The Iowa State Cyclones are first in the Big 12 standings with a 6–1 conference record, but they must beat Texas on Friday if they want any chance of playing in the conference championship game. Iowa State is firmly in Big 12 title contention despite the regression of junior quarterback Brock Purdy. Purdy, a second-team All-Big 12 performer in 2019, has thrown for a paltry 13 touchdowns to six interceptions and is tied for 35th in the nation with a QBR of 73.4. The good news for the Cyclones? They have developed other key prospects who have made up for Purdy’s middling play.
Here are four Cyclones to watch on Friday:
No. 28 Breece Hall — Running back
Iowa State running back Breece Hall has torched opposing defenses this year on his way to a Division I-leading 1,169 rushing yards. Hall, a sophomore out of Wichita, Kansas, has rushed for more than 100 yards in every single game he has played this season. A four-star prospect coming out of high school, Hall was named to the first-team True Freshman All-American team in 2019 and has developed into arguably the best running back in the nation as a sophomore. The 6-foot-1-inch, 215-pounder is physically imposing on the field and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Look for Hall to provide the Texas run defense, which has allowed 2.4 yards per carry in the team’s last three games, with its toughest test of the season.
No. 88 Charlie Kolar — Tight end
One of the lone bright spots in the Iowa State passing attack this season has been redshirt junior tight end Charlie Kolar. The 6-foot-6-inch, 257-pounder out of Norman, Oklahoma, has only caught 25 balls this year, but he is tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches. The 2020 preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection has proved valuable in the run game while serving as an extra blocker on the line of scrimmage. He is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses — too big for many secondary players to cover, but also too quick for many linebackers to take down. Look for Kolar to take advantage of a thin Longhorns linebacker crew, which too often miscommunicates on assignments and leaves men open.
No. 3 JaQuan Bailey — Defensive end
The Cyclones defense has benefited tremendously from the return of redshirt senior defensive tackle JaQuan Bailey. Bailey played in only four games last season and suffered a season-ending leg injury. He is back to his 2018 form this year and has racked up six sacks. The defensive tackle has also notched 32 total tackles on the season and has even broken up two passes. Bailey has been a huge factor in run defense as well, and his efforts have enabled Iowa State to only give up 72.33 rushing yards per game over the Cyclones’ last three contests. Look for Bailey to make his presence felt in the backfield against Texas, whether that be rushing in for a sack or stuffing a run at the line.
No. 23 Mike Rose — Linebacker
Manning his linebacker position, Mike Rose is the lynchpin of the Cyclones’ defense. The junior currently leads the team with 63 total tackles and four interceptions. Originally overlooked as a three-star prospect from Brecksville, Ohio, Rose has blossomed into one of the most valuable players on the team this season. A two-time Honorable Mention All-Big 12 performer, Rose is known for his relentless effort and leadership skills, which have translated into him being named a captain for the 2020 season. He is a big reason why the Cyclones rank third in the Big 12 in terms of total defense. Look for Rose to fly around the football field and be involved in almost every tackle against Texas.