Iowa State: Beyond the Box Score Preview

Confused?  Catch up with the BTBS Primer.  And if you just don't like or care about numbers, skip them -- I always attempt to explain what they might be telling us afterward.

It's almost always interesting in Ames.  For most of the last decade, Mizzou-Iowa State games at Jack Trice Stadium have been worth the price of admission.  In 2002, Marcus James returned Mizzou's first punt for a touchdown in approximately a century and a half, and Mizzou tied the game late before a methodical drive by Seneca Wallace and the Cyclones resulted in a late touchdown and an ISU win.  In 2004, all Iowa State had to do was finish off a Mizzou team that had completely collapsed over the previous five weeks, and they would win their first Big 12 North title; instead, the Tigers stole a victory when A.J. Kincade stole a Bret Meyer pass in overtime.  In 2006, Mizzou was a heavy favorite in Dan McCarney's final game, but injuries and fumbles caused the Tigers' offense to completely collapse, and a late goal-to-go stand by Iowa State (won't mention phantom holding penalty won't mention phantom holding penalty won't mention phantom holding penalty won't mention phantom holding penalty) gave McCarney a 21-16 going-away present.

In 2008, Chase Daniel and the Tigers bounced back and throttled the host Cyclones, however, and I think it's safe to say that Mizzou fans are hoping that was the beginning of a long series of easy trips north.

Offense

Overall Ranks

S&P+: 61st
Success Rate+: 40th
PPP+: 64th

Standard Downs S&P+: 70th
Passing Downs S&P+: 89th

Redzone S&P+: 9th

Q1 S&P+: 78th
Q2 S&P+: 77th
Q3 S&P+: 65th
Q4 S&P+: 64th

1st Down S&P+: 83rd
2nd Down S&P+: 58th
3rd Down S&P+: 81st

Rushing Ranks

Rushing S&P+: 42nd
Rushing SR+: 24th
Rushing PPP+: 43rd

Standard Downs: 56th
Passing Downs: 78th

Redzone: 21st

Adj. Line Yards: 56th

Passing Ranks

Passing S&P+: 68th
Passing SR+: 52nd
Passing PPP+: 77th

Standard Downs: 81st
Passing Downs: 84th

Redzone: 8th

Adj. Sack Rate: 92nd
SD Sack Rate: 69th
PD Sack Rate: 109th

Iowa State is good in the red zone and efficient in the run game, but their overall explosiveness is lacking, particularly in the passing game.  If we think of Standard Downs as the play-calling/gameplanning downs and Passing Downs as the play-making downs ... Iowa State's gameplans are hit-or-miss and their play-making is lacking.  Their offensive line was supposed to be a big strength this year, but it appears to have been mediocre in run blocking and downright poor in pass protection.

Quarterback

Austen Arnaud: 171-for-290 passing (59.0%), 1,703 yards (5.9/pass), 13 TD, 10 INT; 287 rushing yds (2.8/carry), 2 TD
Jerome Tiller: 26-or-51 passing (51.0%), 208 yards (4.1/pass), 1 TD, 0 INT; 12 rushing yds

I've never been a huge Austen Arnaud fan, so I'm not sure his loss will affect the Cyclones' offense as much as some are guessing.  Tiller is a competent-if-unspectacular backup who seems to have mostly the same strengths and weaknesses as Arnaud.  He is semi-elusive with a solid arm, but he has been both inaccurate and conservative in limited action this year.

Running Backs

Alexander Robinson: 177 carries, 848 yards (4.8/carry), 9 TD; 26 receptions, 190 yards (7.3/catch), 1 TD
Shontrelle Johnson: 34 carries, 218 yards (6.4/carry), 2 TD; 4 receptions, 14 yards
Jeff Woody: 47 carries, 191 yards (4.1/carry), 1 TD

Alexander Robinson torched Mizzou's defense as a freshman in 2007, so it seems like he's been around forever.  He is finally a senior and has put together a solid overall season -- 1,038 combined rushing and receiving yards, 10 touchdowns.  He is the definition of a solid back; he isn't particularly explosive, and he isn't going to win all-conference honors, but he will take what the defense and the offensive line give him, and he is solid in the open field.  It does appear there might be life after Robinson -- the combination of Johnson (freshman) and Woody (redshirt freshman) has shown potential.  Johnson is the more explosive of the two runners, but it seems he's also a bit more hit-or-miss.

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

TE Collin Franklin: 51 catches, 502 yards (9.8/catch), 3 TD
WR Jake Williams: 29 catches, 302 yards (10.4/catch), 4 TD
WR Darius Darks: 28 catches, 334 yards (11.9/catch), 1 TD
WR Darius Reynolds: 24 catches, 269 yards (11.2/catch), 2 TD
WR Sedrick Johnson: 16 catches, 102 yards (6.4/catch)
WR Josh Lenz: 12 catches, 166 yards (13.8/catch), 2 TD
TE Kurt Hammerschmidt: 5 catches, 36 yards (7.2/catch), 1 TD

Collin Franklin is one of the more underrated tight ends in the country -- he has been a steady, tough weapon for the Cyclones in 2010.  But ... you don't usually want a tight end averaging 9.8 yards per catch to be leading your team in both catches and yards.  There has been no consistent go-to guy among the receivers, though it bears mentioning that almost half of Jake Williams' 29 catches have come in the last three games; against Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado, Williams has 13 catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns (both against Nebraska).

