No. 17 Iowa State will go for its first 4-0 conference start in school history when it takes on No. 6 Oklahoma State in a Big 12 showdown in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday.
The Cyclones (3-1, 3-0 Big 12) opened with a shocking 31-14 home loss to Louisiana, but eked out a win at TCU, topped Oklahoma by a touchdown and then beat Texas Tech before having last Saturday off. Oklahoma State (3-0, 2-0) is the only undefeated team in the Big 12, although it remains a half game behind Iowa State and Kansas State in the league standings.
"I think we knew we had a chance to start off slow in the season, just with some of the uncertainties leading up to fall camp and the early part of the season," said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. "And so, I think our kids understood that we were building our season and our team for the long haul."
It helps to have a backfield of quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall.
Purdy, a junior, is 14-5 as a starter in conference games and has defeated every other Big 12 program. He has completed 78 of 125 passes for 912 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called him a "future NFL quarterback."
Hall is second nationally in rushing, averaging 132.8 yards per game. He has reached triple digits in each game this season, building off a freshman campaign in which he ran for 956 yards.
Oklahoma State counters with oodles of offense of its own.
Explosive running back Chuba Hubbard is a big-play specialist who was a unanimous All-American in 2019, when he led the nation with 161.1 rushing yards per game. He is averaging 113.0 yards this season, while 2018 All-American receiver Tylan Wallace has 19 catches for 325 yards and two touchdowns.
The intrigue is at quarterback, where starter Spencer Sanders is healthy after being bothered by an ankle injury suffered in the season opener. The Cowboys, who have had two weeks off after last Saturday's game was postponed due to Baylor's rash of positive COVID-19 tests, mostly have been relying on Shane Illingworth, a strong-armed 6-foot-5 freshman from California. He is 36 of 49 for 483 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
"We're alternating reps," Gundy said Monday. "We might play both. I'm not sure right now. We continue to give them quality work. Spencer is healthy, and obviously Shane has played pretty good. We're in pretty good shape at the quarterback position."
Don't sleep on either defense as the teams battle for Big 12 supremacy.
Iowa State has 13 sacks, led by 4.5 from Will McDonald and 3.5 from fellow defensive end JaQuan Bailey. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State hasn't allowed more than 13 points in a game this season and is sixth nationally in total defense at 274.3 yards per game. After handling Tulsa, West Virginia and Kansas, the Cowboys will play a ranked team for the first time.
Iowa State is 3-0 in league play for the fifth time in its history -- only the second time since 1949.
"They're squashing people pretty good," Gundy said of the Cyclones. "They're definitely a top 20 team in the country, in my opinion. We're looking forward to a good game on Saturday."
--Field Level Media