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We’ll come right out and say it — Iowa State is good.
A team once perpetually at the bottom of the Big 12 is now 5-2 and ranked No. 25, with wins over Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Now, the Cyclones face the No. 4 Horned Frogs, a team riding undefeated with its stingy defense, multifaceted quarterback and skillful run game.
But in Ames — and in 44-degree weather — anything can happen when things kick off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (the game will air on ABC and ESPN2). Here are six things the Frogs should watch out for.
1. A really, really good defense.
Iowa State ranks just under TCU for having the best defense in the Big 12. The Cyclones’ rushing defense, especially, has been impressive. The team is currently allowing an average 120.4 rushing yards per game.
Running the ball happens to be among the TCU’s top strengths, with talented backs like Kyle Hicks and Darius Anderson, so the question remains as to who will silence whom.
2. This guy: David Montgomery.
Iowa State learned its lesson when it played Texas back in September. Cyclones running back David Montgomery — one of the most prolific rushers in the Big 12 this year — got just nine touches that game, which ultimately led to a 17-7 loss. But he’s since been a playmaker in Iowa State’s last three wins. He averages 4.9 yards per carry.
3. A talented receiving crew.
Iowa State spreads the ball around with a talented set of receivers, its top performers being Allen Lazard, Hakeem Butler, Marchie Murdock and Trever Ryen. Lazard currently leads the team with the most catches (33) and the most touchdowns (5).
4. A new face at quarterback.
With former starting quarterback Joel Lanning now playing linebacker and other-former-starting-quarterback Jacob Park on personal leave, Kyle Kempt has stepped up to the job and turns out to be pretty good at it. He’s completing 69.74 percent of his passes and so far only has one interception.
5. Some good clean play.
The flag doesn’t get thrown much for Iowa State — it’s the least penalized team in the conference and ranks No. 5 in the nation for fewest penalties per game.
6. A whole new Iowa State.
It goes without saying that head coach Matt Campbell has turned this team around since taking the job in 2015. This is not the Iowa State that TCU fans once knew. A win for TCU (and perhaps an upset during the matchup between No. 2 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State) would be huge for a team with eyes toward the playoffs.