To get a closer look from the Iowa State side we caught up with Paul Clark from Cyclone Report.com
What has the injury to Jake Knott meant to the defense?
Knott's absence has been huge in the two games he has missed. It hasn't helped that those two games were Oklahoma and Texas, teams that are both loaded with talent on offense. The Cyclones miss Knott in a variety of ways. Obviously his production is missed, but also his leadership. There is no question he was the leader of the defense and even though he's on the sidelines doing as much as he can, it's not the same as having him on the field.
The linebackers that remain have all shifted roles and responsibilities with Knott out of the line-up and that is still a work in progress. It will be interesting to see how ISU fares in its first game without Knott that isn't against a blue blood team with a loaded offense.
It looks like Steele Jantz is the quarterback. Has the offense changed since he took over?
The Iowa State offense stays pretty much the same regardless of who is playing quarterback. Although Jantz and Jared Barnett have different strengths and weaknesses, the system is what it is. There may be tendencies for the Cyclones to call more pass plays with Jantz in the game as he is the better thrower of the two. Conversely, when Barnett plays there is a bit more emphasis on the run game - especially the read option series. But Iowa State will still run plenty of read option with Jantz in the game as well. It is the base on which everything else is built when it comes to the offense.
As far as productivity, ISU's offense pretty much goes or doesn't go based on the quality of the opposing defense. They've been okay against poorer defenses and struggled with better ones.
What kind of defense does Iowa State play and who are the key play-makers?
Iowa State plays mostly 4-3, but it will often use a hybrid defender at SAM linebacker to basically have five defensive backs on the field. But against a predominantly run team like Kansas, it will be mostly traditional 4-3. Linebacker A.J. Klein is the Cyclones' leading active tackler with Knott out. Safeties Durrell Givens and Jacques Washington are next on the tackle charts followed by another linebacker, Jeremiah George. Givens is one of the national leaders in takeaways with eight on the season - five fumble recoveries and three interceptions. Washington also has three picks.
Defensive ends Roosevelt Maggitt and Rony Nelson generate most of the pass rush with eight and six pressures respectively, but the Cyclones have not been getting after quarterbacks much in recent games.
Has there been any other key news like injuries, off the field news, etc.?
The Cyclones are starting to show the wear and tear of a long Big 12 grind, especially on defense. Senior nose guard and defensive line leader Jake McDonough played a limited number of snaps at Texas due to injury. Starting cornerback Jansen Watson sprained an MCL against Oklahoma and missed the Texas game; he's questionable this week. Best receiver Josh Lenz has been hampered by a deep bruise quad injury for several weeks, playing sparingly. Off the field news has been non-existent, which is a very good thing.
Paul Rhoads definitely has the Cyclones playing with great effort and competitive. Are fans and alums ready to see the next step in the program?
Fans are always ready to see the next step, so yes is the answer to the question. But I don't think there is much in the way of discontent that Iowa State is hovering right around the .500 mark for the fourth time in as many years under Rhoads. This was really the first year that he should have been expected to have ISU in the bowl conversation, given the situation he stepped into starting with the 2009 season. But he recognized there were some players who could win games so he did a great job keeping the personnel he inherited and also adding to it with recruiting.
If people realize how much of a accomplishment it was to go bowling in two of the first three seasons, they understand Rhoads is ahead of schedule when compared to every other Iowa State coach's building record.
How do you see this match-up and the game playing out?
I'm expecting a close, competitive game. Kansas has played opponents tough at home this year and was very tough on the road last week at Texas Tech. This has to be a game that KU is pointing to as an opportunity to get a Big 12 victory. I envision almost a bowl game mentality on the Jayhawks' side for this game.
Iowa State is in a bit of a funk with losses in its last two and four of the last five, but the teams on the other side of the line of scrimmage have had a lot to do with that. ISU's losses have all been to teams in the BCS top 25. But Kansas can say the same thing about five of its losses. My prediction is for the Cyclones to prevail in a close one.