We've gone in-depth on many of these topics in this short week and you can find those takes under the Football tab. Here are the five biggest keys to tonight's Iowa State-Tulsa game.
1. The ankle of Sam Richardson. This affects more than his scrambling ability. Richardson completed 56 percent of his passes against Iowa, missing receivers by distances long, short and in-between. The sprain impaired his accuracy; even though it's not his plant foot, it clearly changed his drop-backs and his comfort level in the pocket. Two things swung toward the end of the game that led to Richardson throwing for three touchdowns. Iowa played conservatively, backing its corners off and calling fewer blitzes. The Cyclones, meanwhile, began leaving a running back or tight end in to block. Richardson's second touchdown — a 26-yard crossing pattern to Quenton Bundrage — was set up by three consecutive runs. Richardson had plenty of time after the play fake to get his eyes downfield, set his feet and put plenty of air on the ball.
2. The versatility of Trey Watts. The shifty runner will either hurt the Cyclones on the ground or through the passing game. As he did eight times in the Liberty Bowl, Watts will go into motion a ton before the snap. Sometimes he's a decoy, sometimes he's part of an option read, other times he's running a route off the motion (watch for the bubble screen). Cyclones punter Kirby Van Der Kamp will kick away from Watts.
3. The penetration of David Irving. On Iowa's first play from scrimmage, Irving blew through his gap and cloaked Jake Rudock just as the quarterback let go of the ball. Irving's made strides in his handwork, making sure to shoot them up quickly and get to work on the lineman in front of him. Can he do that against Tulsa? If he does, it would throw a wrench into Tulsa's offense, predicated on making reads on one intentionally unblocked player and not one unintentionally unblocked player. Irving in the backfield would be big trouble for Tulsa quarterback Cody Green.
4. Tulsa's zone blitzes. Get ready for these. The Golden Hurricane will attack from everywhere, the goal being to make Richardson overthink things at the line of scrimmage and spook him into making poor decisions. Tulsa had at least two corner blitzes in the Liberty Bowl.
5. Iowa State's offensive line. Improvement is required after sub-par showings in pass pro and run blocking in the last two games, especially against Iowa. The Cyclones welcome the return of center Tom Farniok, who is a calming presence to the offense and should help speed things up incrementally. Brock Dagel makes his second start at right tackle — how has he progressed in the two weeks since his first career start? Iowa State won't win many games averaging 3.3 yards a rush.