The college football season is heating up, and we have a great Big 12 matchup 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 24
- Weather: 12:00 ET
- Channel: ESPN
The Cyclones look to extend their winning streak by opening the Big 12 game 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 on the most wins to start their season in over 20 years. The team standing in Iowa State’s way is none other than the 2021 Big 12 champions.
Historically, the rivalry between Iowa State and Baylor has been a close one, with Baylor winning with an 11-9 record. However, the matchup tends to favor the team playing at home, with both teams having winning records in their respective stadiums.
Baylor got the best of Iowa State in 2021 en route to its Big 12 Championship upset victory over Oklahoma State. With Baylor sitting atop the conference before the season began, the game against Iowa State looked like a textbook victory for the Bears.
Now that each team has gotten to its feet in the first three games of the season, it looks like Iowa State can give Baylor a run for its money. Iowa State showed dominating performances against SEMO and Ohio and even defeated Iowa at home. The offense looks as explosive as ever, and the defense has been shutting down teams left and right.
Baylor started its season much differently than Iowa State, earning comfortable wins over Albany and Texas State. The Bears are currently 2-1, with the only loss to a ranked team coming from BYU in the second week. With how dominant the Bears look on both sides of the ball, it’s clear why they’re ranked among the top 25 teams in college football.
Although Baylor is ranked higher than Iowa State and has been more successful recently, teams tend to keep the series close and competitive. Baylor cruised to a victory against Iowa State last year by just two points when the Cyclones traveled to Waco, Texas. However, home field advantage will play in favor of Iowa State this time.
The last time Iowa State lost to Baylor at Ames was in 2016. Not only that, Iowa State is currently riding 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 to rest questions about the offense’s inexperience after several 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 way. 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 total for the 2021 season.
Baylor’s offense also hasn’t had much of a problem putting points on the board, scoring multiple touchdowns in each game and holding the game against a tight ranked BYU. The running back room also showed great depth in the first three games, with three running backs rushing for 20-plus snaps on the year and each running back rushing for multiple touchdowns.
Although both teams possess the ability 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 the Big 12’s eight best takeaways. Nationally, Iowa State ranks in the top ten in total defense and fifth in rushing defense.
Baylor’s success in 2021 was due in large part to its elite defense, and there’s no sign that defense is slowing down. Baylor is close behind Iowa State in total defense, coming in 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 start the Big 12 off on the right foot. As close as the teams are, it could turn out to be a battle of wills in Ames, Iowa.
Players to know:
O’Rien Vance – ISU, LB
2022 season statistics: 14 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles
Vance has been a staple of the Iowa State defense for years. As Vance took a leadership role in the linebacking corps, he sought to make an impact across the field. So far, his 2022 season shows that he wants to make a mark before leaving the team.
In each of the last two games, Vance stood out in crucial moments with a sack in each. Now, with Iowa State opening its Big 12 roster with Baylor at home, expect Vance to be a key contributor to Iowa State’s elite defense.
Anthony Johnson Jr. – ISU, S
2022 season statistics: five solo tackles, one interception
Johnson took his move to safety at full throttle during the start of the 2022 season. Following his performance against Ohio, he received praise from Campbell for how well he has been playing on film. Not many other safeties, or defensive players, are playing at a level as high as Johnson’s.
Coupled with a perfect day against Ohio, Johnson secured the first interception of his career, which was a long time coming. With tough games ahead, Johnson will have to continue to make an impact and help Iowa State’s defense shut down explosive offenses in the Big 12.
Richard Reese – BU, RB
2022 season statistics: 237 yards, five touchdowns, 7.0 yards per carry
When looking at who to watch in Baylor’s offense, it’s hard not 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 stands out above the passing game, and that is the running game.
Baylor has been explosive on the ground, punching through each of the three defenses they’ve faced. With a few players sharing the running back snaps, the player who showed he had the most to prove was Reese. Against Texas State, Reese had a career day of his own, rushing for 156 yards and three touchdowns. If the Cyclones’ defense can’t find a way to control Reese, there’s a good chance he could cause the Cyclones trouble all day.
- Darren Wilson, Iowa State WR: knee injury Questionable for Saturday.