Preview 2017: Iowa State Cyclones
Previewing and looking ahead at the Iowa State Cyclones season – and what you need to know.
What are you doing, Iowa State?
What are you really doing to deal with the rest of the Big 12?
It’s a league that cranked out the top two offenses in the country last season (Texas Tech and Oklahoma), with another in the top six (Baylor).
Oklahoma State was 14th in the nation in total O, Texas 16th, West Virginia 17th, and in a down year, TCU was 29th.
Kansas might be awful, but at least it’s trying to be one of the cool kids with the spiffy offenses.
Kansas State figured out how to combat all this with a ball control attack that dominates the time of possession, doesn’t screw up, and plays tight defense and special teams.
And what does Iowa State do? It was a solid 60th in the nation in total offense, but against some of the offenses in this league, that’s firing a spitwad at a battleship.
ISU tries to run well, and it’s had a few nice passing attacks over the years, and it’s able to occasionally shoot some players into the All-Big 12 honor system, but the program hasn’t been able to make any sort of dent in the conference.
Oh sure, once in a while it’s plucky against one of the better teams, and it might even pull off a good-looking win here and there, but really … what are we doing here?
The program hasn’t won more than eight games since 2000, and it’s only done that once since 1906.
Head coach Matt Campbell was terrific at Toledo – going 35-15 with a share of two MAC West titles – but he was in for a redo in Ames. It’s his job to try turning the program that can’t win into a consistent factor, but again, what is he putting in place that’s going to be a differentiating factor?
What are opposing teams going to have to worry about each week from Iowa State besides just a spirited effort? Or, is it possible Iowa State can be different in the conference by being sort of normal?
Maybe, a solid defense, balanced offense, and decent special teams can be enough to be the yin to the Big 12’s yang? Or maybe Campbell – only turning 38 this season – could turn into the type of superstar head coach who might be able to pull this off no matter what style of football Iowa State plays.
He has a good team returning – at least good enough to be better than 3-9.
The offensive skill players should be terrific. Jacob Park cemented himself as the starting quarterback, the running back tandem of Mike Warren and David Montgomery should be among the best in the conference, and the return of Allen Lazard gives the Cyclones an all-star No. 1 receiver with NFL talent.
The O line? It’s going to need work with four lost starters, but the JUCO ranks and some healthy parts back should make it okay.
The defensive front has to find three new starters, but the secondary is loaded with veterans, the linebacking corps should turn into a positive, and while it won’t be able to stop the top Big 12 offenses cold, there will be a few good moments.
No one’s expecting miracles. No one’s thinking Campbell will take Iowa State from life as an also-ran into a superstar. But this year, it’s time to become more dangerous – it can’t be the free-space on the schedule anymore.
Can Iowa State find a positive identity? Campbell’s about to get another shot at it.