Iowa travels to Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois offense can run, but its porous defense can’t hide. And Iowa knows it.
The Hawkeyes hope to slow the Illini running game and take advantage of one of the nation’s worst defenses to end a three-game skid when Iowa (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) travels to Champaign on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes, which started the season 6-1 before the losing streak, will put its stumbling offense up against an Illini defense that’s given up an average of 532 yards per game this season.
“As you can well imagine, our first goal as a team is to win,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And our secondary goals are to score points offensively and stop points on the defensive side. We spend a lot of time evaluating our team, looking at our team, watching them and then week-to-week trying to figure out what gives us the best chance to do those two things.”
Iowa is coming off a 14-10 home loss to Northwestern. Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 269 yards, but the team only generated 64 yards rushing, including only 3 of 13 on third downs, with an average gain of eight yards.
Illinois coach Lovie Smith said his team has been working hard in practice to address its issues.
“All those things we talked about with tackling, dropped passes, all those things we need to get fixed,” Smith said this week. “It’s now or never. We know what we’re capable of doing.”

WHAT A RUSH
Illinois (4-6, 2-5) makes up in rushing offense what it lacks in defense.
Yet even that bright spot is causing some concern. Star tailback Reggie Corbin left last week’s 54-35 loss to Nebraska with a foot injury. He’s expected to suit up and play Saturday against Iowa, although he may see limited carries. Corbin is crucial to the Illini offensive attack. He has rushed for 1,011 yards this season, averaging 8.9 yards per carry, and has nine touchdowns.
Running back Mike Epstein injured a foot earlier in the season and Smith said he doesn’t expect him back this year. Ra’Von Bonner and Dre Brown will rotate with Corbin in the backfield, he said.

AT QUARTERBACK
Iowa quarterback Stanley has been dealing with an injured thumb sustained three weeks ago in a loss to Penn State. Ferentz said he is “doing better.”
“I don’t know if Nate’s 100 percent,” Ferentz said this week. “But he’s certainly doing better and doing fine.”
There was some concern the three-game losing streak might be affecting Stanley, which he brushed off during Tuesday’s press conference.
“I’m just making sure that I stay positive and help my teammates out as much as I can,” Stanley said. “There’s always room to do more.”
Illinois quarterback AJ Bush is a marquee rusher, but his lackluster passing game has garnered some criticism. In Saturday’s loss to Nebraska, Bush was 18-of-25 passing for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He rushed 14 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

BOWL HOPES
Many believe Iowa will receive a bowl bid of some sort, especially if they can beat Illinois. Six wins is generally the lowest threshold for postseason bowl invitations. Hawkeye fans will look for more playing time for tight end Noah Fant, who had a diminished role in the loss to Northwestern.
The road is much tougher for the Illini, which needs to win against Iowa and Northwestern for any chance.

ALL IOWA LATELY
Iowa has dominated the series with Illinois the past decade. The Hawkeyes have won nine of the past 10 games by an average of nearly 17 points.

Showdown in Austin: Cyclones vs. Texas

By JIM VERTUNO
AP Sports Writer
AUSTIN, Texas — Ask Texas about Iowa State’s young quarterback Brock Purdy and the answers, from head coach to players, come quick.
“He’s undefeated,” Longhorns coach Tom Herman said.
“He’s mobile. He can throw,” defensive end Charles Omenihu said. “He’s 5-0.”
Purdy sure has been pretty running the No. 18 Cyclones offense since taking it over mid-season. The Cyclones (6-3, 5-2, No. 16 CFP) are tied for second in the Big 12 with a critical matchup at No. 13 Texas (7-3, 5-2, No. 15 CFP) Saturday night that both teams need to win if they hope to slide into the league championship game.
Iowa State had to dig out of an early 1-3 hole to get into the Big 12 title chase and set up arguably the program’s biggest November game since the early 2000s. Purdy has led the way.
Playing in front of 100,000 at Texas would seem unlikely to faze a young quarterback who has already out-gunned West Virginia’s Will Grier at home and won at rowdy Oklahoma State when coach Matt Campbell gave the offense to a quarterback who had just two snaps of experience.
“He’s got a ton of moxie,” Herman said. “It doesn’t matter the opponent, the atmosphere, the stadium. He’s got that ‘it’ factor.”
Win Saturday and the Cyclones still need help to get to the conference championship game. But they’d be in the conversation in late November, a rarity in Ames, Iowa, and something that looked out of reach after the bad start.
“Everything was at stake when we were 1-3, and it’s been that way every single week since then,” Campbell said. “It’s just a whole different type of adversity now. It’s the adversity of success, which is sometimes a lot harder to deal with.”
The Longhorns are fighting for their own title chances. Texas was in first place in the Big 12 less than a month ago before two straight losses. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns turned that around with a last-minute win at Texas Tech last week.
The contest on Saturday night will be the final home game for a Texas senior class that hasn’t won a Big 12 title or more than seven games in a season since they arrived on campus. Texas has lost its final home game each of the last four seasons.
“I owe everything to these seniors,” said Texas sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger. “They have been through so much in this program.”
Some things to watch for when Iowa State and Texas play on Saturday night.
PASS PROTECTION: Ehlinger was sacked a season-high five times last week against Texas Tech as a line that’s been solid all season struggled with blitz protection. Purdy, while mobile, won’t have junior running back David Montgomery for the first half either as a relief valve or in pass protection. Montgomery has to sit out because he swung a punch at a Baylor player last week.
MINUS MONTGOMERY: Campbell didn’t appeal to the Big 12 to let Montgomery play in the first half and will likely turn to a committee of players to replace him. Kene Nwangwu, Johnnie Lang and Sheldon Croney average just 3.1 yards per carry in 69 attempts this year. Lang scored last week against Baylor after Montgomery was ejected.
BIG PLAYER RECEIVERS: Both teams have big receivers who make big plays. Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler is 6-foot-5 and leads the nation with 22.7 yards a catch and has eight grabs of 40 yards or longer. Texas has twin towers on the outside in 6-5 Lil’Jordan Humphrey and 6-6 Colin Johnson. Humphrey and Johnson have combined for 113 catches and 1,622 yards with 12 touchdowns.
ACHING SECONDARY: The Texas secondary has been shredded in recent weeks by the Big 12’s best offenses. Injuries have played a role. Freshman safety Caden Sterns was in concussion protocol part of the week. The Longhorns are hoping safety Brandon Jones can return after two weeks out with an ankle injury.
WHERE TO WATCH: The late-season matchup between ranked teams with Big 12 title implications can only be found on the Longhorn Network, the network partnership between Texas and ESPN. For Iowa State fans in particular, that will mean searching for LHN on area cable and national satellite providers or streaming services . The broadcast contract between the networks and the Big 12 allow Texas to have one league game on LHN per season. Both schools must agree, and Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said he and Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard decided during the summer to have the game on LHN.

