Opponent Pregame Analysis: Iowa St - NinosCorner™ Sports | Efficient Sports Analytics...Successful, Relevant Data

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Opponent Pregame Analysis: Iowa St

Opponent Pregame Analysis: Iowa St
 by BR Battle

                               Photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register

Two days prior to Texas’ showdown with Iowa St, we’ve decided to give you a preview of the upcoming opponent. To do this, we analyzed the offense/defense success rates (SR) and explosive rates (XR) from the Iowa St vs Iowa game that occurred on Sept 9th in order to give you further insight into what the Longhorns should expect to see on Thursday.

First off, we decided to pick the Iowa St vs Iowa game because it was the only game that Iowa St has played against a meaningful opponent. Although Iowa St lost in overtime to Iowa, many believe that Iowa St beat themselves more than Iowa beat them. This is pretty encouraging for the Cyclones due to the fact that their rival, Iowa, nearly beat #4 Penn St this past Saturday. If you did not watch the Iowa vs Penn St game, you missed Penn St throwing a game winning touchdown as time expired. For Iowa, their defense bent, but did not break during the majority of the game; only allowing 21 points to Penn St for the game’s entirety. You may be asking, “Why are we spending so much time talking about Iowa? I thought we were playing Iowa St.” Well, you’re right. We are playing Iowa St…the same Iowa St that put up 41 points on Iowa and, as stated earlier, should have won the game between the in-state rivals.

Iowa St has a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal. They have 2 tall, physical, and rangy wide receivers in Senior, Allen Lazard (6’5”, 222 lbs) and Sophomore, Hakeem Butler (6’6”, 220 lbs). Lazard is coming off of a 1,000 yard season last year and Butler had an outstanding game against Iowa, posting 5 catches for 128 yards and 2 TDs. Their Junior quarterback, Jacob Parks, is not afraid to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball. He’s a pretty tough QB while in the pocket. In my opinion, Iowa St’s “crown jewel” is Sophomore running back, David Montgomery. This kid is elusive and is a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield. Currently, he’s averaging nearly 6 yards per carry and “looks” every bit the part of a player that could become a game changer on Thursday. Against Iowa, he totaled 20 rushes for 112 yards and 1 touchdown, while also tallying 5 catches for 53 yards.

Enough about the individual stats, let’s get to the data and metrics. One may ask, “If Iowa St played so well, why did they lose the game?” Good question! For starters, their offense SR was 42%, while Iowa’s offense SR was 45%. Their defense SR was 51%; however, their opponents defense SR was 54%. Essentially, the metrics state that if you win the efficiency battle, meaning your SR’s are better than your opponent’s, you tend to win the game 83% of the time. Iowa did that and the result “is what it is.”

Although the metrics suggest that Iowa should win the game, I’m not going to let that stand on its own. Let’s dig a little deeper and dive into the explosive plays. Iowa had 9 and Iowa St had 10. This statistic shows that this game was a downright shoot-out, with the winning team being the team that possessed the ball last. With 28 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Iowa St gave up a back breaking 46 yard TD pass (explosive play) to tie the game, completely swinging the momentum pendulum on their own field. When overtime came, I don’t think anyone in that stadium thought Iowa St was going to win that game. As time expired, Iowa threw a go ahead touchdown in overtime to seal the game.

How does Texas keep Iowa St’s offense in check? Well, if the Longhorn defense performs liked they did against USC, they should be fine. In my opinion, the key to stopping this Cyclone offense resides in limiting Montgomery’s effectiveness. Texas needs keep him in check, just as they did to the two talented USC running backs.

Although USC may be the more talented team, Iowa St’s offensive sets will be much different. Their spread offense poses problems that the USC pro-style offense did not. Look for Iowa St to use 4 receivers (or 3 receivers and a spread tight end) for a large portion of the game. If the receivers span sideline-to-sideline, running lanes could emerge past the Texas defensive line, forcing our linebackers to have to make plays. If the Longhorn defensive line gets leverage against the Iowa St offensive line, the linebackers should have clear tackling lanes and angles on the Cyclone runners. If I were the coach for a day, I believe that Texas needs some definite speed at linebacker play on Thursday and potentially the remainder of conference play. I think Longhorn fans will begin to see more pairings of 5-star linebacker, Malik Jefferson, and highly coveted JUCO linebacker, Gary Johnson, from now until the season ends. The need for linebackers with the ability to play fast and tackle in space is going to be a necessary skill from now on.

In the receiving game, the Texas defensive backs cannot let Iowa St’s tall and athletic wide receivers get behind them. If they do, this could be a long night in Ames. This has happened far too much this season, causing for total game changing momentum shifts in favor of the Longhorn opponents. Sound tackling is needed on larger framed receivers. These guys need to wrap up their opponent and not rely on getting these receivers down with just a “shoulder” tackle. Although I make a big deal about the past things this unit has done, I believe that Defensive Coordinator, Todd Orlando, will have them ready for the task on Thursday.

Another way to subdue Iowa St’s offense is to not give them the opportunity to possess the ball. To accomplish this, Texas needs to run the ball a lot this game. Chris Warren III needs at least 15 carries this game…20 would be ideal. As stated in the article post the San Jose State game, the two freshmen running backs, Daniel Young and Toneil Carter, need reps as well. They’re just simply more explosive than co-starter Kyle Porter. Texas needs to establish the running game early to give this make-ship offensive line some confidence. If the Longhorn fans can see that this O-line looks better moving forward than backwards, I hope the Texas coaching staff can see it also.

As far as the receivers go, we all know Collin Johnson should get the ball often…enough said. Armanti Foreman needs the bulk of the slot receiver reps. Time after time, he’s proven to be a playmaker the Longhorns desperately need on the field. Whoever plays at tight end needs to be able to effectively block someone in the run game. Kendall Moore did a pretty good job against San Jose St; however, watch out for true freshman Cade Brewer. The go-ahead touchdown he scored against USC can only bode well for his confidence going forward.

Now, the quarterback situation is a tricky one. The question that should be answered is which QB gives this offense the best opportunity to run the ball effectively and efficiently. I think we’ll see Shane Buchelle and Sam Ehlinger play on Thursday night; however, in my opinion, if Texas is going to establish the run game by pounding the rock, then Sam Ehlinger should be the Longhorn starter. Defenses have to guard against him in the zone read and read-pass-option plays incorporated into our “so-called” power-run offense. Teams do not respect Shane’s running ability as much, causing them to fully commit to the running back during zone read plays. On the other hand, Shane is a much more polished passer who is crisp and accurate with his throws; however, my only complaint is that he does not challenge the middle of the field much throughout the game. On the contrary, Ehlinger does test the deep, middle of the field to keep the defense honest. If I were Tom Herman, I’d be pulling my hair out deciding what to do with the QB situation. I guess we’ll find out in 2 days when the Longhorns face the Cyclones in Ames, Iowa at 7:00PM CST. See you then and Hook Em \m/

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