August is here and there is just enough football to whet everyone's appetites until the end of the month. The NFL is in preseason mode and even Tim Tebow looks
good passable. Camps are open all across college football and all the practice videos on Cyclones.com make 2nd and 3rd stringers look like possible All Big XII candidates. Naturally this seems like the perfect time to engage in our optimistic hyperbolic somewhat realistic predictions. Before we get to the predictions by our authors let's take some time to look at this year's edition of the Cyclones.
Is Sam Richardson "The Man"?
For the first time since 2009 there is an unquestioned starter in Ames and it's sophomore Sam Richardson. Richardson has his doubters after playing in the final three games of 2012 and after the sour taste of the Liberty Bowl it's hard to blame them. However, Richardson looked sharp in the spring and has been lauded for his organization and leadership abilities this summer. Quarterbacks too often get more credit or blame than they deserve but there is no doubt that the position is the most important one on the field. Richardson coming into the fall as the incumbent allows the offense to get things right and not always adapt to who is behind center.
What the Hell Do We Do With These Running Backs?
Paul Rhoads has made it a point this fall to emphasize that he will not be able to keep the running backs happy throughout the season as they split their carries now more than ever. Shontrelle Johnson, James White, and Jeff Woody are all in the mix like the previous three seasons but now DeVondrick Nealy has come on strong enough to earn snaps and Aaron Wimberly is going to push for playing time as well.
So what does an offense do? Well, for starters Wimberly has worked out with receivers this week as the staff tries to find a way to use him more in space. Shontrelle worked out of the slot off and on in 2011 before his injury so it's possible he joins Wimberly outside the backfield. Woody has done some work as an H-back in the spring but nothing has been mentioned about it in fall camp. If he wants to play at the next level it's going to be in a similar position and having him as an option in the Pistol with another running back will certainly open up running lanes.
Depth can never be overestimated and definitely not at such a vital position like running back. With Shontrelle being hurt the past two seasons, and Alexander Robinson the two before that, it's not inconceivable to see the running back problem work itself out on its own. Remember that James White was banged up at the end of last season so having guys like Nealy and Wimberly in the fold is a great problem to have.
Will the Youth Show Up?
This question is not limited to one position group specifically. Iowa State returns the fewest amount of starters in the Big XII and must replace both offensive tackles, two top receivers, three spots on the defensive line, and the two greatest linebackers in Iowa State's recent history. This is no walk in the park with the schedule that the Cyclones are facing.
There are two silver linings that may help this youth come along faster than one would expect. First, Rhoads stated after the first practice he'd rather have talented youth than lesser talented veterans. You can always work with skill and it becomes more about bringing them along in their football skills and not trying to teach them to be something they're not. If you've read our discussions at all this summer you know some of us are of the belief that if Rhoads and Wally Burnham could win with the mince meat of a defense they had in 2009 then they can certainly do it here. Here is what you need to ask yourself though: Is the increase in talent from 2009 to 2013 greater than the increase in strength of schedule from 2009 to 2013?
The second silver lining are the early bye weeks. The team gets the benefit of prepping for UNI like they would a normal opponent coming out of camp but suddenly has an extra week to prepare for their in-state rival and then an extra 11 days to prepare for a heated rematch with Tulsa. Game experience is the greatest teacher but with this much youth reps and work in the film room are vitally important and the opportunity will present itself in September before a long Big XII grind picks up. Whether or not it translates to the field remains to be seen but this could be one of the unsung reasons that the team succeeds in 2013.
Is Jeremiah George All Big XII Caliber?
If the defense wants to have an opportunity to be anywhere close to as good as it was last year George is going to have to play at an All Big XII caliber level to accomplish it. He's no longer flanked by Knott and Klein and instead is the elder statesman to a very young and thin linebacking corps. Rumor is the defense will be in their Nickel package more than prior seasons and Charlie Rodgers will fill the role previously filled by Deon Broomfield and Ter'ran Benton. So as long as Jevohn Miller quits running away from blockers on the weak side then George stands a good chance at making this group more than passable.
Will Kirby Van Der Kamp Single Handedly Win a Game?
Well, will he?
Without further adieu, the predictions from our authors and a few longtime community members. Make sure to leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.
@ Tulsa W
@ Texas Tech L
@ Baylor L
Oklahoma State L
@ Kansas State W
@ Oklahoma L
@ West Virginia W
Final Record: 6-6 (3-6)
UNI: W. 32-21. A little close for comfort, per usual. Richardson is sharp, the run game clicks, and the young defense bends a lot with some occasional breaks.
Iowa: W. 35-14. Yup, calling an ass whooping. They suck, and the game is in Ames. We look a lot more athletic and force some early turnovers off a young QB making his first road start that turns it into a rout.
Tulsa: W. 42-35. We all have massive hangovers on Friday morning.
Texas: L. 45-21. Rhoads teams seem to fuck up in these situations. Lots of dumb penalties early, and a rough game out of Richardson. lead to another blow out that we look back on at the end of the year and wonder how we let another average Texas team fist fuck us.