All Hawkeyes in 2K Classic final

By DENIS P. GORMAN
Associated Press
NEW YORK — Iowa learned a lot last season.
The Hawkeyes are putting those lessons to good use right now.
Tyler Cook scored 26 points, Luka Garza had 22 and Iowa beat Connecticut 91-72 in the 2K Classic championship game on Friday night.
The Hawkeyes went 14-19 last season, losing to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament. But they shot 51 percent (29 for 57) from the field while improving to 4-0 this year.
Cook said the biggest difference is the team is more together for this campaign.
“We’re more connected on both ends of the floor,” he said. “And we’re playing for one another and our coaching staff and our program with more pride than we did a year ago.”
Garza was named MVP of the tournament. He also joined Cook, UConn’s Eric Cobb, Oregon’s Bol Bol and Syracuse’s Jalen Carey on the all-tournament team.
Bol led No. 13 Oregon to an 80-65 victory over No. 15 Syracuse in the consolation game. He finished with 26 points and nine rebounds on his 19th birthday.
Payton Pritchard had 18 points for the Ducks (3-1), and Kenny Wooten scored 12 in the first-ever meeting between the ACC and Pac-12 programs.
“We competed,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
Syracuse (2-2) lost on consecutive nights, also falling 83-76 to UConn on Thursday night. The Orange shot 35 percent (18 for 51) from the field.
Tyus Battle scored 17 points for Syracuse, and Elijah Hughes and Jalen Carey each had 14.
“We tried things but none of them seemed to work very well,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “We tried different sets, different movements, different perimeter things, subbing people out, setting ball screens and all of those things (but) sometimes if the ball doesn’t go in, none of that works.”
Iowa improved to 3-1 all-time against UConn. It was the first meeting between the schools since Iowa’s 70-68 win on Nov. 11, 1999, also at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s an honor — I think I speak for all of us — to be able to come and play in such a historical arena, such a historical city, so much basketball history,” Cook said. “The fact that we were able to come into this environment and play against two really good teams and come out with two really good victories I think it speaks to our growth as a unit.”
Jalen Adams led the Huskies (3-1) with 20 points. Cobb finished with 16.
UConn coach Danny Hurley was ejected with 1:44 left. He received his first technical foul earlier in the half.
“I did not like the job I did getting my team ready for today,” Hurley said.
UConn trimmed Iowa’s lead to 33-22 on Adams’ layup with 4:15 left in the first half. But Iowa responded with a 10-5 spurt for a 43-27 halftime lead.
“We took our pain that came with last year and used it as motivation this summer to come out here and be a better team,” Garza said. “We did a good job at that on every aspect. Just really proud of our guys. Everybody who came here stepped up.”

Hawks pick up statement win

NEW YORK (AP) — Jordan Bohannon scored 16 points to lead Iowa to a 77-69 upset of No. 13 Oregon in the second semifinal of the 2K Classic on Thursday night.
Luka Garza added 12, and Ryan Kriener finished with 11.
The Hawkeyes (3-0) will play UConn in the championship game on Friday, while Oregon (2-1) will square off with No. 15 Syracuse in the consolation game.
Connecticut upset Syracuse, 83-76, in the first game of the night.
Iowa led throughout. The Hawkeyes jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 2:36, and enjoyed a 39-28 advantage at halftime.
The lead grew to 13, 52-39, on Kriener’s dunk with 12:19 left in the second half.
Oregon closed with seven, 76-69, in the final 23.6 seconds, but that was as close as the Ducks would come.
Ehab Amin led all players with 25 points for Oregon. Bol Bol chipped in with 14, and Victor Bailey Jr. had 12.

Fant fade has fans flummoxed

By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
Iowa junior tight end Noah Fant is one of the most talented players that Kirk Ferentz has ever coached in his 20 years.
So why isn’t Iowa (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) getting Fant the ball more?
It is a perplexing question in an increasingly disappointing season in Iowa City. The issue came to a head last week in a 14-10 loss to Northwestern, Iowa’s third straight defeat after a 6-1 start.
Fant, the team leader with six touchdown catches, had just one catch for zero yards as the Hawkeyes let its final chance to remain alive in the Big Ten West race slip away. It was the fourth straight game without a TD grab by Fant.
The Hawkeyes head to Illinois (4-6, 2-5) on Saturday looking to resurrect its season and Fant’s role in their offense, especially considering he might leave for the NFL.
“We’ll try to keep him involved and get him involved. But he’s a good football player. We’re going to be a better team if we can get him the ball,” Ferentz said of Fant.
Ferentz said Tuesday that the Hawkeyes have focused more on emerging sophomore T.J. Hockenson in recent weeks because of Hockenson’s versatility, adding that they see Fant as more of a “specialist.”
Hockenson has been excellent, with 39 catches for 615 yards and five total TDs. But Fant’s 18 career touchdown receptions are the best in school history for a tight end and the third-most in that category in Big Ten history.
Fant is also considered a possible early-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, should he choose to leave school early. Iowa rarely has such talent at a skill position, which only makes it more confusing as to why the Hawkeyes haven’t found more creative ways to throw the ball Fant’s way. Ferentz dismissed the notion that something is going on with Fant away from the field.
“I can assure you, that’s not an issue. Noah is a high-character guy,” Ferentz said. “He’s been tremendous with us. He’s a great kid. So there’s no issues there at all, and that’s hardly the deal. Beyond that, again, he’s a good player.”
Iowa is a 16-point favorite against an Illinois team allowing nearly 40 points a game. But the Black Friday finale against Nebraska could end up being a referendum on the season.
“It really goes down to two things for a football team or anybody when you face disappointment. You’re either going to pull together or you’re going to divide or you’re going to fight and compete or you’re going to surrender,” Ferentz said. “The choice is to push forward and maximize the opportunities moving forward, and I’m confident and comfortable our team will do that.”

