Matchup of similar teams in No. 6 K-State, No. 25 Cyclones
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
In a Big 12 Conference built for speed and putting up pinball-machine numbers, Kansas State and Iowa State are an anomaly.
Discipline, time of possession and physical defense tend to take center stage.
Small wonder then that the last five meetings between the teams, which square off at 11 a.m. today at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa, were decided by single digits.
No. 6-ranked K-State (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) has won four straight by an average margin of 5.75 points. Iowa State (4-1, 1-1) claimed a 30-21 victory in 2007, the last time they played in Ames.
"I think there's probably a lot of things that go into it," K-State quarterback Collin Klein said. "They're a very solid team, they play extremely hard (and) they're very tough.
"I think we would like to have a lot of those same qualities, so it is, has and probably will be a good game."
The similarities clearly outweigh the differences.
"A lot of college football is matchups and they match up very well against us," K-State tight end Travis Tannahill said. "We're kind of the same team, just playing with toughness and discipline and everything.
"Whenever a team does that, they have a chance to win, so we're going to have to go up there and play our best."
K-State, which moved up a spot to No. 6 in the Associated Press poll this week, is coming off a 56-16 rout of Kansas. Iowa State picked up a signature victory at then-No. 15 TCU, 37-23, and moved into the ESPN/USA Today coaches rankings at No. 25.
"I told the people at the bagel store that (Monday) morning and they still made me pay for my bagel and coffee, so it's really not giving us any advantage right now," Iowa State coach Paul Rhodes said of the Cyclones' first national ranking in nearly 10 years. "I think if we keep executing, keep playing sound football, keep doing the things that the great Bill Snyder-coached Kansas State football teams do, we'll have a chance to maybe win more than we lose in this league."
Rhoads has made no secret of his admiration for K-State's Snyder. And Snyder, in his days as offensive coordinator at Iowa, knew Rhoads' father Cecil, a successful high school coach in the Des Moines area.
"I think he's an excellent football coach; he's an excellent person," Snyder said of the younger Rhoads. "I think Paul is just right for Iowa State and has brought an awful lot to that program."
What the Cyclones have brought more than anything this season is a rugged defense that ranks No. 28 nationally, allowing just 338 yards a game, and 18th in scoring defense with opponents averaging 15.8 points. Senior linebacker Jake Knott and A.J. Klein rank third and eighth in the Big 12 in tackles.
"They're a very experienced defense, very disciplined," Collin Klein said. "They know how to execute what they're in and they tackle, so it's going to be a challenge."
While still no juggernaut, K-State does rank 41st nationally in total offense with 440 yards a game and ninth in rushing with a 262.8-yard average. Running back John Hubert is second in the league with 105.4 yards per game and Klein fifth with 81.0.
The Wildcats also have an advantage in facing an Iowa State defense that's similar to its own, according to Tannahill.
"It's kind of nice just because we go against our one or two defense a lot of the time," he said. "So we know what it's like to play a run-stop defense and have a lot of guys in the box, and they're going to come downhill hard at you."
K-State also has improved defensively over a year ago with a No. 40 ranking, No. 20 against the run, and No. 16 in points allowed at 15.6.
The Wildcats will face an Iowa State offense that switched quarterbacks last week from senior Steele Jantz to sophomore Jared Barnett. Jantz had seven touchdowns and seven interceptions the first four games, including three picks in a loss two weeks ago to Texas Tech.
"He hasn't always made the plays when necessary, but he's led our team and we were at a point where that's what we needed," Rhoads said of Barnett, who threw three touchdown passes with one interception at TCU. "We needed somebody to make good decisions and just steer the ship and not necessarily go out and win the game.
"He did what we asked for on Saturday."
The Cyclones' top weapon against TCU was wide receiver Josh Lenz with five catches for a career-high 147 yards and three touchdowns, plus a scoring pass. He leads the team with 18 catches for 279 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back James White averages 52.8 rushing yards per game.