Football. Is. Back.
It’s been said repeatedly — this is, by far, is the most anticipated football season in Iowa State history. But how do the Cyclones stack up against the rest of the league? Here’s how it shakes out, at least before anyone takes the field.
10. Kansas (0-9)
This week: vs. South Dakota (0-0)
9. Baylor (2-7 in 2020)
The Bears face an uphill battle in head coach Dave Aranda’s second season at the helm, this after losing seven of their last eight games last year. The sparkling new offense will have a chance to shine, and will have good opportunities to tune up before their first real test on Sept. 25 against — you guessed it — Iowa State.
This week: at Texas State (0-0)
8. Texas Tech (4-6 in 2020)
Matt Wells, Matt Wells, Matt Wells. The talk heading into this season is whether he can pull this group together, but an improvement this year would simply be a boost into mediocrity. The Red Raiders are a collective 8-14 under Wells (5-13 in the Big 12), but with nine starters back on defense, it’s possible we see Tech surprise a few teams. Their first game isn’t an easy one, on the road against Houston in what could be a preview for a future conference game.
This week: at Houston (0-0)
7. Kansas State (4-6 in 2020)
The Wildcats were seemingly on cruise control last season, racing out to a 4-1 record before crashing back down to earth. They lost their last five games (including a 45-0 loss against the Cyclones), though a lot of that can be attributed to missing quarterback Skyler Thompson for most of the season. He’s back, and though Kansas State doesn’t look like a juggernaut, they open with three winnable games, and host Oklahoma and Iowa State in Manhattan on Oct. 2 and Oct. 16, respectively.
This week: vs. Stanford (0-0) in Arlington, Texas
6. West Virginia (6-4 in 2020)
Honestly, a number of these middle-of-the-pack rankings could go either way, but the Mountaineers have as good of a shot of any to make a little noise in the conference. West Virginia was consistently inconsistent last season, winning two games in a row just once en route to a 5-4 regular season. Their 24-21 win over Army in the Autozone Liberty Bowl was a quality win, but they’re going to need a much more reliable offense to do any noticeable damage this season.
This week: at Maryland (0-0)
5. TCU (6-4 in 2020)
The Horned Frogs looked to be staring a disappointing season square in the face last season, before winning five of their last six games to qualify for the Mercari Texas Bowl against Arkansas (which was ultimately cancelled). All eyes are on quarterback Max Duggan, and we know Gary Patterson almost always has his team ready to play.
This week: vs. Duquesne (0-0)
4. #21 Texas (7-3 in 2020)
The Longhorns’ new coach, Steve Sarkisian, is known as the offense whisperer, so maybe he can help Texas progress to where fans expect them to be. Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson has his sights set on the Heisman Trophy this year, and has potential to help lead the way back into the playoff picture. Their first test is no cupcake, though, so they’ll have to prove themselves right out of the gate.
This week: vs. #23 Louisiana (0-0)
3. Oklahoma State (8-3 in 2020)
The Cowboys enter the season with many questioning its wide receiver corps, and while the offense needs to click early and often to have a shot at catching Iowa State or Oklahoma, their defense will keep them in a lot of ballgames. Keep your eyes on the Pokes.
This week: vs. Missouri State (0-0)
2. #7 Iowa State (9-3 in 2020)
I wanted so badly to give the Cyclones the top spot, but despite the team’s litany of returning experience, they still need to prove they can get over the hump and avoid an early-season letdown, a la Louisiana. Yes, this has the makings to be the most exciting season on record, but it’s up to Campbell and Co. to show they’re ready for a team’s best shot each and every week.
This week: vs. Northern Iowa (0-0)
1. #2 Oklahoma (9-2 in 2020)
I know, I know, and you can let me have it in the comments. I get it. Even I’m mad at myself for this. But hey, the bottom line here is the Sooners are the reigning Big 12 champs, have a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Spencer Rattler, and there’s no reason to think they’re not up to yet another playoff-sized challenge this season. Oklahoma may be primed for an upset at some point, but until that happens, Boomer will sit atop the rankings.
This week: vs. Tulane (0-0)
Current Mood Heading into Week 1: