ISU football entrance Northern Iowa 2021

The Cyclones take the field for their 2021 season opener against the University of Northern Iowa on Sept. 4.

After falling to the Baylor Bears in its first game of conference play, Iowa State can't afford too many more losses if it wants to have a shot at returning to the Big 12 championship game. 

It starts this Saturday with a game against the Kansas Jayhawks in Ames. 

Iowa State and Kansas are both 0-1 in the Big 12 portion of the standings, and Kansas has an overall record of 1-3 compared to Iowa State's 2-2 record through four games.

Kansas beat South Dakota 17-14 in its season opener but have since dropped games to Coastal Carolina, Baylor and most recently Duke. Their average margin of defeat is 28 points.

They are led by first year coach Lance Leipold, who has had stints around the country since he started coaching in 1987. Most recently he was the head coach at Buffalo for six years and boasted a 37-33 record.

"Obviously knowing (Leipold), what he's about, knowing what he stands for you can tell it's a team that certainly believes even in the little details it's vastly improved," Campbell said when asked about the Kansas head coach. 

As for Iowa State, they are looking to avoid falling to 0-2 in Big 12, something they haven't done since 2018. 

If the Cyclones wanted to see anyone on their schedule after that deflating Baylor loss, it would likely be Kansas.

The records for Kansas as a whole and against Iowa State line up quite favorably for the Cyclones. Kansas is 24-114 against Big 12 competition since 2005 and have gone winless five times. 

Iowa State has won 10 of their last 11 meetings with the Jayhawks, most recently beating them in 2020 by a score of 52-22 in Lawrence.

The star for the Jayhawks, at least on offense, is their dynamic dual-threat quarterback Jason Bean. Bean is a junior that has already passed for 732 yards and leads the team in rushing with 272.

Mobile quarterbacks are something that is far from a rare sight in the Big 12, with Iowa State seeing and at times struggling mightily with Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon and his ability to extend plays and be a threat on the ground.

"Everybody we play has a mobile quarterback that's crazy fast or can do this or do that, they're all great athletes so it's nothing we've never seen before," Zach Petersen said when asked about Bean and his athletic ability in the backfield.

While Kansas as a team has only scored 19.8 points per game so far this season, their defense has not been lending them any favors. They have given up a whopping 40 points per game and have allowed an average of 475.3 yards in their first four games.

With Iowa State's offense still looking to find a consistent rhythm this season and at times looking incredibly disjointed, those stats are a welcome sight. 

Brock Purdy has tallied 888 yards through the air in his first four games but has matched every touchdown with an interception so far this season, throwing four of each. 

Purdy getting on track and limiting the amount of turnovers he commits will go a long way in determining Iowa State's success on Saturday, and frankly throughout the whole season.

In Iowa State's first game against Northern Iowa, Purdy had zero turnovers. He was benched after throwing three interceptions in the loss against Iowa, but threw three touchdowns and zero picks in Iowa State's blowout win against UNLV.

Simply put, the Cyclones are 0-2 when Purdy throws an interception, and 2-0 when he doesn't. Factoring in the time of the game in which they were thrown and the momentum swings that came with them, Purdy holding onto the ball could potentially go a long way in how Iowa State goes through the rest of the Big 12 gauntlet.

While Iowa State's offense has looked choppy at times, their defense has been able to keep them in games in part because of how they have played in the second half. The defense has yet to allow a touchdown in the final 30 minutes of their first four games.

One player in particular that has been playing well in the first quarter of the season has been Zach Petersen. Petersen has 15 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack. More than that, however, his head coach says he contributes in every aspect he can and is thriving at it.

Zach Petersen Iowa 2021

Iowa State senior Zach Petersen looks towards the sideline against No.10 Iowa on Sept. 11.

"Zach Petersen has been the pillar of consistency in our program," Campbell said about Petersen. "You love to see those guys that are the pillar of consistency get to this point in their career and have dominant aspects of who they are, and I think Zach is doing that."

Petersen, along with his Cyclone teammates on defense, have the potential to have a big day against a Jayhawk offensive line that has given up eight sacks in their first four games.

The game kicks off at 6 pm Saturday in Ames, and can be seen on Fox Sports 1. 

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