Tale of the tape: KU vs. Iowa State

Saturday, November 5, 2011

When Kansas has the ball

Kansas rush offense vs. Iowa State rush defense

What once was viewed as a strength of the Kansas University offense has fallen on hard times during the past few games. In losses to Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas, KU rushed 95 times for 218 yards. That’s an average of 2.3 yards per carry, and very few of those yards actually mattered to the outcome of the game. Part of the problem has been the scoreboard. With the Jayhawks trailing by so much, so often, they’ve had to turn to the pass a little more than in previous weeks. In addition, the offense as a whole has lacked rhythm and had a difficult time staying on the field. With James Sims, Darrian Miller, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon all healthy, KU still has the horses to be a good running team, but it’s no longer a given that it will be.

Edge: Push.

Kansas pass offense vs. Iowa State pass defense

Iowa State is not the kind of team that’s going to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable by bringing pressure over and over. In eight games, the Cyclones have just five interceptions and 11 sacks. However, the Cyclones are the kind of team that’s going to make its opponents work for everything they get. ISU plays straight-up coverages, keeps everything in front of the defense and challenges opposing offenses to put together long, time-consuming drives in order to score. As long as he gets protection, this should suit Jordan Webb’s strengths. But with the way KU’s passing game has gone lately and the continued struggles of the Jayhawks’ wide receivers, it’s hard to give the advantage to Kansas.

Edge: Iowa State.

When Iowa State has the ball

Iowa State rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense

Talk about catching a team at the wrong time. What once was an average Iowa State rushing attack enters this week with a ton of confidence after ripping off 368 yards — the school’s most since 1996 — in a 41-7 victory against Texas Tech last week. ISU had two 100-yard rushers in last week’s win, as James White ran for 138 yards and Duran Hollis backed that up with 101 yards. The Cyclones, led by left tackle Kelechi Osemele (6-foot-6, 347 pounds), are big up front and like to be physical all game. They should have no problem handling KU’s defensive line and, for yet another game, it’ll be up to the Kansas linebackers and defensive backs to make tackles.

Edge: Iowa State.

Iowa State pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense

The Cyclones don’t do anything special in the passing game, but they do enough to create space for their rushing attack. So far this season, ISU has averaged 214 yards per game through the air and thrown 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Those numbers have been split between two quarterbacks, as junior Steele Jantz started the first seven games of the season but gave way to freshman Jared Barnett after suffering an injury. Barnett’s first start came last week, but he has played in four games. Barnett’s inexperience could benefit a KU defense that’s in serious need of a good showing. But until the Jayhawks deliver, the nod has to go to the opposing offenses every time.

Edge: Iowa State.

Special teams

Outside of KU returner D.J. Beshears, there’s not much to write home about with either special-teams unit this week. KU’s punting game continues to be a bright spot, but, most weeks, KU’s punts have not been much of a factor because of the numbers on the scoreboard. In last year’s game, a punt return by ISU’s Josh Lenz turned the tide of the game and put the Cyclones on track for a comeback. Lenz is back this season, and something as simple as a punt return could play a big role again today. Edge: Push.