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TCU and Iowa State were picked fifth and ninth in the Big 12 Media Preseason Poll entering this season. They will take the field Saturday in Ames, Iowa, with Big 12 Championship Game implications on the line.

The Cyclones started their season 2-2, dropping their conference opener against Texas, but they have stormed back to win three straight Big 12 games, including a monumental upset over then No. 3 Oklahoma, which was favored by 31 points. Now ranked at No. 25, Iowa State presents one of the biggest challenges remaining on the Horned Frogs schedule.

“[Iowa State] has been playing good, and that just shows how deep this conference is,” cornerback Ranthony Texada said. “Every week you have to come with it.”

In the midst of its second season under head coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones have gone from a 3-9 club that struggled to score points and stop opposing offenses, to averaging 35 points per game and surrendering just 15.2 points per contest. While it’s been a program wide effort, no Cyclone better exemplifies this newly-balanced team than two-way player Joel Lanning.

“[Lanning] is a tough dude,” TCU running back Kyle Hicks said. “It is not easy to play quarterback and linebacker, so I have so much respect for him. I am looking forward to playing him on Saturday.”

Lanning, a senior who started 14 games at quarterback for the Cyclones before moving to linebacker this year, has recorded 32 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. On offense, he has 21 carries for 75 yards and has thrown for 25 yards when used in a specialty package at quarterback.

“It shows his intelligence plus his physical-ness and his toughness because it is hard enough to play just one of the two positions he is in because of the pounding,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “He throws a little bit; but usually when he comes in it is a lot of the quarterback run game. And then he’s a linebacker, which he is pounding at people, so either case it is a lot of pounding over a 12-game schedule.”

Senior quarterback Kyle Kempt has taken the reigns of the offense in Ames, winning his first three games as the starter. In his three starts since taking over for Jacob Park, Kempt has completed 69.7 percent of his passes and thrown for 657 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception.

Backing Kempt is star wide receiver Allen Lazard and standout running back David Montgomery. Lazard has 33 receptions for 371 yards and five touchdowns so far in his senior season while Montgomery has 642 yards rushing on 4.9 yards per carry and eight touchdowns.

“They have more than just one good receiver, everybody knows about Lazard, but they have two or three guys that can go,” Patterson said. “They’ve got a running back that is hard to bring down, and they are really physical up front.”

When the Frogs take a trip to Ames, they know what to expect. A loud, passionate fan base that shows up whether their team is winning or losing. Saturday should be no different.

“I’m sure it is going to be jam-packed, and I am sure it is going to be a great atmosphere,” Hicks said. “I’m looking forward to it. Can’t wait.”

No. 4 TCU kicks off in Ames, Iowa against No. 25 Iowa State Saturday Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m.

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Branson is a junior journalism major from Fort Worth, Texas. He enjoys writing about all sports and plans to go to law school after graduation.