So far this season, Baylor has basically seen two Nick Florences, and as a result, two offenses: one characterized by unbelievable efficiency that threatens to rewrite the Baylor record books, and one that at different points looks like it can't even run the right routes. The first very nearly wins ballgames despite our defense. The second gives the ball away like candy in the most inopportune times.
Which offense we see against against Iowa State tomorrow will very likely determine the outcome of the game. We know already that their offense, as much trouble as it has had this season, will score points on our defense. There's almost no use hoping or arguing otherwise. What matters most, then, is our our own offense performs when given the chance against Iowa State's defense, which is now down possibly its best player in linebacker Jake Knott.
First, the absolute stats of the Cyclone defense, then the players responsible and a little context to the numbers thus far.
|Passing||Rushing||Total Offense||First Downs||Penalties||Turnovers|
381.7 total yards per game puts Iowa State 56th in the country in total defense, and they're giving up 19.57 points per game, which is 27th. Their rushing defense ranks 44th in the country at 138 yards per game, passing defense is 78th at 244.71, and pass efficiency defense is 28th at 113.39. It's helpful to note that these numbers include games against Tulsa, Iowa, and Western Illinois.
First and foremost, as I mentioned this afternoon, senior WLB Jake Knott will reportedly miss the game tomorrow due to injury. He's one of the two most-experienced players on Iowa State's entire roster, having started three full years prior to this one and 34 games in a row. That is a huge loss for Iowa State if he can't go, and he'll be replaced by sophomore Jevohn Miller (6-1, 242) making his first start ever. Miller is cut from the same mold as Knott and perhaps a step quicker, but he's almost assuredly a step down.
Expect that loss to mean that we double senior MLB A.J. Klein (6-2, 248) on basically every running play. When we don't do that, we'll simply run away from him and force Miller to make the play. Klein is one of the best linebackers in the conference, if not the country, and the second-leading tackler on the team. The strong-side linebacker is junior Deon Broomfield (6-0, 196), who represents a big step down from either Klein or Knott. His primary asset is speed, since he is a converted safety moved down to linebacker. Klein's backup Jeremiah George (JR, 5-11, 225) gets decent playing time and is fifth on the team with 36 tackles.
Up front, Iowa State's line somewhat mirrors our own in that it is relatively small for the Big 12. At 6-5, 280, senior Jake McDonough is both taller and smaller than you'd expect from an A gap player. His counterpart at DT is senior Cleyon Laing (6-4, 290). Willie Scott (JR, 6-2, 242) and Roosevelt Magitt (SR, 6-3, 244) play left and right end, respectively. The four look more experienced than they are-- only McDonough started prior to this season-- and altogether they are not an overly fearsome unit in the pass rush. Magitt leads the team in sacks with 2.5 followed by McDonough and Laing. Their defense plays a basic one-gap scheme depending on the linebackers to fill the holes left open, and they will try to shoot their gap as often as possible.
In the secondary, Iowa State brought back starters at left corner in Jeremy Reeves (SR, 5-7, 186) and free safety Jacques Washington (JR, 6-1, 213). Reeves is their best pure cover corner, so he may draw Terrance Williams no matter where the latter lines up in the formation despite the fact that the other corner Jansen Watson (JR, 5-9, 185) matches up better in terms of size. Either way, Williams has a huge edge on everybody on ISU's depth chart at corner except for junior Cliff Stokes (6-1, 175), who backs up Watsen and apparently plays sparingly. The strong safety, Durrell Givens (SR, 6-0, 210), is third on the team in tackles behind the two star linebackers and plays much closer to the line than Washington, especially in run support. They may bring him up even more tomorrow to make up for the loss of Knott.
Defensive Coordinator Wally Bunham calls the shots for a defense that has, this season, far exceeded expectations. Nominally a 4-3, with the converted Broomfield in the game they actually play something more akin to our own 4-2-5. He likes to bring extra players, especially against the pass, which has so far worked out well for them. It also leaves them vulnerable down the field since they have fewer players deep. That's where their defense and our own diverge in concept; they will rely on their corners to cover down the field in the hope of bringing pressure. It worked against TCU with a freshman Boykin starting his first game ever. It didn't against Oklahoma State because they were able to block the rushers and beat the Cyclone defense. Against an offense like ours so predicated on downfield passing, it would seem that Iowa State must change their approach at least slightly or risk being beaten repeatedly again.