Offensive Line

LT Kelechi Osmele (6'5, 335, Jr.)
LG Alex Alvarez (6'2, 305, Sr.)
C Ben Lamaak (6'4, 320, Sr.)
RG Hayworth Hicks (6'3, 330, Jr.)
RT Brayden Burris (6'6, 290, So.)

With as much experience as this line brought to the table in 2010, and with a solid 2009 performance in its back pocket, I really expected this to be one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12.  So far this season, it has not been.  Still, they've got an opportunity to do some damage against Missouri.  They average 6'4, 316, and they are significantly experienced -- Osmele, Alvarez and Lamaak alone have combined for almost 100 career starts (Lamaak has 42 of them).  One of Missouri's biggest concerns right now has to be fatigue and the thinned state of the front seven, and if Iowa State is converting some early first downs and pulling off some long drives like Texas Tech did in the first half, then Mizzou will be struggling to stay strong in the third and fourth quarters.

Defense

Overall Ranks

S&P+: 82nd
Success Rate+: 115th
PPP+: 58th

Standard Downs S&P+: 73rd
Passing Downs S&P+: 65th

Redzone S&P+: 45th

Q1 S&P+: 55th
Q2 S&P+: 95th
Q3 S&P+: 66th
Q4 S&P+: 60th

1st Down S&P+: 76th
2nd Down S&P+: 95th
3rd Down S&P+: 29th

Rushing Ranks

Rushing S&P+: 69th
Rushing SR+: 109th
Rushing PPP+: 44th

Standard Downs: 73rd
Passing Downs: 43rd

Redzone: 57th

Adj. Line Yards: 87th

Passing Ranks

Passing S&P+: 98th
Passing SR+: 110th
Passing PPP+: 91st

Standard Downs: 86th
Passing Downs: 86th

Redzone: 43rd

Adj. Sack Rate: 105th
SD Sack Rate: 81st
PD Sack Rate: 112th

First, the good news: there are only three senior starters on this defense -- tackle Bailey Johnson, strong safety David Sims and either of two free safeties, Zac Sandvig and Michael O'Connell.  So this unit will improve.  The bad news: this unit currently isn't very good.  Solid performances against Texas and Kansas were downgraded in the S&P+ numbers for the simple fact that Texas and Kansas have terrible offenses (Texas currently ranks an incredible 111th in Offensive F/+, while Kansas ranks a slightly more believable 114th).  Giving up a combined 37 points to these two teams may feel like solid performance, but it really isn't.  Meanwhile, the defense looked decent against Nebraska (they did give up 31 points to an offense giving snaps to Cody Green and Rex Burkhead, but it took overtime to do it, I guess) and terrible against Colorado (34 points, 384 yards), Oklahoma (52 points, 672 yards), Utah (68 points!, 573 yards) and Texas Tech (38 points, 508 yards).

As with last year, Iowa State's strength is opportunism.  They rank 21st in the country in interceptions and fifth in fumbles forced.  They are outgunned, and they seem to know it, but they put themselves in position to take advantage of every possible mistake.  If you play well, you will absolutely move the ball on them ... but if you don't, you're going to be in one helluva dogfight, especially in Ames.

Defensive Line

DE Jacob Lattimer: 30.0 tackles, 6.5 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR
DE Patrick Neal: 22.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 3 PBU
DE Roosevelt Maggitt: 22.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR
DT Stephen Ruempolhamer: 20.5 tackles, 4.5 TFL/sacks, 1 PBU
DE Rashawn Parker: 19.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL/sacks
DT Bailey Johnson: 13.5 tackles, 4.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF, 2 PBU
NT Jake McDonough: 12.5 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FR
DT Cleyon Laing: 10.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF

Linebackers

WLB Jake Knott: 90.0 tackles, 5.0 TFL/sacks, 4 INT, 4 FF, 1 FR, 5 PBU
MLB A.J. Klein: 72.0 tackles, 5.5 TFL/sacks, 3 INT, 1 FR, 1 PBU
MLB Matt Tau'fo'ou: 13.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL/sacks
SLB Matt Morton: 12.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF

We've talked a lot here about the different roles of defensive linemen from one team to another.  Some occupy blockers and filter plays to the linebackers to make tackles.  Others make plays.  I guess Iowa State's front four qualifies as the former, being that six defensive backs have more tackles than the most high-volume tackler on the line.  Jacob Lattimer leads the way with 30 tackles, which is approximately what Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith have produced.  Actually, Jacquies is a good comparison -- Lattimer has produced at a slightly less disruptive level than Jacquies (7.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF, 2 FR, 3 PBU) has to date, though he has played one more game.  In all, though, the line stats above (87th in line yardage, 105th in sack rates) suggest that the ISU defense needs the line to be making more plays than it has to date.

