Now that half of Iowa State's 2012 season is in the books, it's probably a good idea to take stock of where the Cyclones are at with six games left to play. Much like a recovering alcoholic climbing their way out of a bottle, it's time to take a personal inventory.
After starting out the year looking like a much-transformed quarterback (one who was able to complete over 70% of his passes), Steele Jantz came crashing back to earth in the most Jantzian way possible, throwing three interceptions and fumbling the ball on a key fourth-quarter drive against Texas Tech. Rather than waiting four games to make a quarterback switch, Paul Rhoads pulled the trigger early this year; starting Jared Barnett against TCU the next week.
This appeared to be the right call, at least initially. Barnett was efficient in his first start in 2012, completing 12 out of 21 passes for 183 yards and rushing for 30 more. Unfortunately, after this solid start, Barnett came crashing back to earth in a very Barnettian fashion the next week against Kansas State, only completing 44.4% of his passes for 166 yards and missing five of his last six throws.
Unspectacular quarterback play is nothing new for Cyclone fans, but the troubling thing has been how bad the offense has looked in Iowa State's two losses. Hell, the offense only gained 350 total yards in the win at TCU. In Iowa State's first three conference games, the Cyclones are only averaging 256.6 total yards per game. That's a mediocre offensive half for most of the Big 12 conference.
And for a team that wants to run the ball, Iowa State sure has done a shitty job of it so far this season. The Cyclones only rushed for 116 yards in the loss to Texas Tech and 65 yards in the loss to Kansas State. ISU is only averaging 111 rushing yards per game through their first three Big 12 games.
The saving grace for the start of the conference season? Iowa State's tenacious defense. Football Outsiders ranks Iowa State in their top-ten total defenses in the country, behind only Oklahoma and Texas Tech in the Big 12. Iowa State's nine interceptions so far this season are only second to TCU in conference.
On a per-game basis, Iowa State held Texas Tech to 395 offensive yards, 170 yards below their 565 yard/game average. The Cyclones held Kansas State to 364 yards, 74 yards below their previous 440 yard/game average.
Oddly enough, the only conference game that Iowa State's defense has allowed their opponent gain more than their season average was against TCU, the Cyclones' lone conference win. The Horned Frogs gained 455 yards against Iowa State, while averaging 424 yards/game for the rest of the year. Weird. Maybe ISU should try allowing conference opponents to move down the field more easily.
So while the start to the conference season has been a bit rocky, the larger takeaway is that Iowa State is off to their best start since 2002. While Paul Rhoads and fans want more from this year's team, the Cyclones have six opportunities to win two more games to become bowl eligible.
And ISU has also already faced three of the top four defenses in the Big 12. The flip side is that while the rest of the schedule features weaker defenses, the offenses of the remaining teams are WAY more powerful. Still, Iowa State's offense should (fingers crossed) have a much easier time against the likes of Baylor and West Virginia's defenses than they did against Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State.
Finally, let's take a look at the predictions that WRNL's stable of genius writers made for the season. As mentioned in an earlier post, WRNL's writers all predicted Iowa State to remain undefeated throughout the non-conference slate. The Cyclones did just that, and WRNL was vindicated to the tune of 21-21. There was much rejoicing.
Then the conference season started. The predictions were... a bit uglier. Everyone picked the Texas Tech game as a win for the Cyclones. 0-7 there.
Only one writer predicted Iowa State to knock of the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. Mcc515 was even pretty close on the score, choosing ISU to upset TCU by a score of 34-27. 1-7 for the second Big 12 game.
Against TCU, Mcc515 was again the only writer to accurately predict an Iowa State loss in their third Big 12 contest. MCC515 IS A WITCH! BURN HIM AT THE STAKE! The scary thing? He got the score exactly right. LET'S SACRIFICE HIM TO APPEASE OUR GODS!
So much like Steele Jantz, WRNL implodes in spectacular fashion once the conference season begins, going 2-21 in picks for the first three Big 12 games. That leaves WRNL with a prognostication record of 23-42 through the first six games of the season. Not great.
But like any functional Iowa State fans, WRNL remains ever optimistic about the rest of the season. But what say you, Cyclone nation? Has the start of Iowa State's conference schedule lived up to your expectations?
UNCLE TUPELO - Screen Door (via Takelot64)