How long has Iowa State had TCU’s attention?
Since its league-stunning win at Oklahoma?
The worse-than-it-looked rout at Texas Tech?
How about since Sunday, when the latest AP Top 25 poll came out and put the Cyclones at No. 25?
“I said before the season Iowa State was going to be a tough ballgame,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “And that was not even knowing what I know now. Even if they weren’t a 5-2 team, it would be a tough game.”
If Patterson has been saying it, the players have been hearing it.
“Yeah, they drill it into us that we have to take every opponent serious,” running back Kyle Hicks.
There is little reason for the No. 4 Horned Frogs not to.
The Cyclones (5-2, 3-1) deserve to be treated seriously by TCU (7-0, 4-0) on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, despite having lost the past four meetings in the series, because the way they have gotten to 5-2 is very TCU-like.
They are not getting hurt by big-play offenses. The Cyclones held Oklahoma to 31 points on its home turf and Texas Tech to 13 on its home turf. TCU limited Oklahoma State to 31 in Stillwater and West Virginia to 24 at home.
The Cyclones take care of the ball. They’re 28th in the country with 14 takeaways and eighth in fewest giveaways, with six. That’s plus-8. TCU, which finished minus-4 last year, has turned that stat around to plus-4 this season.
But they have a big-play offense. Five of the Cyclones’ top six pass-catchers have a reception of 40-plus yards. Hakeem Butler has a 74-yard play to his credit. TCU has gotten 40-plus plays from six receivers, including 71- and 67-yard touchdowns.
Iowa State does not hurt itself with penalties. The Cyclones have committed the fifth-fewest in the country, only 27 in seven games. TCU is middle-of-the-pack in the Big 12, with 45. Texas Tech has been penalized most among Big 12 teams, 61 times.
The Cyclones score in the red zone. They’re 21-for-31 on touchdowns inside the 20, thanks in part to David Montgomery’s Big 12-leading eight touchdown runs. TCU is 22 of 31 in red-zone touchdowns, largely behind a pounding wildcat formation that has resulted in six touchdowns for Sewo Olonilua.
Both teams are 28-for-31 in red zone opportunities.
In the Big 12, the Frogs and Cyclones are 1-2 in rushing defense, 1-2 in fewest sacks allowed (eight by TCU, 14 by Iowa State), 1-2 in scoring defense, 1-2 in total defense and top three in tackles for loss.
Both teams have one of the league’s best linebackers, Joel Lanning for Iowa State and Travin Howard for TCU.
And their quarterbacks have gotten hot. Iowa State’s Kyle Kempt threw three touchdown passes against both Oklahoma and Texas Tech. TCU’s Kenny Hill is coming off a five-touchdown game against Kansas.
It’d be hard to find someone who would have predicted a Top 25 match-up for either team this week. But the numbers tell the story. Iowa State deserves to be taken seriously.
And after listening to Patterson all season and watching results from around the country each week, it sounds like the Frogs don’t need convincing.
“When you see all these games and all these upsets and teams taking other teams for granted, you realize they lost focus or something like that,” Hicks said. “And you don’t want to be that squad. We just try to remain focused and take every opponent serious and treat every opponent the same.”
The Cyclones deserve that.
No. 4 TCU at No. 25 Iowa State
2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/Ch. 8
Head to head
TCU (7-0, 4-0)
Iowa State (5-2, 3-1)