Brad Loper
September 23, 2016

AMES, Iowa (AP) The dullest matchup involving a Big 12 team this weekend is a crucial one for Iowa State.

The Cyclones (0-3) are the only winless team left in the league, and their start has left little doubt that victories will be hard to come by in 2016.

But San Jose State (1-2), which visits Ames on Saturday, is one of the team that Iowa State can and should beat - even if first-year coach Matt Campbell doesn't agree just yet.

''When you're 0-3, I don't know that you're supposed to win anything,'' Campbell said. ''The reality is, what can we do to get better?''

For starters, the Cyclones could move the ball with more consistency.

Iowa State ranks 115th out of 128 FBS programs with just 317.7 yards per game, and the coaching staff has juggled quarterbacks Joel Lanning and Jacob Park in an effort to find anything that will work for more than just a play here or there.

Luckily for the Cyclones, the Spartans are 112th with 475 yards allowed per game.

Here are some of the keys to consider as Iowa State prepares to wrap up nonconference play.

SCOUTING THE SPARTANS: San Jose State looked somewhat improved despite losing last week, as did Iowa State did in falling at TCU 41-20. The Spartans are averaging just 31 points a game - although 66 of those 93 points came in a home win over Portland State of the FBS. San Jose State has allowed 16 sacks, the most in the country, but it's sixth-best nationally in turnover margin at plus-6. Quarterback Kenny Potter, who left last week's 34-17 loss at Utah with a bruised right leg, is expected to start against the Cyclones. Potter has completed 60 percent of his passes and can do damage on the run.

QB CONTROVERSY? Not yet anyway for Iowa State. Campbell has committed to playing Lanning, the starter and a dual threat, and Park, a more natural passer, based on situations and feel. Lanning rushed for a pair of touchdowns against the Horned Frogs, while Park was 7-of-15 passing for 90 yards.

BREAKOUT FOR WARREN? Cyclones running back Mike Warren, the nation's leader in rushing yards among freshmen a year ago, finally got untracked against TCU with 95 yards on 23 carries. San Jose State is allowing 236 yards on the ground per game and might be the worst rush defense Iowa State sees all season.

''I've kept my same goals, and I'm still striving to reach them. Even if it doesn't happen this year, I'm pretty sure it'll happen down the road,'' Warren said.

THE NUMBERS: The Spartans have lost 11 straight nonconference games again FBS opponents in the regular season since beating BYU 20-14 at home in 2012. ... Iowa State has won all three meeting between the teams, who last faced off in 1980. ... The Cyclones entered 2016 with just six career starts among its offensive line, third-fewest in the nation. ... Iowa State was listed as a 6-point favorite as of Thursday. The Cyclones will likely be underdogs the rest of the way, save for a trip to Kansas on Nov. 12.

THE LAST WORD: ''The kids are starting to understand what our expectations are. It's not just about winning and losing football games. Yes, that's very important. We all know that. Nobody is more competitive than I am. But how you win football games is what I'm interested in,'' Campbell said. ''Everyone in this building demands that what it looks like (during the week) in preparing to be successful is put into not only win a game, but to build a program.''

---

Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

---

Online: AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

You May Like