The linebackers, meanwhile, have been quite solid, it seems.  Knott, Klein and Morton are all sophomores, while Tau'fo'ou is a junior.  Knott has been particularly impressive in the disruptive sense -- he has 5.0 TFL (Andrew Gachkar has 5.5), has forced or recovered five fumbles, and has picked off or broken up nine passes.  He is a keeper.

Secondary

SS David Sims: 71.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, 1 FR, 4 PBU
CB Leonard Johnson: 51.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 5 PBU
CB Ter'Ran Benton: 45.0 tackles, 3.5 TFL/sacks, 1 FR, 1 PBU
CB Jeremy Reeves: 45.5 tackles, 2 INT, 6 PBU
FS Michael O'Connell: 38.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU
FS Zac Sandvig: 33.0 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU
CB Anthony Young: 11.0 tackles, 1 FR

The most experienced unit on Iowa State's defense has struggled overall, though the complete lack of a pass rush hsa contributed to that.  They seem a bit all-or-nothing -- Sims, Johnson, Reeves, and Sandvig have broken up 17 passes and intercepted five, plus Sims has forced three more fumbles (he's a pro at that) -- but if they're not making plays, they're giving them up.

Special Teams

Category Iowa St.
Rank
Mizzou
Rank
FG Kicking 107th 13th
Punting
Opp. Punt Returns
18th
97th
26th
19th
Kickoffs
Touchback %
Opp. Kick Returns
16th
16th
118th
43rd
62nd
86th
Punt Returns 38th 86th
Kick Returns 55th 56th
  • Kicker Grant Mahoney is 32-for-33 PAT and just 8-for-15 FG ... though that has something to do with the kicks he's had to attempt.  He is a much more acceptable 7-for-10 in FG's under 50 yards.
  • Freshman punter Kirby Van Der Kamp is averaging 45.5 per kick, with 20 downed inside the 20.  But he has outkicked his coverage quite a bit -- if you are able to return his kick, you're going to have an opportunity to do something with it.
  • Kick returner Shontrelle Johnson has been solid (23.6 avg, long of 62) -- between his return skills and general running ability as a freshman, he could be a major contributor for this team very soon.
  • Punt returner Josh Lenz has averaged 10.8 yards per punt return, which is very good.  Take out one long touchdown return, however, and his average drops to 6.2.  He's dangerous, but his great average is benefiting at least a little from smallsamplesizeitis.

 

Summary

We'll once again wrap this up with the table that I use for 7th Day Adventure columns at FO.  FEI = Brian Fremeau's ratings, F/+ = the combination of FEI and S&P+, and FPA = Field Position Advantage.


OVERALL When Iowa State
Has the Ball...
When Mizzou
Has the Ball...
Category Iowa St.
(5-6)
Mizzou
(8-2)
Iowa St.
Off
Mizzou
Def
Iowa St.
Def
Mizzou
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 83 12 67 19 95 19
2010 FEI Rk 90 15 78 5 101 23
2010 S&P+ Rk 72 12 61 26 82 9
2010 FPA Rk 58 43
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 42 59 69 2
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 68 7 98 28
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 70 17 73 16
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
60.0% Run
(63rd)
49.5% Run
(111th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 89 56 65 14
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
32.4% Run
(72nd)
28.2% Run
(87th)

Three Keys

1. Ball Security.  For the second year in a row, picking off passes and forcing fumbles is the biggest strength the Iowa State defense has.  Don't turn the ball over, and you win.  But with the schizophrenic nature of a lot of Mizzou's ball carriers/handlers, this is a semi-legitimate concern.

2. Passing Downs.  Iowa State has a bit of a built-in advantage for this game -- a new starting quarterback means a new gameplan and unscouted tendencies.  Between this and Mizzou's recent defensive regression, I firmly expect ISU to move the ball a bit, especially in the first half.  The trick will come on passing downs; new quarterbacks don't usually thrive in these situation, and it is an absolute must that Mizzou make the stop once they force a 3rd-and-8 type of situation.  Don't let Iowa State have hope.

3. Kill 'em in the Trenches.  One of Mizzou's biggest advantages comes in the matchup of their offensive line versus Iowa State's defensive line.  Mizzou's OL has been a bit high-variance this year, however.  They dominate a seemingly good line, then they fight a lesser line to a draw at best.  If Mizzou is pushing Iowa State's front four around with relative ease, this will not be a ball game.  So, uh, try that.

Prediction

The F/+ numbers love Mizzou in this game, and instead of overthinking things and worrying about turnovers, passing downs breakdowns, etc., I'll just go with that.  Mizzou is projected to win by an impressive 24 points, and if that happens I'm guessing the score is somewhere in the 41-17 neighborhood.  If I had to bet my life on a result, it would be much closer than that, but hey, why argue with the numbers when they're telling you what you want to hear, right?

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