The college football season is heating up, and we have a massive Big 12 showdown in Iowa on Saturday afternoon.
#17 Baylor Bears (2-1) vs Iowa State Cyclones (3-0)
@ Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, IA
How to Watch:
- Date: Saturday, September 24th
- Time: 12:00 ET
- Channel: ESPN
The Cyclones are looking to extend their win streak as they open Big 12 play against Baylor on Saturday.
For the first time since 2012, Iowa State opened its season with three-straight wins. One more win would put the Cyclones at the most wins to start their season in over 20 years. The team standing in the way of Iowa State is none other than the 2021 Big 12 champions.
Historically, the rivalry between Iowa State and Baylor has been even, with Baylor coming out on top with a record of 11-9. However, the matchup tends to favor whichever team plays at home, with both teams having a winning record in their respective stadiums.
Baylor got the best of Iowa State in 2021 en route to its Big 12 Championship upset win over Oklahoma State. With Baylor sitting atop the conference before the season began, the game against Iowa State looked like a textbook win for the Bears.
Now, as each team has gathered footing in the first three games of the season, Iowa State looks as though it can give Baylor a run for its money. Iowa State showed dominating performances against SEMO and Ohio and even took down Iowa at home. The offense looks as explosive as ever, and the defense has been locking down teams left and right.
Baylor started its season in a very different fashion to Iowa State, picking up comfortable wins over Albany and Texas State. The bears are currently 2-1, with the only loss coming to a ranked BYU team in week two. With how dominant the bears look on both sides of the ball, it’s clear why they are ranked in the top-25 teams in college football.
Even though Baylor is ranked higher than Iowa State and has seen more success recently, the teams tend to keep the series close and competitive. Baylor squeaked out a win against Iowa State last year by just two points when the Cyclones traveled down to Waco, Texas. However, home-field advantage will play in Iowa State’s favor this time.
The last time Iowa State lost to Baylor in Ames was in 2016. Not only that, Iowa State is currently on an 11-game winning streak against Big 12 opponents at home. Jack Trice Stadium is a tough place for any team to play, and Saturday should put Baylor to the test.
Both teams have seen similar success on both sides of the ball. Iowa State put an end to the questions about the inexperience of the offense after multiple weeks of success. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers looks as talented as advertised, while the running back room should see no lack of production with Jirehl Brock now leading the charge. Xavier Hutchinson is also cementing his legacy as an elite wide receiver, as he is on pace for his best season yet, scoring five touchdowns in three games, tying his 2021 season total.
Baylor’s offense hasn’t had many issues putting points on the board either, putting up multiple touchdowns in every game, and keeping the game against a ranked BYU close. The running back room also showed great depth in the first three games, with three running backs rushing for over 20 snaps on the year and each back rushing for multiple touchdowns.
Although both teams possess the capability to score at will, the main star of the show on either team is the defense. Through three games, Iowa State leads the Big 12 in total defense, with 234.3 yards per game, and scoring defense, with nine points thanks to a Big 12-best eight takeaways. On the national level, Iowa State is top ten in total defense and fifth in rushing defense.
Baylor’s success in 2021 was largely due to its elite defense, and there’s no sign of that defense slowing down. Baylor is close behind Iowa State in total defense, coming in at third in the Big 12, just behind Kansas State.
The Big 12 opener will prove to be an important game for both teams, as they will look to get off to Big 12 play on the right foot. With how even the teams are, it could prove to be a battle of wills in Ames, Iowa.
Players to Know:
2022 season stats: 14 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles
Vance has been a staple of the Iowa State defense for years. As Vance moved more into a leadership role in the linebacker group, he’s looked to make an impact across the field. So far, his 2022 season shows that he wants to make a mark before he leaves the team.
In each of the last two games, Vance came up big in crucial moments with a strip sack in each. Now, with Iowa State opening its Big 12 slate with Baylor at home, expect Vance to be a key contributor to the elite Iowa State defense.
2022 season stats: five solo tackles, one interception
Johnson has taken his move to safety in full stride during the start of the 2022 season. After his performance against Ohio, he received praise from Campbell about how well he’s been playing on film. Not many other safeties, or defensive players, are playing at a level as high as Johnson.
Along with a picture-perfect day against Ohio, Johnson secured his first career interception, which was a long time coming. With tough games ahead, Johnson will have to continue making an impact and help Iowa State’s defense shut down the explosive offenses in the Big 12.
2022 season stats: 237 yards, five touchdowns, 7.0 yards per carry
When looking at who to watch on the Baylor offense, it’s tough not to want to notice quarterback Blake Shapen. In the first three games, Shapen showed that he could compete with other top quarterbacks in the conference. However, one thing does stand out above the passing game, and that’s the run game.
Baylor’s been explosive on the ground, punching through each of the three defenses they’ve faced. With a few players taking shares of the running back snaps, the player that showed he had the most to prove was Reese. Against Texas State, Reese had a career day, rushing for 156 yards and three touchdowns. If the Cyclones defense can’t find a way to put a handle on Reese, there’s a good chance he could cause problems all day for the Cyclones.
- Darren Wilson, Iowa State WR: Knee injury. Questionable for Saturday.