Uneven No. 14 Iowa State preps for unbeaten Baylor

If Iowa State is to challenge for a Big 12 title, its top players, particularly on offense, must consistently play at a high level.Especially on Saturday, when the visiting No. 14 Cyclones open Big 12 play against undefeated Baylor in Waco, Texas.The start to this season has not been easy for Iowa State (2-1, 0-0 Big 12). The Cyclones struggled to a 16-10 opening victory over FCS foe Northern Iowa and were severely outplayed during a 27-17 home loss to then-No. 10 Iowa. Their offense failed to total more than 339 yards in either contest before somewhat breaking out for 493 during last weekend’s 48-3 victory at UNLV.After throwing three interceptions without a touchdown and being sacked three times against UNI and Iowa, Iowa State star Brock Purdy recorded three scoring passes and was not picked off or sacked against the Rebels. Meanwhile, preseason Heisman Trophy contender Breece Hall ran for 100 yards with two touchdowns on 21 carries last weekend after rushing for 69 in each of the first two contests.Hall has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 15 straight game to tie the Big 12 record set by Missouri’s Corby Jones (1997-98).When the Cyclones’ top players perform well, success should follow. It’s apparently taken some time for that to happen in 2021, but an expected tougher test awaits Purdy, Hall and Co. in their conference opener.”I certainly think we’re a lot closer to that today than where we were to start the season,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said about his best players playing to their expected caliber.”(The team looks for) challenging times and great opportunities to continue to show that our ‘A’ players are willing to play ‘A’ football. We’ve got a huge road test (Saturday) to kind of see where we’re at and who we are.”Iowa State has won three of the last four meetings with Baylor. The Cyclones needed to work for a 38-31 home victory over the two-win Bears in 2020, as Hall rushed for 133 yards on 31 carries and scored three total touchdowns but Purdy threw three interceptions along with three TDs. Purdy has completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 736 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions while going 2-1 against Baylor.