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Kicking the Tires: Iowa State Cyclones

Every game is important in a losing streak, but in college football the game after a sixth straight loss is critical. K-State needs to beat Iowa State or its five-year bowl streak will end.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

After Texas Tech shredded K-State's defense last weekend in Lubbock, the Wildcats return home, now on a six-game losing streak. Each remaining game is an elimination contest now, with bowl eligibility on the line each week.

On Saturday, the 3-7 Iowa State Cyclones will meet the Wildcats in Manhattan. The Clones are already out of the running for a bowl, and Paul Rhoads may be coaching his last games as the lead sideline thespian in Ames.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Joe Hubener, 97-207-7, 1,403 yards, 6.8 yards/attempt, 8 TDs, 155.9 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 94 carries, 477 yards, 5.1 yards/carry, 3 TDs, 53.0 yards/game

Receiving: Deante Burton, 24 receptions, 295 yards, 12.3 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 32.8 yards/game

Iowa State

Passing: Joel Lanning, 75-139-2, 874 yards, 6.3 yards/attempt, 7 TDs, 97.1 yards/game

Rushing: Mike Warren, 186 carries, 1,070 yards, 5.8 yards/carry, 4 TDs, 107.0 yards/game

Receiving: Allen Lazard, 46 receptions, 647 yards, 14.1 yards/reception, 4 TDs, 71.9 yards/reception

Farmageddon: big plays need not apply. The per-attempt averages above tell enough, and both teams rank in the bottom third (or worse) in IsoPPP, as you'll see in the graphs below.

In a game that will likely come down to execution and finishing drives, there's reason for guarded optimism. Such as guarded optimism can exist in the midst of a six-game losing streak, that is. K-State has advantages in Success Rate, Rushing S&P, and Finishing Drives (see below). If the Wildcats can both commit to running the ball and not killing themselves with penalties and negative plays, they should be able to sustain drives.

It may come down to finishing drives on both sides of the ball, assuming K-State doesn't continue turning five-to-ten yard gains into 45-yard gains through poor angles and missed tackles. Iowa State will probably be able to run the ball, but doesn't finish drives all that well. And K-State's biggest weakness, giving up explosive plays, isn't one of Iowa State's strengths.

Advanced Stats

Thanks as always to JeffP for the summary charts.

Iowa State Offense vs. Kansas State Defense
Kansas State Offense vs. Iowa State Defense

Conclusion

K-State is almost a touchdown favorite in this one by Vegas, while Bill Connelly's S&P+ picks project a tossup that slightly favors the Wildcats. My K-State picks have been pretty terrible this year, both straight-up and against the spread, so I'm not sure why anyone would still be reading this.

Can K-State avoid falling into an early hole? Will the Wildcats defense look better against a team that's less explosive than most Big 12 outfits? Can K-State establish its ground game? Does Iowa State have anything left to play for?

We're running on nothing but unsupported optimism at this point. K-State can still salvage something out of this season, but it has to start Saturday.

Wildcats 30, Cyclones 28