MEMPHIS, Tenn. It's a position Paul Rhoads doesn't envy.
And with Sam Richardson showing rapid improvement in a month of bowl practice, the task of preparing for Iowa State's offense hasn't gotten any easier.
"If I'm Tulsa preparing for this game, I'm not sure what I'm going to get from Iowa State's offense going into this," said Rhoads.
Richardson, who took the reins for the Cyclones (6-6) against Kansas before making his first start against West Virginia, proved his potency with limited prep time in his first two auditions. The redshirt freshman tossed four touchdowns against the Jayhawks before throwing for three more and rushing for 119 yards against the Mountaineers just six days later.
With the entire month of December to prepare for his second start, Richardson has reaped the benefits showing improved accuracy and understanding of the offense.
"We've been real smart in our preparation. Half of it was spent on development and improvement," said Rhoads.
"Sam took advantage of that."
The redshirt freshman is one of several alterations the Cyclones have gone through since their season opening victory over the Golden Hurricane (10-3) in September.
"In that opening game I thought we displayed what we believe to be our identity as an offensive football team," said Rhoads, of his offense that utilized a quick hitting passing game and aggressive vertical rushing attack for a 38-23 win in Ames.
"Since then we've changed a number of times based on plans we've had to counter and what we've tried to execute as an offense."
Steele Jantz was under center in the opener and will be a valuable sounding board for Richardson as he passed for 281 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another against Tulsa.
"Those guys are in it for each other. There's no animosity, there's no division in that quarterback room," said Rhoads.
"Whether it's on the sideline, in practice or during the game, as they see things they'll communicate that to each other and that certainly helps our productivity."
A major determinant in their success will come from the offensive line that will go against a Tulsa defense led by senior defensive ends Corry Dorris and Jared St. John. The Golden Hurricane amassed 48 sacks and 104 tackles for loss - ranking third and fourth in the categories per game nationally. St. John leads Tulsa with 11.5 sacks, a half sack shy of the school record.
"The matchup with our offensive tackles and their defensive ends will be a pivotal matchup in determining the outcome of the game," said Rhoads.
A resurgence from the rushing game would help stave off that pressure as the Cyclones haven't had a tailback rush for 100 yards since Shontrelle Johnson gained 120 in the opener.
Johnson is out with a knee injury as James White, Jeff Woody and DeVondrick Nealy will split carries against Tulsa on Monday.
While the Cyclones also are without All-Big 12 first team linebacker Jake Knott, they'll welcome back defensive stalwarts Durrell Givens and Jansen Watson.
Even with Knott, Rhoads admits it would be a stiff challenge to slow down Tulsa's ground attack that averages 240.2 yards per game, 11th best in the country.
"Whether it's with Jake Knott or without him, there's great concern for defending this run game," said Rhoads.
While the Golden Hurricane will have several adjustments to make for the Cyclones' different looks and personnel, Rhoads expects the same challenge for his squad.
"You don't want to remain stale and just repeat what you always do," said Rhoads. "There will be a number of tweaks and additions (just) as there will be some from Tulsa."