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WRNL Predicts The 2022 Football Season

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NCAA Football: Iowa State at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Zieser

What Makes or Breaks the Season- we need to set the tone right out of the gate. We can’t come out slow like we have the past few years.

Overall Record - 8-4

Conference Record - 6-3

Offensive Team MVP - Xavier Hutchinson

Defensive Team MVP - O’Rien Vance

Offensive Breakout Star - Jaylin Noel

Defensive Breakout Star - Beau Freyler

Breakdown of Season - In Campbell’s forts true turnover year, he shows he has the ability to keep the ball rolling. ISU shows that we will be here to compete for years to come.

David Braga

What Makes or Breaks the Season- Coaching. If there ever was a season where Iowa State has to “rebuild” it’d be this one. A lot of new moving parts and players to incorporate across the board. It’ll be especially on the coaches to make sure this team is ready each and every week.

Overall Record - 8-4; losses to Iowa, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and probably one of Baylor/Texas

Conference Record - 6-3

Offensive Team MVP - Jaylin Noel

One of my hot takes for the year was that Noel would end the season with more receptions than Xavier Hutchinson. I don’t know how realistic that is (hence the hot take) but I’m sticking with it here. Noel is going to explode out of the gate to get Dekkers comfortable in the offense. He’s going to have a very special year.

Defensive Team MVP - Will McDonald

No hot takes from me here. The defense this year starts and ends with #9 attacking the QB off the edge. McDonald is going to be that guy on the defense this year.

Offensive Breakout Star - The whole RB room

Can I say a whole room? I’m going to say the whole room. This might be the deepest group of players at one position Iowa State has on the roster. Jirehl Brock leads the way followed by the trio of Deon Silas, Eli Sanders, and Cartevious Norton. That's an electric group of guys that are going to get work done in this offense. It’s exactly the group this team is going to need with new quarterback Hunter Dekkers.

Defensive Breakout Star - Beau Freyler

We saw a small portion of what Freyler could do towards the end of last season. He’s going to make big play after big play on the back end of this Cyclones defense. Keep an eye out for number 17 in the secondary.

Breakdown of Season - It’ll be an up and down season for the Cyclones. It falls on the coaching staff’s shoulders to have these guys ready, and I think they’re going to do that. There aren’t a lot of expectations this year, especially compared to last, and I think that benefits us.

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Austin Keeney

What Makes or Breaks the Season- It’s all going to come down to how good Hunter Dekkers is. He’s had some experience and looked like a freshman when he had to play last year. Hopefully, that gave him something to build on. Everything we’ve heard about him is that he has all the talent in the world. If he can truly open up the field with deep passing opportunities and add a bit with his legs, Iowa State’s offense can be more dynamic than we were with Brock Purdy. If Dekkers struggles throughout the season, we’ll have trouble moving the ball and putting up points. QB play is always the biggest factor in football, but perhaps more than anyone else in the Big 12 will it be as important as it is in Ames.

Overall Record - 7-5. The “toss-up” games as I see them are Kansas State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. All three are at home. Especially after the way we lost to WV and TT last year, I don’t see us losing home games this time around.

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - WR Xavier Hutchinson. Hutch is going to be all over the field doing everything to help the young QB. He’s a route-running master in the short passing game, and we’ve occasionally seen him make plays down the field. He’ll be an All-Big 12 guy and provided he stays healthy will quickly rise up the all-time statistical ranks at Iowa State.

Defensive Team MVP - DE Will McDonald. Probably the easiest answer of the whole preview. What’s the easiest way to help an inexperienced defense? Getting the opposing QB uncomfortable. McDonald is a nightmare to block and a potential game wrecker all by himself. Hopefully, he draws a few more holding penalties this year as well as his expected double-digit sacks.

Offensive Breakout Star - RB Jirehl Brock. It’s a bit of a cop-out, but I’m just excited to see this guy play a larger role. He could’ve easily transferred after falling behind Breece Hall on the depth chart as so many other guys have, but he stuck it out. This is his time. Matt Campbell works wonders with running backs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rush for 1,200 yards and double-digit TDs.

Defensive Breakout Star - DB Beau Freyler. The name we’ve all heard about takes a leap to an all-conference level.

Breakdown of Season - Expect a traditional slow start, including an inexplicable halftime deficit to SEMO before rallying to win. You’ll never see me predict another win in the CyHawk series until Matt Campbell gets his first. I have Iowa State at 2-2 after the Baylor game before going on an October roll punctuated by a win in Austin to go to 5-2 and warm up Steve Sarkesian’s seat. Losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU down the stretch leave us with a 7-5 season with no expectations coming in, just the way Matt Campbell thrives.