Texas-sized tussle ahead for Cyclones

By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — No. 18 Iowa State will be without junior David Montgomery, one of its best players, for the first half of one of the bigger games in school history.
How the Cyclones (6-3, 5-2 Big 12) fare for 30 minutes without their star running back could decide whether they stay alive in the Big 12 title game chase.
Montgomery, the Big 12’s second-leading rusher, will miss the first two quarters of Saturday’s showdown at No. 13 Texas (7-3, 5-2) after being ejected for throwing a punch during last week’s win over Baylor. Iowa State didn’t even bother to appeal Montgomery’s suspension, instead chalking it up to a lesson learned and a chance for his backups to respond.
The Cyclones own the head-to-head tiebreaker over No. 7 West Virginia. But they need to win out and hope for a Mountaineers loss to make it to the championship game for the first time.
“We’re really fortunate to have a really talented backfield,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “All those guys bring a lot of different qualities to the table.”
Montgomery’s numbers — 765 yards and six touchdowns on 4.5 yards a carry — at times belie his ability, as the third-year back often runs behind a line that has struggled to spring him. But Montgomery is undoubtedly a difference maker, and the kind of player who could easily leave for the NFL draft next spring.
The Cyclones’ next-best running threat is freshman quarterback Brock Purdy. But trying to spring Purdy to run wild in open space might be too risky — especially against a physical defense like Texas.
The better bet is that the Cyclones will try to cobble together a first-half rushing attack behind reserves Kene Nwangwu, Johnnie Lang and Sheldon Croney. Those three have combined for just 3.1 yards a carry in 69 tries this year, but they say they’re confident they can fill Montgomery’s shoes.
Nwangwu is averaging 33 yards on kick returns, and he had 10 carries for 49 yards in a win over Oklahoma State on Oct. 6. Lang, a freshman, is one of the fastest players on the team, and Croney appears to be an option in short-yardage situations.
“I feel like whoever is in the game is just going to produce,” Nwangwu said.
Campbell said he is not concerned about missing Montgomery for a half, partly because the Cyclones played without him against the Cowboys and scored 48 points.
“We’ve been here already. We had to play a conference game, on the road, without our tailback,” Campbell said. “I’m excited for them. I think it’s just another great opportunity for them to showcase that (group).”
Montgomery’s suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Cyclones, who have won five straight in the league for the first time.
But Iowa State has shown an impressive knack for overcoming adversity, bouncing back from a 1-3 start despite losing two starting quarterbacks — Kyle Kempt to injury and Zeb Noland to a transfer — already this season.
“The cliche answer is the going to be this — but it’s also the real answer,” Campbell said his team’s resilience. “Our culture, within our walls … the player leadership, the player ownership. You know I think sometimes in a lot of ways coaching gets overrated. Because the reality of it is what the guys that are leading the program down in the locker room say.”

