Peterson: Iowa State a 10-point road favorite? It’s no misprint; it’s reality

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Iowa State’s offense has become consistent, not only thanks to Brock Purdy, but the linemen and receivers, too
Randy Peterson, rpeterson@dmreg.com

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.  — Not all that long ago, taking Iowa State football on the Big 12 Conference road usually turned into one gigantic “L.”

Matt Campbell inherited a program whose nine-game conference road losing streak quickly became 12. Go on the road, lose on the road.

That was a culture he was bound and determined to change.

Campbell recruited better players. He turned the negative road environment into an us-against-the-rest positive. There’s more camaraderie among players. His team won at third-ranked Oklahoma in 2017, and suddenly the Cyclones aren’t automatically grounded upon arrival.

Sure, they lost the last time his team hit the Big 12 bricks at Baylor. But the Bears are a heck of a lot better than a lot of people gave them credit for. To recover from 20-zip with 21 consecutive points on the road in the 23-21 loss, however, shows that Campbell’s Cyclones aren’t pushovers of yesteryear.

Turn the page to Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at West Virginia, where Iowa State is a double-figure favorite. Mountaineers fans are rabid. It’s a long flight from everywhere in the Big 12, and vice versa. It’s not usually the circled-in-red game thousands of visiting fans flock to see. West Virginia has a lot going for it in that respect.

However, so does Iowa State, and I’m not only referring to quarterback Brock Purdy. Program losses like 41-20 and 55-3 at TCU, 66-31 at Texas Tech, 30-6 at therse Mountaineers — and who could forget 71-7 at Baylor in 2013 — haven’t been regular occurrences.

Stuff’s changed so much for the better that Campbell’s team enters Saturday’s game with six wins in its last 11 Big 12 roadies.

And to carry this statistic farther, the most recent five Big 12 road losses have been by a combined average of 4.8 points, and this includes last season’s 14-point loss at Texas. The others were by four points at West Virginia, one at Kansas State, three at TCU and two at Baylor.

Iowa State, a Big 12 road patsy? No way.

“We can’t control the environment, we can’t control if there is a great crowd or a bad crowd, and we can’t control if we’re home or away,” Campbell said. “What we can control, is the preparation to get there. That’s been the same mantra since the day I got here. That process of preparation allows you to handle whatever comes your way.

“Positive, negative — whatever you get into — it allows you to be the best version of you when you need to be the best version of you. The more we’ve matured as a team, you’ve seen us be able to get better and handle all kinds of different situations that can occur in those 60 minutes of a college football game.”

THE BIG BREAKDOWN

Iowa State at West Virginia

IOWA STATE RUSHING

I’ll say this again: Purdy needs as many rushing yards as he can get for Iowa State to be successful. Johnnie Lang has emerged as the top tailback, but he’s still a ways from being among the Big 12’s best. Texas rushed for 216 yards against West Virginia last week. Missouri rushed for 232 during the nonconference season. The Cyclones are no Texas or Missouri in the rushing department, but there definitely are rushing yards available if Purdy is Purdy. ADVANTAGE: WEST VIRGINIA.

IOWA STATE PASSING

No one has consistently slowed Purdy’s passing yet, and I doubt that starts Saturday. The Cyclones’ average of 327.6 passing yards a game is second in the Big 12. Purdy’s 70.8 completion percentage is second in the conference to Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Purdy leads the conference with 1,578 passing yards. The Cyclones will have trouble matching their averages, and West Virginia has 14 sacks. But Iowa State’s performance should be adequate enough to win the game. Moreover, four-game starting safety JoVanni Stewart decided he’s sitting out the remainder of West Virginia’s season. “Purdy won’t be under the radar much longer,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. ADVANTAGE: IOWA STATE.

WEST VIRGINIA RUSHING

It wouldn’t be shocking if West Virginia exceeds its 144-yard rushing average in Big 12 play against a defense that’s been very good against the run. It depends on quarterback Austin Kendall, and whether the Cyclones can keep him from running wild while dropping seven or eight defensive players into pass coverage. ADVANTAGE: IOWA STATE.

WEST VIRGINIA PASSING

Kendall will chuck the ball, possibly 50 times. He also tends to be a bit wild, given his four interceptions last Saturday against Texas. He’ll tuck and run when receivers are covered. Iowa State has faced that type of versatile quarterback in four of five games, so whatever Kendall does won’t be a surprise. ADVANTAGE: IOWA STATE.

Iowa State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) at West Virginia (3-2, 1-1)

Time, TV: 3 p.m., ESPN

Vegas line: Iowa State by 10½.

Score prediction: Iowa State 31, West Virginia 21

BIG 12 PREDICTIONS

No. 5 OKLAHOMA (5-0, 2-0) vs. No. 11 TEXAS (4-1, 2-0) at Dallas

Time, TV: 11 a.m., FOX

Vegas line: Oklahoma by 11

Prediction: There’s not been a lot of oomph in Texas’ pass rush, so it could be a big game for Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, and speaking of big: The over-under combined point total for this game was at a whopping 76 as of early Thursday afternoon. I’m not sure the Longhorns are equipped to get into a shootout. With quarterback Sam Ehlinger, however, they’ll be good enough to give the Sooners their first real game.

Score: Oklahoma 37, Texas 35

TEXAS TECH (3-2, 1-1) at No. 23 Baylor (5-0, 2-0)

Time, TV: 3 p.m., FS1

Vegas line: Baylor by 11

Prediction: Let’s stick with the Bears a while longer, possibly even until hosting Oklahoma and Texas on consecutive Saturdays next month. Texas Tech quarterback Jett Duffey smacked Oklahoma State with 424 passing yards in last Saturday’s 10-point win against the Cowboys, but Saturday he’ll face a better defense this Saturday in Baylor. That’ll be the difference in this game’s outcome.

Score: Baylor 31, Texas Tech 24

Randy Peterson is the Iowa State columnist for the Register, where he’s worked for parts of the past five decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.

Source: Des Moines Register