Iowa State's old rival BYE is in town, so that means the Cyclones have the week off. One extra week to prepare for the Cy-Hawk game. One extra week to stew over last Saturday's loss to Northern Iowa. And if that weren't enough time off, Iowa State has a bye right after the Iowa game next weekend, too.
Two bye weeks in the first month of the season. Kinda seems like overkill right up front, doesn't it?
Generally, teams welcome byes midway through the season, since they allow players an extra week to get healthy and give coaches additional time to game plan for the next opponent. That isn't really how it's worked for Iowa State over the past few seasons, but that's the way it's SUPPOSED to work.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way during the past decade, the Big 12 forgot to give ISU that extra week off. 2006? No bye week. 2007? No bye week. 2009? No bye week. 2010? No bye week.
And when the bye week did return to the Iowa State schedule, the Cyclones seemingly forgot to use it for its intended purpose. After running the table in non-conference play in 2011, ISU had an extra week to prepare for the conference opener against Texas. Two weeks to make it two wins in a row over the Longhorns. That extra week allowed Iowa State to only stumble to a 23-point loss.
A similar situation occurred the next year. Iowa State started the 2012 season 3-0 and had an extra week to prepare for their conference opener against Texas Tech. The additional game planning definitely came in handy this time, as the Cyclones managed to score all of one offensive touchdown (and miss the extra point) against the Red Raiders. The fact that Iowa State managed to upset 2nd-ranked Oklahoma State after a bye week in 2011 in the FUCKIN' GREATEST GAME OF ALL TIME!!! seems to be the exception that proves this hastily-conceived-and-probably-erroneous rule.
Looking at Iowa State's schedule before the season, few Cyclone fans would've thought that having two bye weeks before conference play began would be a good thing. In fact, Paul Rhoads has said that he doesn't necessarily like bye weeks, as they upset his team's routine. But after the UNI debacle, the extra time off and practice is looking like a necessity.
Because the team that showed up to play Northern Iowa last weekend looked straight out of the first week of training camp. The defense was sloppy, the offense never gelled, everything just seemed off. Before the season started, Rhoads stated, "I think this team, from (today) to the end of the season, will probably grow more than any other team we've had." If that's not just coach-speak, that's excellent news. Crucial news, actually, if Iowa State wants to be anywhere close to competitive this year.
Hopefully, ISU will use its old friend BYE to the full extent this week. Use it as an extended training camp. Keep drilling the young starters on fundamentals. Watch some more film to cut down on the "mental errors" that damned the Cyclones last week. Iowa State clearly needs the additional practice; they're not close to game-ready yet.
The early byes also give Iowa State a chance for some important starters to get healthy. Sam Richardson got hit so much last Saturday that he's currently in a walking boot. Tom Farniok strained his MCL in the second quarter of the UNI game, and the offensive line immediately suffered from his absence. While Richardson's injury is minor, Paul Rhoads said Farniok might be available for conference play. If ISU didn't have these two bye weeks early in the season, the most important piece of Iowa State's offensive line would be MIA for conference play.
Iowa comes to town in two weeks. And yeah, they blow again this year. But the Hawks always get up for this game and they have a bowling ball in place of a running back whose game is defined by plowing his way through arm tackles. With as inexperienced as ISU's front seven is this year, Mark Weisman could rush for 150 yards with no problem if something doesn't change from now until the next game.
So yeah, these early byes are important this year. They're important for the team's training and growth. They're important because they give the coaches a chance to figure out what personnel works and what plays can be executed without getting Sam Richardson killed. Finally, they're important to give the fans time to forget the UNI loss and move on to something more important: Mocking Hawkeye fans.