Hawks use size to out-muscle WGB

By ADAM HENSLEY
Associated Press
IOWA CITY — Iowa’s offense struggled with turnovers early on, but thanks to its determination to feed the post, the Hawkeyes dominated down low in a 93-82 win over Green Bay on Sunday.
Luka Garza and Tyler Cook muscled Phoenix defenders in the paint all game long, as each scored 17 points.
“Early on we were getting (the ball) to me inside, then we started getting it to Cook, because we knew we had the advantage there,” Garza said. “They couldn’t stop us.”
Forwards Garza, Cook, Nicholas Baer, and Ryan Kriener combined to score 54 points, but it was also Jordan Bohannon’s play on the outside that sparked Iowa’s second-half breakaway.
Connor McCaffery’s presence at point guard allowed Bohannon to slide over from point to shooting guard, freeing him from primary ball-handling duties and giving him more looks from long-range.
Bohannon scored all 13 of his points in the second half, hitting three of his six 3-point attempts.
“I think it helped me get some shots off, especially with them pressing the entire game,” he said. “I wasn’t really too aggressive – I don’t think it was needed for me to be aggressive in the first half. I just let the game come to me.”
Thanks to early foul trouble on Cook’s end and Bohannon’s 0-for-2 performance in the first half, the Phoenix held both players to just 3 points combined in the opening half. They scored 27 in the second half.
Meanwhile, Green Bay hung around thanks to the hot hands of Sandy Cohen III and Manny Patterson. Both scored 17 points, with Cohen added eight assists and six rebounds in his 37 minutes on the court.
The Phoenix forced 17 turnovers, sparking an early first-half lead. Green Bay fell into foul trouble as the game went on, however, as Iowa shot 45 free throws.
BIG PICTURE
Green Bay: The Phoenix defense made the Hawkeyes uncomfortable for most of the game, forcing 17 turnovers. That’s one turnover better than their last game, and also something head coach Linc Darner should be pleased with.
Iowa: Defense was Iowa’s Achilles’ heel last season and it showed again. It’s early, but giving up 82 points isn’t ideal for a team that made defense an offseason priority.
TURNING POINT
With less than six minutes remaining in the game, Bohannon stole a Green Bay pass, and the Phoenix failed to stop the ball. The Hawkeye point guard drove to the bucket and made a layup through a foul. He made his free throw, and Iowa’s lead grew to nine – its largest of the day to that point.
ROLE PLAYER
Baer’s contributions off the bench kept things from getting out of hand in the first half. He had eight points in the first, and then he added four in the second half.
“He was phenomenal in the first half,” coach Fran McCaffery said. “He was probably the reason we were up in the first half.”
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Iowa’s bench scored 33 points. McCaffery’s squad prides itself on a deep rotation, and on Sunday, that was the case.
Baer led the way, scoring 12 points, grabbing six rebounds, and tallying a steal and a block. McCaffery scored 11 points and dished three assists and Kriener added eight points.
HE SAID IT
McCaffery on playing alongside Bohannon: “He makes shots. I can take my guy off the dribble. It’s good to have two guards on the floor that really handle the ball, know what we’re doing at all times. I think it’s a good lineup. I love playing with him.”
UP NEXT
Green Bay returns home after losing its second game in a row, hosting Eastern Washington on Friday.
Iowa travels to New York City for a showdown against Oregon on Thursday as the 2K Classic for the Wounded Warrior Project moves from campus sites to Madison Square Garden.

