AMES, Iowa -- On the surface, Iowa State doesn't fit your Big 12 Conference mold.
The Cyclones don't have the receiver who could be a Biletnikoff Award candidate, if not for all the other names in the conference.
They don't even have a receiver with more than 40 receptions, 400 receiving yards or five touchdowns.
They don't have the quarterback who uses his arm to throw tight spirals and open a window to Heisman Trophy conversations.
They don't even have one quarterback. Iowa State has used three, started two and could start another in today's game against West Virginia.
Redshirt freshman Sam Richardson relieved an injured Steele Jantz last week and was 23-for-27 for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Coach Paul Rhoads won't say what happened to Jantz or who will start in the 3:30 p.m. ABC game against the Mountaineers (5-5, 2-5 Big 12).
The instability at quarterback explains as well as anything else why the Cyclones (6-5, 3-4) rank No. 9 in the 10-team Big 12 in total offense, No. 8 in passing offense and No. 9 in the crucial scoring offense.
Yet this is a Big 12 team that's good for one stunner at home every season and it's a quality representation of how a team without a great offense can survive in the league.
"They're stingy on defense, especially in the red zone," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They give up yards, give up yards, give up yards, but they get real stingy in the red zone."
It is that which makes Iowa State a Big 12 team. Yards will accumulate and points will be scored against every team, but good teams minimize the damage done to the defense.
Iowa State is No. 8 in the league in total defense during conference games (502.9 yards per game), but fourth in scoring defense (27.1 points per game). The Cyclones have allowed 209 first downs in Big 12 play, but have the best red zone defense.
Points are at a premium against Iowa State. In Rhoads' fourth season, his team is 21-1 when it scores 24 or more points.
"We've got to get points in the red zone," Holgorsen said. "Touchdowns would be appropriate."
The Mountaineers are, by the numbers and by their own admission, an average red zone team, but still mostly pleased with the way it has gone in 2012.
It's not 2011.
"Last year we sucked at that," quarterback Geno Smith said. "We were really terrible at it."