Iowa State’s defense is good. Really good. They currently rank 27th in Defensive S&P+, but will likely finish the season much higher as they continue to improve week by week. Two teams have gotten to Iowa State’s defense this year: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And they both did it utilizing the big play to get over the top of Iowa State’s conservative coverages. As most Baylor fans know, Baylor has not been able to hit many big plays this year. Here’s Iowa State’s basic profile (with particular attention on their defensive stats):
Baylor’s offense, except for the West Virginia game, has been pretty dang good this year. But there is a problem for Baylor: they have been a very efficient team this year, relying on a precision, timing passing game to consistently move the chains. As I’ve written about in the past, this is why the wide-receiver drops feel so damning and frustrating—one drop can doom an entire drive as it puts Baylor “behind the chains.”
Bad news for the Bears this Saturday in Ames. Check out the weather forecast:
It’s gonna be cold. Like, Travis just stacking hoodie on top of hoodie cold.* And not negligibly windy. Not ideal conditions for a precision, passing based offense who has had trouble with drops.
*Side note: For the Baylor-Texas ice-fog bowl, I was a junior and was not even close to having proper clothing for the situation. I had breathable running shoes (i owned those and flip-flops), pants with no long johns, and just literally stacked like 7 layers on my top, 3 of which were hoodies. Add a beanie and the free giveaway scarf which was as comforting as a grocery sack, and arriving 4 hours before gametime to work outdoors for Baylor athletic marketing, that is a painful/fun memory I retain.
Thus, my unfortunate prediction is that Baylor is probably not going to score many points this game. The Oklahoma schools are the only teams Iowa State has played that have scored more than 17 points on them this year, and these other games weren’t played in nearly as bad weather as this will be. I think 17 happens to be a pretty good target for Baylor this game. If (huge if) Baylor can get to 17-21 points on offense, I think they give themselves a decent shot of pulling a massive upset.
Thus, I think this game rests pretty heavily on Baylor’s defense. They simply cannot afford to get off to a bad start. They can’t give up freebies. New Iowa State QB Brock Purdy has been a revelation, making defenders look silly as he pump-fakes past them with ease.
I’m sticking with 17 as the key number in this game. If Baylor can hold Iowa State under 17 points, they have a chance. If not, their chances are slim to none. Is this unlikely? Yes. But Baylor has it in them. They’ve had a couple of really good performances against Texas and Kansas who aren’t all-too-dissimilar from Iowa State’s offense. They need this good Baylor D to show up on the road in Ames.
After my near-perfect score prediction last week, I’m bowing out and gonna guarantee I stay batting 1.000 for the year. However, 17 is the number to watch for here. Go Bears.