Iowa State tackles well and will rarely be caught out of position. Their linebackers (now absent Knott) are excellent in zone coverage and have forced a number of errant throws. Klein is particularly good and has two interceptions on the season already.
For this particular matchup, here are the S&P+ and FEI rankings for the relevant units: Baylor's offense and Iowa State's defense. Like yesterday, I'm going to cut out most of the values and just keep the rankings for the sake of simplicity.
S&P+ -- Baylor Off vs. Texas Def
|Baylor Off||Iowa State Def|
|Third Down %||42.86 (48)||36.36 (49)|
- Better than you thought, right? S&P+'s adjustments love Iowa State's defense. The unadjusted data isn't nearly so impressive. For our side, we actually lost a bit in the rankings after last week, something you wouldn't expect to see after the way we carved up Texas' defense. We know, though, that Baylor has a great offense and Iowa State a good defense that is better against the pass than the run by these measures.
- Baylor needs to take care of business on standard downs (that's every first down, second downs with fewer than 8 to go, and third and fourth with fewer than 5). We knew that already. Getting the running game going will be the easiest way to alleviate the issues that crept up on us on third down against the Longhorns last week. That one game did a number on our overall numbers this season.
|Baylor Off||Iowa State Def|
- The difference between Baylor's offense at #1 in FEI and the #2 offense (Arizona) is bigger than the difference between Arizona and #15 (Nevada). Think about that for a second. Mind thoroughly boggled yet? It should be. Our offense hasn't skipped a beat since last season outside of the turnovers. Hell, even taken them into consideration it's extremely close. Our problem is not offense.
- These numbers are not so favorable to Iowa State, particularly in their propensity to give up first downs. They've managed to keep explosive drives (drives averaging 10+ yards per play) to a minimum, but they're susceptible to methodical drives (drives of 10 or more plays). Again, that relates back to being good against the pass generally.
- This is the matchup that I think will determine the game for the reasons I set out above. We know our defense sucks. We know our offense doesn't. If our offense plays as it should, we'll have a pretty good chance to win in my opinion. If we turn the ball over like we did against TCU and Texas, we probably won't. Iowa State is a good, not great defensive team, and will need turnovers to stop our running and passing game. Losing one of their senior linebackers is a huge blow to the Cyclones and one we should take advantage of immediately.
The Baylor Bears on Offense:
Last week against Texas we finally got to see more of the 2011 offense that we expected in terms of balance and success. We ran the ball as well as we have all season with Glasco Martin leading the way. I expect that to continue tomorrow. I also expect for Lache Seastrunk to get more touches than he has all season. Every sign I can find points that direction. If we can establish the running game with at least reasonably well (repeating last week is a dodgy proposition given that Iowa State's defense is markedly better than that of Texas), we will be successful.
We'll also try to beat the Cyclones deep because that's who we are. Look for Terrance Williams (Terrence Williams) to have a big game against ISU's smaller corners and for us to look that way repeatedly. He's gone over 160 yards receiving three games in a row and looks primed to do it again. Tevin Reese is apparently healthy and ready to go this week, and I don't think there are any other notable injuries for our side on offense.
I don't expect tomorrow's game to be a cakewalk by any means. It's Iowa State's Homecoming and they are an extremely well-coached team. They need this game for their bowl chances almost as much as we do, and they know it. It will be up to our team to come out, silence the crowd early (because we'll probably get the ball to start the game), and get a lead. Iowa State is not an offensive team that is going to score in bunches, even against our defense, so we might be able to run away. Their defense should have something to say about that, though. The key will be not turning the ball over (I'm looking at you, Florence, and you, Lanear Sampson) and giving Nick Florence the opportunity to throw deep. Their defense isn't particularly good at rushing the passer, but it will be up to Florence to make good decisions with the ball and avoid the costly mistakes that have kept our transcendent offense from overcoming the weaknesses of our defense.