As they prep for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, the Iowa State Cyclones and head coach Paul Rhoads have plenty to be proud of this season. Throw aside the Cyclones’ 6-6 record, this is a better team than its record indicates. Five of their six losses came against nationally ranked teams and their upset over no. 2 ranked Oklahoma State stamped their ticket to the Pinstripe Bowl. However, the Cyclones have their sights set on one final upset to close out their season.
The biggest problem posed for Iowa State is that Rutgers’ strengths are Iowa State’s weaknesses. Iowa State will find it very difficult to run the football against Rutgers’ front seven. The Cyclones passing offense don’t pose too much of a threat to Rutgers’ secondary either. The Cyclones secondary, which has struggled stopping prolific wide receivers will face a challenge of their own in Rutgers’ record-setting receiver Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Coleman. Iowa State’s kryptonite defensively has been their 85th-ranked rush defense. Fortunately, Rutgers’ has one of the most anemic rushing offenses in the nation and actually recorded negative team rushing yardage in it’s last outing.
Although, head coach Paul Rhoads signed a 10-year extension this month, the Pinstripe Bowl will be their final game with Tom Herman as the offensive coordinator. Herman, who ran the Cyclones’ spread offense, was hired to serve in the same capacity for Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State.
Players To Watch:
Jared Barnett: Freshman quarterback Jared Barnett leads Iowa State’s no-huddle spread offense and is a very elusive scrambler when he tucks the football and runs. Barnett burst onto the scene by leading Iowa State to an upset win over Oklahoma State. Despite starting just six games, Barnett was the Cyclones second leading rusher. However, the freshman starter is very inconsistent as a passer. He’ll have to utilize his mobility often if he hopes to survive Rutgers’ relentless blitzing schemes. Once sack yardage is subtracted from his total, Barnett rushed for 438 yards on 99 carries this season.
James White and Jeff Woody: White led the Cyclones in rushing by gaining 701 yards, 150 carries and eight touchdowns but missed most of the last two games while recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the win over Oklahoma State. In his absence backup Jeff Woody, who is a bruising contact runner carried the load. Woody, Against Kansas State Woody rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns. however, White possesses an explosiveness that Woody lacks. They will both benefit from running behind 6-6, 347 pound left tackle Kelechi Osemele, who is widely considered the Big 12’s (widest and) best offensive tackle.
Jake Knott and A.J. Klein: While Rutgers will likely rotate sophomore Chas Dodd and true freshman Gary Nova at quarterback, Iowa State will counter with a formidable duo of their own led by linebackers Jake Knott and AJ Klein.
Knott led the Cyclones in tackles but wasn’t even the best linebacker in his own unit. The Cyclones best defender during the 2011 season was junior A.J. Klein who was named the Big 12’s co-Defensive Defensive Player of the Year. If Klein, Knott and the Cyclones front seven must clog the middle and pressure Nova or Dodd into making bad decisions, like a freshman coed at her first college party.