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Matt Nelson

What Makes or Breaks the Season- The offense clicking with a different system and with Hunter Dekkers. The cyclones were very predictable over the last 3 seasons, and throwing the ball downfield can help pull defenders out of the box

Overall Record - 7-5

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - Xavier Hutchinson

Defensive Team MVP - Will McDonald

Offensive Breakout Star - Jaylen Noel

Defensive Breakout Star - Beau Freyler

Breakdown of Season - after what will hopefully be a blowout of SEMO, but is most likely a nerve-wracking win, Iowa State loses to Iowa because of course. Riley Moss catches an interception that is tipped 17 times before bouncing straight into the air and landing in his arms like a punt which Iowa fans say is just great coaching. A blowout of Ohio leads to a highly anticipated game against Baylor, one which is hard fought but ends in a loss. After beating the Kansas schools, we lose in Austin but soundly beat the struggling Sooners in Ames. From there, the Cyclones win their last two home games but fall to OSU on the road and lose in embarrassing fashion to a horrible TCU team to finish 7.5

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Sam Phillips

What Makes or Breaks the Season- Offensive line play

Overall Record - 8-5

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - X

Defensive Team MVP - Ant

Offensive Breakout Star - Dekkers

Defensive Breakout Star - Freyler

Breakdown of Season - Back where Iowa State is most dangerous… low expectations. A fun roller coaster of a season with similar results to last year.

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What Makes or Breaks the Season- The “New” guys. Will McDonald, Xavier Hutchinson, and Trevor Downing will get the attention they deserve, but Hunter Dekkers, Beau Fryler, Jirehl Brock, and Delaware transfer Colby Reeder will all have a chance to shine. Notably, the Running Back room will have to replace Breece Hall’s 800 touches (rushes and catches), which were the most in all of college football since 2019 (The Athletic). On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary does not have a single player that has recorded an interception, as Isheem Young, Datrone Young, and Craig McDonald all left for “greener” pastures this offseason. Also of note, the kicking game may take a step back as multiple candidates fight for the starting job. What could go wrong?

Overall Record - 7-6

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - Xavier Hutchinson. “X” led the team in receiving yards last year with 987 and I fully expect him to break the 1,000 yard mark this year as the offense loses the number 2 option in Charlie Kolar (756 yards). Much has been made of Hunter Dekkers’ ability to throw the ball downfield, so look no further than his number one playmaker to help make life easier.

Defensive Team MVP - Will McDonald. School record holder in career sacks, single-season sacks (twice), and soon to be the Big 12’s all-time sacks leader. Here’s a bonus prediction: McDonald is held 43 times a game and it’s only called once.

Offensive Breakout Star - Can I say Jirehl Brock? It’s Jirehl Brock. The Junior RB has massive shoes to fill with the departure of Breece Hall but is fully capable of putting together a great season, especially as the offense will rely on the ground game early in the year as Dekkers gets comfortable. Did you know Brock was actually a higher rated prospect than Breece Hall? You do now!

Defensive Breakout Star - Anyone playing on the opposite side of Will McDonald. That means either Blake Peterson or Joey Petersen, should have the freedom to win one-on-one battles as offensive lines naturally pay more attention to McDonald.

Breakdown of Season - In the season opener against Southeast Missouri State, Iowa State comes out sluggish and heads to the locker room at halftime down 13-3. Fans drown themselves in Busch Light in the parking lot prior to coming back in and soon start chanting for another QB as Dekkers struggles early. Iowa State shuts out SEMO and wins 27-13. Next in Iowa City, the Cyclones lose to Iowa by 9 after each of the 3 kicker candidates misses a field goal and Iowa’s defense scores twice while their offense moves the ball into ISU territory twice. Will McDonald also ties the Big 12 sacks record and breaks it the following week against Ohio. The Bobcats are an easy win, but the following week, Baylor stifles Iowa State on both sides of the ball in a classic “we are never ready in September” game. The next week at Kansas the Jayhawks break their single-game stadium capacity as Iowa State fans fill Lawrence. Final score: 45-3. Clones.

The meat of the season provides difficulties as the Cyclones best Kansas State in Ames but fall to Texa$ in Austin and OU at home. West Virginia is no problem as Daddy Heacock shows up and bounces back from a brutal loss in Morgantown last year. In Stillwater, Iowa State and Oklahoma State play the game of the year as each team goes back and forth in the second half. Spencer Sanders leads the ball down the field on the final drive of the game and OSU kicks a game-winning FG as time expires to win 30-27.

