AMES — Iowa state football will face one of its toughest tests of the season on Saturday on the road for the regular season finale against TCU.
The No. 4 Horned Frogs (11-0) continue to shock the college football world as one of four undefeated teams remaining in the FBS. TCU joins Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan as the teams with perfect records going into the final week of the regular season.
Iowa State (4-7, 1-7 Big 12) goes into Saturday’s matchup in a very different position. The Cyclones have only recorded one win — against West Virginia — since September. But Iowa State shouldn’t be fully counted just yet.
TCU has the overall best offense in the Big 12, averaging 39.5 points per game. However, despite losing the ISU record, the Cyclones still have the best defense in the conference — they allow 16.5 points per game. The Horned Frogs have some of the best passing and rushing offense in the Big 12, but Iowa State has the best defense in both categories.
So it’s not easy to guess how this game could go.
Cyclones coach Matt Campbell believes in his team’s ability to compete with TCU, even with some question marks before the season finale.
Here’s some of what Campbell said in his weekly news briefing on Tuesday.
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The TCU’s offense is the total package
Let’s take a look at the pieces that have put together a perfect season for TCU so far.
Quarterback Max Duggan leads the Big 12 with 26 passing touchdowns and is second – only behind Hunter Dekkers – with 2,858 passing yards. In addition, he has thrown just three interceptions, the second fewest in the conference.
Duggan throws primarily to Quentin Johnston, who has 764 yards and five touchdowns on 49 completions. Taye Barber adds 567 yards and three touchdowns, and both players are in the top 15 of the Big 12 for those stats.
On the ground, the Horned Frogs have Kendre Miller, who has 1,188 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Emari Demercado and Duggan also have five rushing touchdowns each.
“They have elite playmakers across the board,” Campbell said. “I would say they are as good as anyone else at the conference. I’ve probably got one of the best players I’ve seen in our conference at the wide receiver position since I’ve been here.
“And honestly, the key to it all is the quarterback. … He’s found that consistency, he’s realized he’s playing at such an elite level right now. For me, he’s the key that keeps all of these things playing at a really high speed.”
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The state of Iowa needs to sort out the kicking duties
The Cyclones’ kicking unit left a lot to be desired in last week’s loss to Texas Tech.
Drake Nettles took over field goal duties. He hit a 36-yarder but missed a 30-yard attempt and had another blocked. Jace Gilbert made a PAT which was his only chance of the game.
Pedaling consistency is another area where the state of Iowa has struggled this year. Campbell couldn’t say who would take on the larger role against TCU.
“Right now where we are, you want all the facts,” Campbell responded to a question about how he’ll handle the kicking situation. “I still believe that training is the best place to find, or at least think we’re making the best decision for the team’s improvement.
“I would stand with these two young men and these two young men have done great things for our program. … It’s just finding that consistency and the same thing that we’re talking about in other areas.”
Some seniors stay?
Wide receiver Dimitri Stanley, defensive lineman Isaiah Lee and linebacker Gerry Vaughn did not participate in Iowa State’s Seniors’ Day last weekend.
While Campbell would not confirm they would all return next season, the Cyclones coach said the following about their ceremony waiver:
“It’s definitely on the table,” Campbell said of the return of all three players. “They didn’t go through fall camp or season as a senior. … Everything points to these three guys being back.”