Montgomery will miss first half

By The Associated Press
Iowa State running back David Montgomery and Baylor defensive end Greg Roberts will miss the first half of their teams’ games this week after the scuffle that led to their ejections in the second half of a testy game between the Cyclones and Bears.
Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said Monday that his team wouldn’t appeal the penalty against Montgomery, who retaliated with a swing after Roberts reached over an official to throw a punch at the running back in 18th-ranked Iowa State’s 28-14 win on Saturday.
“The reality is, it’s an unfortunate situation,” Campbell said. “David is one of the great leaders of all time, and he responded to a negative situation. … Nobody’s more disappointed than David, but nobody has owned it as David.”
Montgomery, the second-leading rusher in the Big 12 at 96 yards per game, will miss the first half at No. 13 Texas in matchup of the two teams tied for third place in the Big 12, both a game behind co-leaders No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 West Virginia.
Roberts will sit out the first half of Baylor’s home finale Saturday against rival TCU.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule said he had apologized to Campbell and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Rhule described Roberts as “extremely apologetic” for what happened.
“The minute we decide to throw a punch it affects so many other people,” Rhule said. “That’s what I told Greg.”
While the first-half suspensions for Montgomery and Roberts were automatic for fighting, Bears starting quarterback Charlie Brewer won’t have to serve any further penalty after being ejected in the fourth quarter Saturday because of his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The game Saturday took an ugly turn when Montgomery and Roberts briefly fought after things nearly came to blows when a previous play ended up spilling over onto Iowa State’s bench. The teams nearly staged a full-on brawl during a wild incident that included Roberts slapping Montgomery on the helmet, and Montgomery responded with swings of his own.
“Certainly disappointed because that’s not football,” Campbell said. “Who started it, who didn’t start it, what the situation was, that’s irrelevant at this point. … There were some unfortunate times during that game where I think both teams, the cooler heads didn’t prevail.”

Cyclones move to 3-0 before Hawaii trip

By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — Iowa State’s thin roster survived its opening home stand with three straight wins.
Next up for the Cyclones, down four regulars because of injuries and suspensions, is a trip to Hawaii that should really test their mettle.
Marial Shayok scored a career-high 26 points, freshman Talen Horton-Tucker had 26 as well and Iowa State held off Texas Southern 85-73 on Monday night.
Nick Weiler-Babb posted 13 points with 13 rebounds for the Cyclones (3-0), who have Maui Invitational games next week against Arizona, either third-ranked Gonzaga or Illinois and then an opponent yet to be determined.
“We made a lot of plays for each. We played a good offensive game as far as finding each other,” Shayok said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of staying locked in.”
Part of that was because the Tigers (1-2), who won four of the last five SWAC titles and beat Baylor on the road in their opener, didn’t go away as easily as many of its conference companions typically do against Power Five opponents.
Texas Southern got as close as 38-33 late in the first half before back-to-back 3s by Horton-Tucker helped Iowa State make it 48-35 at halftime.
Horton-Tucker hit another jumper that gave Iowa State a 59-41 lead. But the Cyclones went into an extended shooting funk — 0 for 11 marked by poor ball movement — and the Tigers sneaked back within 62-53.
Iowa State eventually found its way and pulled away, finishing 48 percent from the field. But beyond Horton-Tucker, the other three freshmen in Iowa State’s rotation combined for just four points.
“We’ve got some youth out there. At times it showed,” Prohm said.
Jeremy Combs had 16 points to lead the Tigers.
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa State: Shayok transferred from Virginia to play in a more free-flowing offense. Through three games, it looks like he made the right call. Shayok has been a focal point of Iowa State’s much improved attack, scoring at least 14 points in every contest. Shayok is averaging a team-high 20 points a game.
Texas Southern: The Tigers are two-thirds of the way through perhaps the most grueling three-game stretch any team in America might face in 2018-19. They lost at Gonzaga 104-67 on Saturday, travelled 1,500 miles to play Iowa State and will now go from Ames to San Diego to play the Aztecs.
HORTON-TUCKER
The most hyped recruit in Iowa State’s latest class, Horton-Tucker had by far his best game in a Cyclones uniform. Horton-Tucker kept the Tigers at bay by hitting five 3s in the first half, and he finished 8 of 14 from the floor. Horton-Tucker also had five rebounds. “He’s a good player,” Prohm said. “He’s young. He’s going to have good games and he’s going to have bad games. He’s going to be up and down at times.”
WIGGINTON
Sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State’s top returning scorer, spoke with reporters before the game on Monday for the first time since straining his left foot — an injury that forced him into a hard cast. Wigginton said he hurt the foot late in Iowa State’s 79-53 win over Alabama State last week. “I really just landed wrong on my foot, and then I just felt a pop,” Wigginton said. “I tried to play through it, but I really couldn’t.” Wigginton said his foot had been bothering him but that he thought it was just sore. He’ll soon have his cast replaced by a boot, and Wigginton hopes to return sometime in December. But he’s not going to rush it, especially given his pro prospects. “He wants me to come back when I’m fully healed, 100 percent,” Wigginton said of Prohm.
THE NUMBERS
Michael Jacobson had 16 points and eight rebounds for Iowa State. … Texas Southern’s 7-foot-2 center, Trayvon Reed, had 15 points and 11 rebounds. … The Cyclones had 16 turnovers. … The Tigers were just 7 of 28 on 3s.