Back in Ames, Iowa State beats Texas Tech so badly after a frustrating loss the week prior, Tech and the Tortillas immediately leave to join the failing Pac 12. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, new TCU coach Sonny Dykes is unable to get his offense to cross midfield against Iowa State, and both Chandler Morris and Max Duggan throw two interceptions each to the hungry ISU secondary.

In the [Insert Ridiculous Sponsorship] Bowl game in [City], Iowa State plays [Blue Blood Powerhouse], who have had a down year but still host an incredible amount of NFL talent. Once again, the Cyclones lose in heartbreaking fashion as a costly turnover (or penalty, you pick) costs the Clones a chance to win.

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Aiden Wyatt

What Makes or Breaks the Season - I think the season is going to depend on if Hunter Dekkers is as good as we think he is/can be. He has some large shoes to fill but has one of the most talented receiver groups in school history. If Dekkers struggles, this could be a long year.

Overall Record - 8-4

Conference Record - 5-3

Offensive Team MVP - Xavier Hutchinson

Defensive Team MVP - Anthony Johnson

Offensive Breakout Star - Greg Gaines III

Defensive Breakout Star - TJ Tampa

Breakdown of Season - I think we’ll be a lot better than what the haters are saying. The ceiling is maybe 8-9 wins with the floor being missing a bowl game for the first time since 2016. If Iowa State’s offense can be as much of a force as they are capable of, I think it could make for a very fun season regardless of record. If we see the offense struggle early and take a while to get everything tuned up, it might be a more frustrating season. The defense is going to do their thing with some new faces but The Professor knows all. Party in Ames!

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Dylan Coon

What Makes or Breaks the Season-

Experience, or lack thereof. We are returning some key pieces, but we lost most of them. There is something to ‘addition by subtraction’, we saw essentially the same Iowa State football team for two seasons in a row with varying success. Youth, however, doesn’t come in handy during close games. This is a team that has been in a lot of big games, but most of them were in the supporting cast, and now they’ll be asked to be the stars. I think this will be a season of inconsistency, growing pains, and sometimes, a whole lot of fun. Let these guys get some wins under their belt early, and let’s see what they can do.

Overall Record -




Baylor- L

@Kansas- W

Purple Kansas- W

@ Texas- L

Oklahoma- L

West Virginia- L (let me die on this hill alone so you don’t have to)

@Oklahoma State- W

Texas Tech- W


Conference Record - 4-5

Offensive Team MVP -

Xavier Hutchinson. This seems like the safest choice. X is about the perfect weapon to have for a new QB. He’s not as dominant and athletic as Hakeem Butler was for Purdy’s first year, but he’s super dependable, a hell of a route runner, and a great ‘X’ Factor to have on offense. (Sorry I had to do it once). Hutchinson is a bit of the last-man-standing from last year’s offensive barrage. Purdy, Hall, Allen, and Kolar have all moved on leaving Hutchinson a huge amount of usage to work with. Unless Dekkers goes crazy, or a running back separates himself from the pack early, this seems like a no-brainer.

Defensive Team MVP -

Will McDonald. Again, not a bold choice here. He might be the most talented defensive Cyclone I’ve ever seen. He’s often the target of some... how do I put this... unorthodox blocking techniques from the offensive line. You know the one, y’know, holding. And he still ends up in the backfield every other play it feels.

His back-to-back sacks against Oklahoma State last year late in the 4th quarter is the stuff of legend. That felt like watching MJ in his prime takeover a game and just will it into a win. Spectacular. One of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen an individual football player do.

Offensive Breakout Star -

I’m choosing to venture somewhere that few will follow, Deon Silas. I know little about his game, admittedly. It would go against everything I know and love not to pick a smash-mouth bowling ball of a human to be the breakout star. I think the running back will be a crowded group, I expect Jirehl Brock to be the starter from game one, but Silas could be a third-down back, or even a funky secondary option that Tom Manning could use in weird sets. I should clarify, that it’s not so much that I think this will happen, I just really want it to.

Defensive Breakout Star -

Beau Freyler. Need I say more? You could argue this would be back-to-back wins for Freyler who really emerged as a star late last year. He’s an all-time Matt Campbell guy. He seems set to have a first-team Big 12 kind of year, and might even be the difference in a game or two this year. The transfer of Isheem Young leaves the door wide open for Freyler this year, and I think he’s ready to capitalize.

Breakdown of Season - Uh, I haven’t seen the other picks, but I’m guessing I’m a game or two shy of what the other guys picked. 6-6 feels right to me. I also wouldn’t be disappointed by 6-6, a bowl season being a down year for this program shows how far Matt Campbell and the players of the last 5 years have shifted this program to new heights. I think we lose a lot of talent, a lot of reps, and a lot of studs. That’s always hard to replace. We are great at developing and the guys who are starting, were on the scout teams against those studs the last few years. I’m hoping for the best and expecting mediocrity.

