receptions. Charlie Kolar also added one touchdown reception. All around, the Vegas sky was clear -and humidity free - for Iowa State’s stars.

Brock Purdy was able to set two more school records on Saturday night, set the record for career passing yards and career total offense. He now owns 27 of Iowa State school records and will forever go down as one of the greatest to wear the cardinal and gold.

Baylor Tidbits

Dave Aranda is going to have a much more improved Baylor team from their 2-7 season a year ago. The defensive mind is taking a bit of a different approach with his version of Baylor compared to what we have seen in the past. Tough defense with a great rushing attack.

Baylor is 3-0 on the season with wins over Kansas, Texas Southern, and Texas State. The Bears averaged over 46 points per game in those three wins. Baylor will finish off their non conference schedule later in the year when they take on future Big 12 opponent, BYU.

Speaking of BYU, Dave Aranda made a change at offensive coordinator prior to the 2021 season hiring former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. Baylor fired offensive coordinator Larry Fedora after one season. The Bears ranked 118th offensively last season. Averaging 23 points per game, 98th best in the nation.

Last Saturday, Baylor went home with a 45-7 win over Kansas. Junior RB Abram Smith rushed for 122 yards, 7.6 yards per carry. Gerry Bohanon passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns as well. Baylor scored the final 31 points of the game, shutting out Kansas in the second half.

The Series

Baylor leads the series 10-7. Winning 6 of those game in Waco. Iowa State won last season’s matchup in Ames, 38-31. Matt Campbell is 3-2 against Baylor during his tenure at Iowa State.

Iowa State Offense

The Iowa State offense finally woke up against UNLV and put on a clinic. The Cyclones put up 493 yards of offense on the Rebels and were consistently starting drives near mid-field or in Rebel territory all night. However, the main story offensively is the reemergence of Brock Purdy. The Cyclone signal caller posted 288 yards passing, completing 87.5% of his passes and throwing three touchdowns a long the way.

First Key To Victory - Build Off Success

I described last week’s game against UNLV like a basketball player seeing the ball go through the hoop after a drought. Iowa State saw the ball cross the goal line a few times and got some things working last week, which they can build on going forward. Baylor’s defense is sound against the run and may be able to limit Breece Hall, so Brock’s progression could prove to be critical.

Xavier Hutchinson is the clear number one target in the wide receiver room, but we still haven’t really seen a solid number-two option step forward. I do believe Joe Scates is on his way to claiming that mantle and has been more consistent this season thus far compared to previous years. I want Iowa State to stretch the field on a deep pass this game and push Baylor off the line of scrimmage. I think Joe Scates is the option to blow the top off the Baylor defense.

Second Key To Success - Find Offensive Line Consistency

While Iowa State’s offensive line has not been bad to start the season, there are more noticeable flaws than there was a season ago. Specifically, the line has struggled to get any push and open up space in the running game. If Iowa State is going to be the team we think they can be, they need to win in the margins on the offensive line, whether that’s with their technique, getting to blocks at the right times, or a combination of the two.

Baylor Defense

Baylor continues to deploy the 4-2-5 look with one edge being a hybrid DE/OLB on the line, and help over the top with three safeties, though they still mix in some concepts from the Iowa State 3-3-5 defense, which most teams do nowadays. The success of the Baylor defense really starts up front with the defensive line, which will give Iowa State another test early on.

With that said, we really don’t know what this Baylor defense is just yet. While Dave Aranda is a defensive-minded coach, the 2021 Baylor Bears have yet to be really tested defensively yet. Their tallest defensive task so far has probably been…Kansas?

Baylor has been good against the run and the secondary is playing well so far against inferior offensive attacks. How well they slow down Iowa State’s struggling, but still objectively superior offense is the main question. The silver lining in these numbers for Iowa State is that Baylor has not had much success getting to opposing quarterbacks, registering a sack rate of just over 5% (compared to Iowa State’s 13% sack rate), per Sports Info Solutions. Take the wins as you get them, right?

Terrel Bernard leads Baylor with 19 tackles. After missing the 2020 season, Bernard has seemingly picked up where he left off two seasons ago. Iowa State will specifically need to scheme a game plan to avoid having Bernard wreck the offense. Another one to keep an eye on is the wrecking ball up front, LSU-transfer nose guard Siaki “Apu” Ika.

The Verdict - Even

Iowa State has more bad than good this season offensively. While still talented and with a history of success in previous seasons, they need to put two weeks together. Baylor is a sound defensive team and will give Iowa State their fair share of problems through the course of the game. I’ll chalk this one up as a toss up, but could see this tilted in Iowa State’s favor relatively quickly if they can find a groove on offense.

Iowa State Defense

What more can you say about this Cyclone defense? Once again, against UNLV they were outstanding and gave the Rebels virtually nothing. Shoot, UNLV had fewer yards than Iowa State had points at half time on Saturday night. That’s extremely impressive no matter who the opponent is.

Heacock and the boys give up 1.5 yards per rush which is 4th best in the country and 5 yards per pass, which is 10th best. The Cyclones sit in the top ten or right near it in almost virtually every single important defensive statistic and they only just starting to find their groove.

While the great start has been fun to see, Saturday could be their toughest test to date. Baylor is going to be the fastest team that Iowa State has seen in this young season. Not to mention, Baylor has the ability to win both through the air and on the ground, though they would certainly prefer and are more suited to establish a strong running game.

Third Key To Victory - Eliminate The Run, Again

Although Iowa and Baylor are vastly different schematically, both teams prefer to win on the ground. Baylor has done just that through three games, currently ranking tenth in the country in rushing. If Iowa State can replicate the defensive performance from the Iowa game, they should be in good shape.

