Tomorrow morning, Iowa State travels to Waco to play #2 Baylor in a game where the Cyclones are 37-point underdogs. You'll be hard-pressed to find many conference match ups that feature such a wide disparity in talent.
That 37-point spread serves as a tragic reminder of just how far Iowa State lags behind the elite teams of the Big 12. While the Cyclones are almost certain to take a monumental beating in McLane Stadium, it's important to remember that it wasn't always this way.
Once upon a time, Paul Rhoads led a program that always had a fighting chance. But where and when did that giant-slayer mentality begin?
Ironically enough, when the clock strikes midnight tonight, it will mark the 6-year anniversary of the moment that put Iowa State on the proverbial map. Last week, our very own RevDizz published this thought-provoking piece, looking back at Iowa State's program-changing upset of Oklahoma State back in 2011, but the truth is, Paul Rhoads endeared himself to Cyclone fans everywhere well before that.
You remember it well. It was the most beautiful ugly win in the history of all beautiful ugly wins. And of course, it led to this:
That, was a moment.
I don't know about you guys, but the "I Am So Proud" speech still gives me chills. Hell, it even chokes me up. The outside world saw that speech and thought, "huh, that's pretty cool". But to us Iowa State fans, it was as if a burden had been lifted from our shoulders. Beating Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since 1976 was incredible, but the speech embodied everything we've wanted from our program and our coach for decades - hope.
Rhoads was finally crafting a program that we Cyclone fans could be proud of. That win put Iowa State at 5-3 and kept bowl eligibility alive, which was nothing short of remarkable considering the depths the program had sunken to under Gene Chizik.
Of course, Iowa State went on to finish that year 7-6 after defeating Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, kicking off a run of three bowl games in Rhoads' first four years. The successes were modest, but there were upset wins, outstanding individual players and Jack Trice Stadium rarely had an open seat.
Unfortunately, it all came crashing down, leading us to where we are today. If the season continues on its current trajectory, Iowa State will be shut out of the postseason for the third straight year and Rhoads will likely be out of a job.
So, maybe pull this story up on Saturday when Baylor's lead becomes insurmountable. Watch the videos again and remember the good times. It didn't always used to be this way.