Oklahoma State Football: 5 Keys to Victory vs. Iowa State
Friday night, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will go on the road to face the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames, Iowa. In what could be considered a "trap" game for the Cowboys, OSU will need to be focused and play well to keep their championship hopes alive.
Iowa State is a tough team that has seen its fair share of rough battles this season. At 5-4, they are fighting for their postseason lives and would love to put a thorn in the Cowboys' side. They are exactly the kind of under-appreciated squad that could be dangerous this late in the year.
Here are five things the Cowboys must do in order to stay on the national championship track.
Continue Passing Well
Despite their lackluster record so far this season, Iowa State has done well on defense against the pass. They've allowed just 217 yards through the air per game, which ranks them second in the Big 12 behind Texas.
Oklahoma State has averaged 394 passing yards per game. Brandon Weeden's arm and Justin Blackmon's hands have helped make the Cowboys the best passing team in the Big 12.
Something's gotta give in this matchup, and the Cowboys need to make sure that it is the Cyclone defense giving and not their passing offense.
Oklahoma State has been the best team in country this year when it comes to turnovers. The Cowboys' turnover margin is currently at +18, which is twice that of the next closest team in the Big 12, Kansas State.
Iowa State's turnover margin leaves much to be desired. They are dead last in the Big 12 with a margin of -8.
The opportunistic Cowboy defense should be able to force the Cyclones to cough up the ball a couple of times. If they do, it will ensure an Oklahoma State victory.
Dominate the Red Zone
The red zone is where touchdowns and field goals are most often made. Iowa State is a terrible red zone team offensively, scoring just 68 percent of the time when they get within the 20-yard line.
Oklahoma State is one of the best in the Big 12 in this area. When they get into the red zone, they score 88 percent of the time and, of those scores, nearly 80 percent of them are touchdowns.
Plus, OSU is second in the Big 12 in red zone defense. That doesn't spell out well for the Cyclones considering their difficulty near the goal line.
Bend but Don't Break
Unlike the more "dominant" defenses around the country, Oklahoma State has a bend-but-don't-break policy. They play off the line of scrimmage, keeping the opponent in front of them and limiting big plays for touchdowns.
That strategy should work against an Iowa State offense that is dead last in scoring in the Big 12 at just 24 points per game. They do run the ball fairly well, which could be something the Cowboys struggle with.
However, if the Cowboys can limit their running game, they will be able to use their excellent secondary to stifle the Cyclone passing game. The Cyclones have the worst passing efficiency in the Big 12, while the Cowboys are ranked in the Top 20 nationally in defensive pass efficiency.
The Cowboys' defensive philosophy should work well against this Iowa State offense.
Don't Let Them Hang Around
What do Northern Iowa, Iowa, Connecticut and Kansas have in common? Each of them lost to the Cyclones by four points or less this season.
This Iowa State team knows how to play well in close games. All of their losses are by at least 16 points.
Those aforementioned teams also have another thing in common: None can hold a candle to Oklahoma State.
If the Cowboys can get up on Iowa State early, they will cruise to an easy victory.
Stay Focused and Motivated
Given the clear imbalance in talent in this matchup, this might be the biggest key of all.
The Cowboys must stay focused and be ready to play Friday night. This is the classic trap game, sandwiched in between the Cowboys' most dominant game of the year (a 66-6 win over Texas Tech) and their biggest game of the year (Dec. 3rd vs. Oklahoma).
Mike Gundy and his staff have done a great job of preparing this team both for their opponents and the pressure of being the No. 2 in the nation. They'll do it again this week, leading the Cowboys to a big victory.