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Derek’s Mom

What Makes or Breaks the Season-

Just like every Matt Campbell team ever, the success of the team will largely come down to the offensive line play, but what makes this season interesting, is just how many question marks surround the offensive line. The best quarterback, running back, and the two best tight ends in school history all graduated and need to be replaced. So what makes or breaks the season? How does the new talents adjust to the Big 12. It’s no doubt that Campbell has climbed the recruiting ranks, but if there’s one thing we know about recruiting, it’s that it doesn’t always translate to wins. Hunter Dekkers is very talented and has shown it in small spurts over his career, but can he do it over a full season? Campbell has said that this might be the deepest running back room they’ve had since his arrival in 2015, but can that depth match (or come close) to the explosiveness that Breece Hall brought? The tight end core should be solid, but obviously not as decorated as Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen, does Tom Manning take a more downfield approach with Dekkers big arm and lack of experience at tight end? And finally, if the offensive line can just have a B- season, I would be happy with that. Wow my expectation are low.

On the defensive side of the ball, I think we know more of what to expect, despite losing a ton of production. Throughout the Heacock era, the defense has reloaded every offseason, not rebuilt. I would expect more of a rebuild than we are used to this season with the loss of Mike Rose, Jake Hummel, Isheem Young, and the most underappreciated player of the Campbell era, Enyi Ewuazirke. But the defense still returns Will McDonald IV, Anthony Johnson Jr., O’Rien Vance, and Beau Freyler. This unit has a ton to prove and certainly won’t be the best in the conference like we are used to, but I think this defense should still be a top-half unit in the conference, and if it’s not—it might be a five-win season.

Overall Record - 7-5

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - Xavier Hutchinson

One of the best players in the entire Big 12, Hutchinson is the surest thing on this Iowa State offense. Since his arrival in 2020, Hutchinson has been one of the most consistent and productive wide receivers in school history. X will be Dekkers’ go-to receiver from day one and Hutchinson will almost certainly put together an All-American season.

Defensive Team MVP - Will McDonald IV

Barring an injury, McDonald will pass Von Miller for the Big 12’s all-time sack record. McDonald is one of the most intimidating players Iowa State has ever had, and that’s been seen with teams double and triple teaming him every play. I think it will be a tough adjustment for him to not have a player as good as Uwazurike opposite of him, but he will adjust and be the monster on defense that he always has been.

Offensive Breakout Star - Corteivous Norton

I would imagine some of my colleagues went with Hunter Dekkers, but I am going to disqualify them due to the fact that he has expectations of being a star. So I’m going with a true freshman running back that has had a ton of buzz, Cortevious Norton. In a year that will see three or four players competing for snaps to replace Breece Hall, I think Norton has a really good chance to be the second back that gets a ton of carries behind Jirehl Brock. Everything I’ve seen from Norton has shown me that he is going to be a cornerstone of the offense for years to come.

Defensive Breakout Star - Beau Freyler

Locally, Freyler broke out last year, he played so well that he ended up splitting snaps with Isheem Young. The staff is obviously very high on him and I think that he will take another step forward this season and become one of the best safeties in the Big 12. Playing that STAR position in Iowa State’s 3-3-5 defense sets him up to be in position for a lot tackles.

Breakdown of Season -

This is the first time in a long time with limited expectations heading into the season, which I think is a good thing. Matt Campbell-coached teams seem to always play better with a chip on their shoulder, so that’s why I think that this team will surprise some people. Now, you have to keep in mind relative to expectations. The absolute best-case scenario would probably be winning nine games, and since it’s Iowa State, I don’t see best case scenario.

I predict that they squeak by Southeast Missouri, lose a heart-breaker in Kinnick, take care of Ohio, upset Baylor, beat Kansas, lose to K-State and Texas, beat OU and West Virginia, get demolished by Oklahoma State, and then beat the directional Texas school to wrap up an average 7-5 season. This is wrapped up with a trip back to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl and I don’t know who they’ll play, but Cyclone fans will take over Beale Street!

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Levi Stevenson

What Makes or Breaks the Season-

It feels like this season has a handful of different things that could drastically alter the final outcome. What if Hunter Dekkers actually isn’t good? What if losing two All-American tight ends hurts more than we realize? What if all those losses on defense hurts enough that we see that side of the ball slide back to the middle of the conference or worse? However, I don’t think any of those things are the single biggest factor for 2022.