Tech: L. 35-32. Arceo misses a late field goal to send it to OT.
Baylor: L. 42-35. Again, we keep pace pretty well but just can't hang on on the road. Wouldn't be surprised to see a win between this or Tech, but am picking both as losses.
Oklahoma State: L. 42-28. Too much firepower, and plenty of motivation surrounding the last Ames trip for them.
Kansas State: W. 28-21. We're fucking due, god damn it. The Wizard's shit-luck starts to run out this year and KSU slips to the middle of the pack. This won't look like an upset at season's end. Sammy B leads a nice 4th quarter TD drive to salt this one away.
TCU: W. 34-31, OT. They're ranked high. It's Ames. We win the OT toss and take Defense. They stall out and kick a FG. A few plays later, Jeff Woody rumbles into the endzone and entrenches himself as one of the favorite Cyclones of all time.
Oklahoma: L. 42-21. Duh.
KU: W. 48-21. Looks a lot like last year's game. Richardson slices and dices and the running game rumbles. Their offense is improved, but not enough as we dominate TOP and kick their ass again.
WVU: L. 35-31. A shot at taking the next step as a program pissed away on a cold-ass day in Morgantown. WVU becomes bowl eligible with the win and we're stuck at 6-6 again. Still an accomplishment with this slate.
Final Record: 6-6 (3-6)
UNI: W. 20-17. Really close. Like Norm implied, we think we're going to crush UNI so instead we step on our dicks until it really matters and finally close them out. We miss an extra point to seal the win and the entire stadium does a collective eye-roll.
Iowa: W. 14-3. Much like 2013 its a battle to suck less. Iowa's emotions and our tradional lack of offensive compentency keeps it close, but its never really in question. Good times - the beer flows like wine and the women flock to Ames like the salmon of the Capistrono.
Tulsa: L. 35-19. A giant pile of WTF. We miss 2/3 PATs just to drive the rage. Dogs are beaten, buildings are burned, Cyclone Nation drops into a pit of dispair.
Texas: W. 25-23. Yeah you read that right, we hit 6/7 FGs and Texas gets a safety in a patented Rhoads upset when no one expects it. Joy abounds, BJs are passed around like halloween candy, lions lay down with lambs
Tech: L. 14-7. The defense steps up, the offense sputters.
Baylor: W. 45-35. The defense starts coming apart at the seams, luckily its Baylor and the offense finally rolls
Oklahoma State: L. 28-7. damn.
Kansas State: L. 24-21. Snyder stiffles back a small grin of pleasure.
TCU: W. 28-14. TCU comes in on a roll, goes home with a loss. Similar to Baylors reaction they are dumb-founded as to how we did it. We are as well. TCU is chided for being ISU's bitch - we enjoy being on top for once
Oklahoma: L. 63-14. Its hard to watch. This late in the season the already out-matched defense is beaten up and we just get throttled.
KU: W. 21-17. I need 6 Kansas, It has to happen.
WVU: L. 35-10. Bowl eligibility hang-over. The Riot-Bowl fizzles, we are left with 6 wins again and a "what could have been".
Final Record: 6-6 (4-5)
UNI - W 31 - 13
Iowa - W 27 - 17
@tulsa - W 37 - 33
Texas - L 35 - 24
@texas Tech - L 35 - 31
@baylor - W 44 - 41 OT
Oklahoma State - L 37 - 23
@ Kansas State - W 25 - 23
TCU - W 30 - 24
@oklahoma - L 33 - 14
Kansas - W 41 - 24
@west Virginia - L 31-30 OT
Final Record: 7-5 (4-5)
UNI - W 17-13. Mass hysteria ensues after a late Jeff Woody touchdown takes the lead and seals the victory. God, I hate this game.
Iowa - W 27-14. This tailgate will be an absolute shit show and it will be EPIC. Plus Iowa is terrible. Just awful. Dumpsters burn in Ames.
@ Tulsa - L 38-17. Young defense gets its first real test against a good offense and fails miserably. Memphis and Tulsa can both eat dicks.
Texas - W 13-7. Ames is a buzz on national TV as the nation watches an inspired Wally Burnham defense play out of its mind. 6 turnovers for Wally and the boys. Dumpsters burn again.
@ Texas Tech - L 31-24. Long road trip after an emotional win. Kingsbury quickly turns the red raiders around and is too much for ISU
@ Baylor - W 45-42. A wild shoot out where a late Luke Knott interception seals the victory.
Oklahoma State - L 38-21. Pokes won't forget what happened 2 years ago and will win in dominate fashion.
@ Kansas State - L 28-27. ISU losses in some rare bizarre fashion..... so like every other Farmageddon of the last 5 years. I hate you Bill Snyder.
TCU - L 33-20. TCU is legit and my pick to win the league.
@ Oklahoma - L 71-5. The score will be the same as the series record. At some point in my life, ISU will beat OU..... maybe.
