5 Bold Predictions for No. 17 Texas A&M vs. Iowa State
No. 17 Texas A&M will travel north on Saturday to take on Iowa State in the Cyclones' homecoming game.
After dropping two straight to top 10 opponents, the Aggies have regained their mojo and show up to Jack Trice Stadium fresh off a 55-28 thrashing of No. 20 Baylor.
Since sweeping its non-conference schedule, ISU has opened Big 12 play with losses to Texas, Baylor, and a 52-17 loss to Missouri last Saturday.
The Cyclones will be gunning for their first win in the rivalry since 2005 when the teams kick off on Saturday.
Here are five bold predictions on how the drama will unfold.
250 Rushing Yards for the Aggie Express
Running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael have alternated their big performances for Texas A&M this season.
Gray rushed for 132 yards in the season opener against SMU and 116 against Texas Tech. Michael exploded for 230 against Arkansas and tacked on 105 against the Bears.
The Aggies will get up big early and hop aboard the Aggie Express to close out the game against the Cyclones. I expect Gray and Michael to chug for over 100 yards each and both find the end zone at least once.
Iowa State Limited to Less Than 50 Yards Rushing
The Aggies held Baylor to 50 rushing yards on Saturday and ceded only 15 to Heisman hopeful and star quarterback Robert Griffin III. On the season, they've allowed only 2.2 yards per attempt and 72.3 yards per game—24.5 yards less than the next best rush defense in the conference (Kansas State).
Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz is many things, but Robert Griffin III he isn't. Considered a dual threat himself—he's second on the team in rushing touchdowns (2) and third in yardage (185)—he and running back James White won't have a moment's respite against a ferocious A&M front seven that gets better with every game.
It will be hard to replicate last week's success, but the Aggies will once again bust out the riot sticks and beat the ISU running game into submission, maintaining their grasp on the No. 1 rush defense in the conference.
Over 120 Yards Receiving for Darius Reynolds
Darius Reynolds leads the Cyclones in every conceivable receiving statistic: receptions (28), yards (522), yards per catch (18.6) yards per game (87.0) and touchdowns (6).
He's been Steele Jantz's top target all season and his stellar performances against Iowa and Connecticut, in which he compiled 10 receptions for 213 yards and four scores, propelled his team to its to most impressive victories on the season.
Jantz will be looking to Reynolds early and often in a game where the Cyclones are sure to be playing catch-up most of the afternoon. Texas A&M, top of the conference in rush defense, also fields the conference's worst pass defense, allowing 361.3 yards per game.
Iowa State's only shot to keep this thing close will be by exploiting the Aggies through the air.
The Aggies Force Three Turnovers
Before Dustin Harris' fourth quarter snag courtesy of Robert Griffin III, the Aggies hadn't recorded an interception since the first game of the season against SMU—a drought of 23 quarters.
Likewise, they've yet to force a fumble this season—their most recent coming when linebacker Sean Porter jarred a ball loose in the Texas game back in 2010.
That all changes for Texas A&M this Saturday. Jantz will be hurried into ill-advised throws by the constant pressure of Porter and reawakened linebacker DaMontre Moore.
Moore is a member of the All-Big 12 Freshman team his first year in Aggieland, who had apparently forgotten the season had started until his 1.5 sack outburst against Baylor last Saturday.
With the amount of times Iowa State will have to air it out, I see two Jantz passes landing in the hands of the Aggie secondary. After all, Jantz did toss three picks in the first half of ISU's season opener against Northern Iowa.
And although this is a total gut call, I think this will be the game Texas A&M finally tosses the fumble monkey off its back. Turnovers are karmic in football and hard work in practice eventually pays off in games. Saturday finally becomes that monster game for which this Aggie defense is long overdue.
Aggies Win, 38-17
The Aggies hold every discernible advantage over the Cyclones except for one area in which the teams are evenly matched: linebackers.
Cyclone linebacker Jake Knott leads the Big 12 in tackles (63) with an average of 10.5 per game and is that typical gritty brawler America loves. He dislocated his shoulder twice against Missouri, popping it back into place himself the second time and still managed to force a fumble and record an interception.
A.J. Klein, tied for eighth in the conference with 45 tackles on the season, is also a force to be reckoned with in the front seven. The same can be said for ISU's leviathan of a nose guard, Stephen Ruempolhamer.
The A&M offensive line has been simply outstanding all season long, allowing only three sacks in six games. They should provide an ample push to make this Aggie offense purr.
Ultimately, Texas A&M puts too much talent on the field and thoroughly dominates Iowa State start to finish. Aggies 38, Cyclones 17.