Know the foe: Iowa State comes to Provo with bowl eligibility in mind

BYU football is only one away from bowl eligibility, but that 6 win has become increasingly more elusive. After a 37-7 road loss to West Virginia the Cougars look to regroup at home against the Iowa State Cyclones. The Cyclones are also 5-4 on the season with hopes of clinching bowl eligibility on Saturday night. With only three games remaining in the regular season the urgency to win has increased exponentially. With these high stakes present here is preview on BYU’s opponent the Iowa State Cyclones.

Quarterback surprises

Many Iowa State fans were upset when starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers chose to step away from football due to a sports gambling scandal. Dekkers was poised for a solid season after throwing for 3,044 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2022, and expectations were high for an offense with a group of talented returners.

However, Redshirt freshman, Rocco Becht, has impressed the Cyclones coaches in his first season as the Iowa State starter. Becht’s 1,918 yards are good for 4th in the Big 12 Conference. He has also managed to throw for 13 touchdowns to 7 interceptions.

Offensive Struggles

Through 9 games the Cyclones have struggled to move the ball. They currently rank 13th out of 14 teams on offense ahead of only BYU. Iowa State averages 337.2 yards per game while scoring at a clip of 23.6 points a contest.

The Cyclones rushing attack ranks 12th in the conference with 114 yards a game. They also have only managed to score 9 times on the ground in 2023 which is tied for last in the Big 12.

The passing attack has also struggled to move the ball downfield at times averaging 219.7 yards a game through the air. However, as mentioned earlier the Iowa State offensive line has been incredibly effective in pass protection as the have surrendered only 8 sacks on the season which is the best in the conference.

Defensive Dominance

As much as the Cyclone offense has struggled, the defense has excelled. Iowa State’s defensive unit has been phenomenal through 9 games as they boast arguably the Big 12’s best defense. They surrender an average of only 330.2 points which is the best in the conference. They also rank 4th in the Big 12 in opponents points per game giving up an average of 20.7.

Led by an incredible core of defensive backs the Cyclone’s defense has managed to intercept opposing quarterback 13 times on the season. This combined with 1 fumble recovery has Iowa State’s defense boasting an impressive +6 mark in the turnover margin. The Iowa State secondary has also only allowed for an average of 212.6 yards per game which ranks 3rd in the Big 12.

Where Iowa State’s defense has struggles is in its ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks as it ranks 13th in sacks per game with only 14. Despite this, the Cyclones are holding opponents to only 117.7 rushing yards per game while only giving up only 8 rushing touchdowns on the entire season.

Conclusion

This contest between the two programs will be the 5th ever, and the first since 1974. The Cougars have never beaten Iowa State.

Many BYU fans view Saturday’s contest as BYU Football’s best opportunity to achieve bowl eligibility in its inaugural Big 12 season. A night game at LaVell Edwards Stadium is a tough outing for any team. Cougar fans can expect for an incredibly motivated Iowa State team to show up to play in what could be a turning point in the season. A win assures post-season play. A loss assures prolonged anxiety and increased doubt. Either way, the stakes are high for both programs.

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