Kansas - W 35-13. The Jayhawks sucks and Josey Wales approves. KU is not as bad as Iowa though, so congrats Jayhawkers.
@ West Virginia - W 31-24. Must win on the road to go to a bowl game and CPR pulls it out.
Final Record: 6-6 (4-5). Trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. I have TCU and OU tied for the league crown with OU having the tiebreaker. After the season, JP announces the new South endzone.
UNI - W 35-17. Iowa State's offense comes out looking sharp, and the Cyclones put UNI away early.
Iowa - W 24-21 - Another classic in Ames. Greg Davis calls for a 3 yard out on a 4th and 5 to wrap the game up for ISU in the 4th.
@ Tulsa - W 30-27 - The rubber match between the two teams ends with Iowa State using the run game to effectiveness to grind Tulsa down.
Texas - L 23-10. The Big 12 season starts with a disappointing effort as the Longhorns take it to the Cyclones early and often on the legs of Johnathan Gray.
@ Texas Tech - W 23-20. Tech still hasn't solidified yet with a new coaching staff and new defensive alignment.
@ Baylor - L 30-21. Baylor's offense is too much too handle, and there's no bizarre Steele Jantz performance to save the Cyclones this year. Cyril Richardson also gets ejected for dick kicking again.
Oklahoma State - L 40-21. The low point of the season happens with Oklahoma State continuing their revenge for 2011.
@ Kansas State - L 24-23 (OT). The biggest "almost" game of the year. The Cyclones fall just short of beating the Wildcats for the third straight year.
TCU - L 30-17. Casey Pachall doesn't get arrested during game week this year and sparks the Horned Frogs to a win.
@ Oklahoma - L 23-17. It''s certainly closer than the score from Back To The Future, but Iowa State falls once again to the Sooners.
Kansas - W 35-14. Sam Richardson continues his success against KU, piling up 350 yards through the air. .
@ West Virginia - L 28-24. Tavon Austin and Geno Smith are gone, but the semi-rowdy Thanksgiving crowd at Milan Puskar buoy the Mountaineers to a win.
Final Record: 5-7 (2-7)
UNI - W - 24-14 - Closer game than most want as both offenses slow it down and control the clock. Positive signs show up in the defense but growing pains will exist.
Iowa - W - 20-10 - Defense always shines for awhile in rivalry games and both teams benefit. Iowa is too one dimensional on offense.
@ Tulsa - L - 24-20 - This game will set the tone for the season. The Liberty Bowl was closer than the scoreboard indicated and was a one score game until a personal foul by Cleyon Laing all but handled Tulsa a touchdown. Tulsa wears the clock in this one and Iowa State is just not explosive enough to put up enough points in time.
Texas - L - 31-10 - This a bad match up for a young defense.
@ Texas Tech - W - 41-35 - Tech is switching to their fourth defensive scheme in four years by moving to a 3-4. The offenses under Rhoads have typically succeeded against three man fronts and a bullish offensive line puts up points here.
@ Baylor - L - 35-31 - Wally's defense rallied around Jake Knott last season and caught lightning in a bottle on the 100th Homecoming weekend. Baylor's defense isn't going to be special, but their offense doesn't miss a beat.
Oklahoma State - L - 35-28 - Fun game but still a bad match up for this defense.
@ Kansas State - L 21-20 - This game is bringing more and more heat each year and the 2012 edition was one of the most electric games in Jack Trice Stadium history. Iowa State has not won in Manhattan since 2004 and you don't bet against The Wizard until he gives you a reason to.
TCU - L - 28-20 - Close game and one that the Cyclones need to win to become bowl eligible but this TCU team is smothering on defense.
@ Oklahoma - L - 35-21 - Iowa State will not win in Norman until they take an experienced team down there and play a young and inexperienced Oklahoma team. This is not the year for that.
Kansas - W - 31-17 - Kansas is better but still not good enough to win on the road in the Big XII. Iowa State could be imploding by now after losing five in a row and not playing for the post season, but Rhoads has yet to lose the team in November.
@ West Virginia - W - 42-35 - Classic Iowa State "What If" game as the Cyclones march in and beat the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Hollow victory as the team finishes 5-7 and sits at home this winter.
Final Record: 5-7 (3-6)
A lot of common themes across all of us with everyone split on games like Tulsa, Kansas State, and West Virginia. Not coincidentally, all of those games are huge litmus tests for this team. The Tulsa rematch will undoubtedly set the tone for the season and a win on the road with this young team will go a long way in building their confidence. Kansas State is always a good game and getting that monkey off Rhoads' back could catapult the team into a strong Big XII campaign. A lot of us have the West Virginia game as the end all, be all game for bowl eligibility but only once in Rhoads' tenure has he had to win his final game to determine a bowl berth (2010 vs Missouri).
If you had to sum up the thoughts of WRNL it would be this: This year's edition of the Cyclones is young, but talented, and how that youth progresses will determine how they fare in a rough Big XII. Either they win the close games, or they don't, and the difference is likely another postseason trip or not.
As always, be sure to leave your predictions in the comments.