Baylor Offense

Jeff Grimes takes over as offensive coordinator at Baylor, and the Bears have unveiled their version of the wide zone offensive scheme, which is considered one of the top running offenses in the country.

“There are reasons for that, some of which are it is a play that is versatile with different formations and personnel groups and is something that is very consistent and allows you to stay on schedule and doesn’t allow for a lot of negative yardage plays and keeps you on schedule as an offense and a play caller.” Grimes stated in fall camp.

With this offensive scheme, Baylor is adaptable to many different defensive schemes. Grimes’ talent as a play-caller combined with the adaptability of the offense will force the Cyclone defense be sound in their gap discipline and limit missed and broken tackles.

After the transfer of Charlie Brewer to Utah, Baylor has a new signal caller in 2021. Gerry Bohanon has taken the reigns full time, and hasn’t turned the over ball over this season. He’s a stronger runner than thrower, but can be effective in the passing game when receivers can be schemed open in easy throwing areas. Last week against Kansas, Bohanon completed 19 of 23 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns and added another score on the ground.

Where this Baylor offense really takes off is in the running back room, which is led by Abram Smith and Tristan Ebner. Both backs give Baylor an explosive element and are on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards. Iowa State will need to keep these guys in check to keep the Bears’ offense at bay.

The Verdict - Iowa State

Iowa State will have their hands full in this one. Baylor will try to attack every zone on the field and they have the personnel to do so. While I do like Jeff Grimes and the wide zone scheme, I think Iowa State’s defense has the experience edge and the talent to combat that this season. It’s going to be tough, but Iowa State gets it done defensively.

Special Teams

WE RETURNED PUNTS! WE DIDN’T DESTROY A GAME ON SPECIAL TEAMS! MEVIS MADE A 54 YARD FIELD GOAL! The arrow is officially pointing up for the Iowa State special teams group. While the subtle improvements are great, let’s see if the Cyclones can put together back-to-back solid weeks on special teams.

On Baylor’s side, there is nothing that sticks out negatively right now. Isaiah Hankinks has been solid to start the season, making 4-of-5 field goal attempts thus far. Per usual, Baylor’s speed presents a lot of problems in the return game, so kicking the ball out of the endzone of kickoffs will continue to be extremely important.

The Verdict- Even

If Iowa State can avoid the level of play on special teams from the Iowa game, this one is rather even. Take a step backward and disaster can rear its ugly head again. Neither team really stands out more than the other here, but Iowa State’s floor is much lower than Baylor’s. Let’s just hope to avoid seeing the floor.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

I am afraid this one is going to be rather uncomfortable all game long. While I have full trust in Iowa State’s defense, I just don’t think we can fully trust the Iowa State offense just yet. I would like to, but I need to see it multiple weeks in a row and against better competition than UNLV.

The speed and scheme on Baylor’s offense always can find a way to score. Even against a great defense like Iowa State’s, all they need is one lane and Baylor can find the end zone in a hurry.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst HGTV show, Fixer Upper (Chip and Joanna Gaines, widely overrated), to a 10 of Property Brothers, I give this one a Flip or Flop chance of victory.

Final Analysis

Tents are going to be on the sideline and there won’t be a major issue with heat, so we have that going for us. Iowa State is a better team on paper, but they’re going to have to work for this one.

Final Score

Iowa State - 23

Baylor- 17

Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!


Editor’s Preview

It’s go time.

By: Levi Stevenson

Alright, so the beginning of the season maybe hasn’t been quite as smooth as we’d hoped for. The offensive line is still getting up to speed, Brock Purdy has been up and down, and Breece Hall hasn’t quite been able to find his stride just yet. That said, the defense has been absolutely lights-out. Maybe even better than our sky-high expectations.

So what does this week in Waco have in store for the Cyclones? The more I mull on it, the more I realize I have no idea. How much can we really take from the offensive improvement from last week, given that was against one of the absolute worst teams in Division I football? There’s something to be said for just seeing some offensive success and establishing a rhythm, but what does it actually mean going forward?

Moreso, what can we make of Baylor, whose best win (per ESPN FPI) is a nine-point win over Texas State. They’ve put up some gaudy numbers on offense, but again, those are against some really awful football teams.

However, if we take a step back and look at this without dipping too far into the weeds, the picture starts to become a little clearer. As solid as Baylor’s defense is and has been under Dave Aranda, Iowa State’s is better, possibly significantly so.

Baylor has generated almost no pass rush, with a sack rate registering at just 5%, per Sports Info Solutions (compared to Iowa State’s 13%). They also don’t tackle well, with a broken/missed tackle rate of 14.4% (compared to Iowa State’s 7.6%).

What does this tell us? With improved offensive line play, those can be two big factors in boosting Iowa State’s offensive output this week. Pass protection has actually been pretty good this season for the most part (just a 3% sack-allowed rate), so Baylor’s poor pass rush could allow Brock Purdy to have quite a bit of time in the pocket to allow his receivers get open and find downfield connections.

In the running game, Breece will have opportunities to force more missed and broken tackles. If run blocking from the offensive line can allow those missed tackles to be from linebackers and defensive backs instead of defensive linemen, then Breece Hall should be in for a big day.

So, in the end, this game may come down to the things our games always come down to. Winning at the line of scrimmage and avoiding disaster on special teams and turnovers.

Speaking of special teams, I think the trend arrow on this group is pointed steeply up after last week. Mevis’ 54-yard field goal was the longest of the Matt Campbell era, and we saw some life in the punt return game with Jaylin Noel. I’m looking for some more growth in that area as well.

This game can be the catalyst to start off the special season we’ve all been talking about having since January, and I think the Cyclones are primed to make a statement down in Waco.

Iowa State - 27

Baylor - 13