Iowa State prepares for an intense battle with a ‘championship level’ Baylor team

Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall crosses the goal line at the end of a 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against the Kansas Jayhawks on Oct. 31 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.

Stephen Mcdaniel

It’s been a tale of two different weeks for Head Coach Matt Campbell and Iowa State.

One week, the Cyclones traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and struggled against Oklahoma State in a 24-21 loss to the Cowboys.

The following week, the Cyclones went to Lawrence, Kansas, and responded to the loss in big fashion, putting up 52 points on offense in a blowout win against Kansas.

Now Iowa State returns home to Jack Trice Stadium for the first time since the win against Texas Tech nearly a month ago. This time, Iowa State gets the Baylor Bears under the lights Saturday.

Baylor and Iowa State have gotten off to two different starts in the Big 12.

Iowa State comes into the weekend with a 4-2 overall record and a 4-1 Big 12 record, with their only conference loss coming to one of the top teams in the Big 12 in Oklahoma State.

Baylor, on the other hand, comes into the weekend with a 1-3 overall and Big 12 record after not having a nonconference game. Following a season-opening win against Kansas, Baylor has rattled off three straight losses ahead of its game against the Cyclones.

Despite Baylor’s struggling record, Campbell knows the Bears pose a serious threat to Iowa State with the talent on their team.

“I think this is one of the most talented teams we’ve played,” Campbell said. “I think it’s elite skill, maybe the most skilled team, in a lot of ways. I know Oklahoma State is outstanding, I think in some ways they’re on that level in terms of elite skill.”

Just a season ago, Baylor was one of the top teams, not only in the Big 12, but in collegiate football.

The 2019 Baylor Bears finished with an 11-3 record and finished their season with an overtime loss against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game and a close 26-14 loss against Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

While there has been some turnover between Baylor’s Big 12 Championship contending team and its current roster with departures of former Head Coach Matt Rhule, receiver Denzel Mims and defensive lineman James Lynch, Baylor still has plenty of talent from the 2019 team.

Most notably, Baylor retained its All-Big 12 honorable mention senior quarterback in Charlie Brewer, who has thrown 830 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions through four games for the Bears.

The senior quarterback has garnered respect from Campbell and the Cyclones.

“They’re a football team that’s got veterans on defense, they’re a group that’s got elite playmakers on offense and a group that’s got a championship-level quarterback,” Campbell said. “When I look at Baylor, I look at a championship team.”

The past series of games between Iowa State and Baylor have been close and physical.

The last time Baylor made the trip to Ames, things got heated early in the third quarter, with the teams breaking out into a scuffle that led to the ejection of Iowa State’s star running back David Montgomery and Baylor’s defensive lineman Greg Roberts.

In the 2019 season, Iowa State made the trip to Waco, Texas, and the teams battled it out in the heat, with Baylor avenging its 2018 loss after kicking a game-winning field goal with under 30 seconds left and forcing a Brock Purdy fumble to end the game.

“I don’t think we ever worry about what happened a year ago and we really don’t worry what happened last week, we just try to get better one week at a time,” Campbell said.

One of Iowa State’s key pieces to its success this season didn’t appear in the 2019 game.

Star sophomore running back Breece Hall didn’t record a carry in the 2019 game and didn’t really get used until his breakout performance against West Virginia two weeks after the Baylor game.

The Cyclones are now able to face a Baylor team facing a down year with one of the best running backs in the country right now.

So far through the season, Hall has rushed for 901 yards (2nd in NCAA) and scored 11 touchdowns (3rd in NCAA), while leading the NCAA in yards per game (150.2 yards per game), 100-yard games (six games) and multiple touchdown games (four games).

While Baylor is able to see the hot start Hall has had throughout the season, this will be the first time the Bears will meet Iowa State’s star running back, which is something Hall thinks is in the Cyclones’ favor.

“We’re going to have to bring our A-game obviously,” Hall said. “I think it’s good for me that they didn’t get to see me last year, so they don’t really get a feel for what I can do and how I play, so I feel that’ll be an advantage for me.”