Matchup to watch

Max Dible

The matchup to watch this week is a little broader than week’s past. Simply put, it’s Iowa State’s run offense against Kansas’ run defense. 

Unlike in other matchups to watch, this one may not decide the game, only because the Cyclones appear the superior squad in nearly all facets of play, and a down week in one category or another isn’t likely to trip Iowa State up. 

A lot of dominos need to fall in the wrong direction for the Cyclones to surrender a home game to a conference rival as 16-point favorites. 

But Iowa State’s continued success after this week, assuming a win against Kansas of course, will be predicated on improving in a few key areas; one of which is their ability to produce offensive balance through a legitimate rushing attack. 

The Cyclones went over 200 yards on the ground against Toledo, bolstered by Mike Warren’s 126-yard effort, the first 100-plus yard rushing performance for Iowa State this season. 

Guard Daniel Burton played for the first time against the Rockets, which may have contributed to the improved rushing efficiency. Lineman Jacob Dunning will also return to the sideline for the first time since he was hurt against Iowa in 2014, adding a little more depth to a crucial unit. 

Kansas has surrendered a whopping 254.3 rushing yards through three losses against one of the most hapless schedules in college football. 

Saturday should provide an opportunity to boost Warren’s confidence even more, help boost chemistry between the offensive line’s returning pieces and allow ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino a chance to experiment with some different run/pass options that may prove useful when the Big 12 schedule begins ratcheting up. 

It’s been a long time since Iowa State has produced back-to-back, 200-yard rushing performances as a team. The Cyclones falling anywhere short of that accomplishment this week would be an omen bad enough to take seriously for the remainder of the season.