As it turns out, nothing has really changed for most of Matt Campbell’s tenure. The offensive line is still priority number one when it comes to required improvement. We’re pretty damn sure that Dekkers are extremely talented, and we’re pretty damn sure we have some extremely capable depth at running back and wide receiver, which means that the success of the offense likely falls into the laps of the offensive line.

Simply put, if the offensive line can keep Hunter from running for his life and open up space for the running backs, then this offense has a chance to be extremely productive, maybe more so than any previous year under Campbell. If not, we could see this unit struggle and place most of the burden to win on a defense that is replacing so many faces.

Overall Record - 7-5

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - Xavier Hutchinson

This one feels a little too easy. He’s Mr. Do Everything at receiver for Iowa State, and is just about the best thing Hunter Dekkers could have at his disposal as he grows into the starting role. I would expect him to have a ton of receptions this season.

Defensive Team MVP - Will McDonald

Another one that feels incredibly obvious. He’s not only the best player on the defense, but one of the best pass rushers in America, and has earned that distinction and then some. While he chases both the Big 12 and NCAA career sack records, he has a chance to be a massive disrupting force for the defense that will need extra help early in the season while they get their feet under them. McDonald may genuinely be the most talented defensive player to ever put on an Iowa State uniform.

Offensive Breakout Star - Hunter Dekkers

Another easy candidate. After sitting behind Brock Purdy for a couple seasons, it’s time for the talented and athletic redshirt sophomore to take the reigns. He’s got every tool you can ask for in a QB, so if he can smooth out his decision-making and deliver accurate passes downfield, we may be looking at a guy capable of being an early-round pick in the NFL draft after two or three seasons.

Defensive Breakout Star -

This could go to a couple different players, but give me TJ Tampa to break out and establish himself as a true No. 1 cornerback. With Anthony Johnson moving to safety, Jon Heacock’s defense needs to establish good defenders on the outside, and Tampa has all of the physical tools to be a lockdown corner, as well as a bunch of playing time in his young career. Myles Purchase gets the honorable mention as he has a virtually equal shot of grabbing that spot.

Breakdown of Season -

I want to preface this prediction by saying that I think anything between five and nine wins is within the realm of possibility, but I think they’re more likely to be closer to the bottom end of that range. Unfortunately, I don’t think Campbell’s first CyHawk win is in the cards this year (which is probably why it’ll happen this year. Aside from that, I’ll predict losses against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and....Texas. Yes, I hate very much predicting a loss to Texas, but the game is in Austin and we have no idea what this offense is going to look like on the road. I do think that Texas is definitely the most likely of these games to flip to a win, but for right now I will stay conservative.

That said, none of those games are completely out of reach (though Oklahoma State is probably the least likely win, being that it’s in Stillwater). Oklahoma will likely take at least a small step back this season as a new coaching staff establishes its culture and they break in a ton of new faces after the mass exodus to USC. Baylor is also seeing a lot of new faces on defense. Texas’ offensive line is probably going to be complete shit and their quarterback situation feels shaky at best. If that defense isn’t stout, they’re going to be in trouble.

And while I’m not predicting it to happen, because Kansas State can go to hell, the Wildcats look to potentially take a step forward if Adrian Martinez decides not to be an absolute turnover machine for the first time in his career. This game is probably a toss-up. WVU and Texas Tech will likely take a small to moderate step back this season and should win, and while the TCU game is in Fort Worth, there’s way too many unknowns surrounding the Frogs right now to predict much of anything with them with any sort of certainty.

All in all, it’s another bowl game, probably the Liberty Bowl (please god no), and solid proof that the Matt Campbell experience has made permanent gains for the program, and that it can withstand losing a ton of generational talent by utilizing the uptick in recruiting we’ve seen.

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Matthias Schwartzkopf

What Makes or Breaks the Season- The ability of the offensive line to get push up front and the defense staying healthy to not test the unproven depth. I think we all would like to see that depth worked in like we have the last few years.

Overall Record - 9-4

Conference Record - 5-4

Offensive Team MVP - Hunter Dekkers

Defensive Team MVP - Will McDonald

Offensive Breakout Star - Cartevious Norton

Defensive Breakout Star - J.R. Singleton

Breakdown of Season - This is going to be Matt Campbell’s best coaching job as of yet. Really anything over 6 wins will get him a ton of praise and unfortunately fire up the coaching rumors once again. I have 8 regular season wins. Can be as low of 6. I think the Cyclones will steal some of those 50/50 games at home and make a surprise on the road. Looking at you Iowa City. We shall see. No expectations and some talent that is unproven may be a fun thing to watch.

GIF to Culminate the Season -