Kansas at Iowa State
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
TV: Fox Sports KC
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Radio: WHB (810 AM)
Line: Iowa State by 22 1/2
The lowdown: Could the two teams be any further apart when it comes to momentum heading into the game? Iowa State just posted its biggest win in years, going on the road to defeat No. 3 Oklahoma 38-31 last week, while KU enters following a 65-19 Homecoming loss to Texas Tech. If KU loses, it will be its 43rd straight defeat on the road — one short of tying the Division I record set by Western (Colo.) State from 1926-36.
KU key to success: Get Peyton Bender going again. The Kansas quarterback had his worst outing of the season against Texas Tech, airmailing two red-zone throws late in the second quarter that led to his second-half benching. Though KU coach David Beaty didn’t announce a starting quarterback this week, offensive coordinator Doug Meacham all but said Bender would be back in there Saturday. Iowa State’s defensive weakness has been in the pass game, so the Jayhawks need a better Bender if they want to have any shot at a road upset.
Iowa State key to success: Don’t turn it over. If the two teams played this game 10 times, Iowa State would likely win nine of those instances. The 10th result — the one the Cyclones are trying to avoid — almost certainly would have to involve turnovers swinging the outcome. Thus far, Iowa State is tied for third in the Big 12 with a plus-4 turnover margin, while KU is last at minus-7. Crazy things can happen in one-game samples, though.
Iowa State player to watch: Will Joel Lanning do it all again this week? Against Oklahoma, he played linebacker, part-time quarterback and on special teams, staying on the field for 78 snaps in all. He was productive, too; Lanning had eight tackles, a sack and fumble recovery, earning national defensive player of the week honors while also adding 35 rushing yards and 25 passing yards offensively.
Key matchup: Iowa State’s pass offense vs. KU’s secondary. The Jayhawks’ greatest weakness is no mystery, as they continue to allow too many long passing plays because of inconsistency on the back end. KU also might once again be short on depth there, as starting cornerback Hasan Defense (mono) missed last week and is uncertain to return Saturday. Whether it’s Kyle Kempt (343 yards, three touchdowns against Oklahoma) or Jacob Park (1,181 passing yards in four games), the Cyclones appear to have talented enough quarterbacks to take advantage of KU’s inexperience … if they can avoid turnovers.
Jesse Newell’s prediction: Iowa State 49, Kansas 28. There don’t appear to be easy fixes for KU’s defense. The team has allowed 52 points per game to FBS opponents, and while last week’s improved pass rush was a positive sign, misreads and blown assignments still resulted in the Jayhawks allowing 65 points — or, more fairly, 58 if you don’t include a Red Raiders’ scoop-and-score. Offensively, look for KU to be much better than it was against Texas Tech, especially if Bender can regain the command he lost in the second quarter. Like so many other games, though, an improved offense can only do so much, as KU will need its defense to take a big leap forward if it hopes to keep this one competitive.