Cyclones go for five in a row

By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — Once an afterthought, No. 23 Iowa State is now the hottest team in the Big 12.
How the Cyclones handle their recent success will help determine if they can overcome a 1-3 start and be in the mix for a conference title.
Iowa State (5-3, 4-2 Big 12, No. 22 CFP), winners of a league-high four straight games, will host Baylor (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday.
The Cyclones have put themselves in position for the second spot in the Big 12 title game if they win out. Coach Matt Campbell wants his team to maintain the familiar “one game at a time” approach that has worked well during the streak.
ISU hasn’t won five in a row since 2002. Cold temperatures in the mid-20s are in the forecast for the mid-afternoon kickoff.
“It’s all fluff until the end of the season, where you kind of lay it all out and say ‘What are we really, did we accomplish what we had the ability to be?’” Campbell said. “I think this group gets it, because having that start at 1-3, where everybody wants to tell you how not good you really are — and yet within our walls we knew how close we really were.”
Like Iowa State, Baylor can become bowl eligible with a win on Saturday. It would be a milestone for the Bears, who lost 17 of 19 at one point as the program rebuilds under second-year coach Matt Rhule following a campus sex assault scandal.
“They played four quarters and that was our goal,” Rhule said. “It wasn’t always perfect. There was a lot we could have done better. But I am proud of their effort and intensity. Most of all I was proud of their togetherness.”

IOWA STATE’S DEFENSE
The Cyclones allow just 19.3 points in conference games, not including non-offensive touchdowns — though there have been four of given up by Iowa State. Every opponent the Cyclones has faced has scored less than its season average, and four have failed to gain 300 yards.
“Some defenses you play you’ll know if they’re playing man-to-man or zone, they’re blitzing,” Rhule said. “These guys just do a great job of disguising. They’re able to do it because of the way their players play.”
BAYLOR’S DEFENSE
The Bears are 91st nationally against the pass and 96th against the run, and Baylor gives up 5.5 yards a carry. With a wind chill expected to be in the low 20s, expect Iowa State to make standout running back David Montgomery the focal point of its attack.
BREWER’S STATUS
Baylor sophomore Charlie Brewer came off the bench after time spent in concussion protocol to throw two touchdowns, including the game winner, last week. He is listed as a co-starter this week along with senior Jalan McLendon.
“I think it all centers around their quarterback, a really talented football player,” Campbell said of Brewer. “I thought (that was) a really gutsy performance by him last week coming back into that game.”
EXTRA POINTS
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy, a true freshman, has led an offense that is averaging 36.3 points during its winning streak. He’s also won Big 12 Newcomer of the Week three times. … Baylor scored 17 unanswered points and won 45-42 on a last-second field goal in 2016, its last trip to Ames. … The Cyclones have had 15 different players record a sack in 2018.
HE SAID IT
“It’s a team that is very similar to Oklahoma and TCU in terms of skill that really pops off the video.” — Campbell said about the Bears.