Iowa State hits the road to take on Tech
By MIKE GRAHAM
LUBBOCK, Texas — Iowa State could be considered the biggest surprise among the five teams tied for second in the Big 12.
Regardless, the Cyclones already had Texas Tech’s attention, since the Red Raiders’ 66-10 loss in a late-season matchup of also-rans in Ames, Iowa, last year was perhaps the lowest point in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first four seasons.
Kingsbury’s crew seeks some payback at home Saturday, with bowl eligibility on the minds of both teams.
“It’s not one you have to bring up. It was that bad,” Kingsbury said. “Everybody who was on that sideline knows that, so it’s not something we’re harping on.”
The Cyclones (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) already have their most wins since 2012 and have a shot at their longest road winning streak since 1960-61. Iowa State has won three straight away from home, most recently the stunning upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma two weeks ago.
By beating Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2) for just the second time in Lubbock, Iowa State would likely remain tied for second almost halfway through the conference race, with two teams qualifying for the revived Big 12 championship game.
“It’s a great challenge for us,” said coach Matt Campbell, whose team shares second with Texas and three ranked teams in Oklahoma (ninth), Oklahoma State (10) and West Virginia (23). “Especially having to do it in an environment on the road where they have consistently played really good football at home.”
Iowa State has the No. 2 defense in the Big 12 behind fourth-ranked TCU and is coming off its best showing since 1963, allowing Kansas just 106 yards in a 45-0 victory. Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya has three interceptions, and the Cyclones are allowing 356 yards per game — exactly what Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek is averaging in passing yards.
“They’re doing a good job of not giving up many big plays,” Kingsbury said. “They’re keeping everything in front of them and then offensively just really not turning the football over. That’s a big key to their success the last couple weeks.”
Things to consider with the Cyclones seeking their first three-game Big 12 winning streak since 2011, a run that included their only victory in Lubbock:
PERFECT SO FAR
Iowa State walk-on Kyle Kempt is 2-0 as the starter, beginning with the stunner over the Sooners when he threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns as the Cyclones rallied from 24-10 down at halftime. The last Cyclones quarterback with three Big 12 wins in a season was Jared Barnett in 2011. Barnett went 3-6.
WATCH THE RANKINGS
Iowa State is climbing among the teams receiving votes for the Top 25 and might have a shot at getting in with a win. The Cyclones haven’t been ranked since Sept. 25, 2005, when they were 23rd before a 27-20 double-overtime loss at Nebraska. The Red Raiders, at No. 24, were ranked last week for the first time since 2013, when they started 7-0 in Kingsbury’s first season. But they blew an 18-point lead in the second half at West Virginia, dropping out while the Mountaineers got back in.
Texas Tech leads the Big 12 and is sixth nationally with a plus-nine turnover margin and the Cyclones are tied for second in the conference at plus-six. Under Campbell, Iowa State is 7-2 when winning the turnover battle and 0-9 when losing it or breaking even.
Iowa State’s Allen Lazard is the active NCAA leader with at least one catch in 41 consecutive games and has 350 yards receiving and a team-leading four touchdowns in a balanced group. The Cyclones are among six teams nationally with five receivers who have at least 200 yards. Keke Coutee of Texas Tech is fifth nationally at 112 yards receiving per game. Coutee is 13th with six touchdowns.
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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.