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Iowa State goes from Big 12 spoiler to legit contender

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Iowa State

Another Saturday in 2017 and the Iowa State Cyclones are blowing up the Big 12’s plans of making the College Football Playoff. Granted, the Clones shouldn’t care. They’re now in the drivers seat to reach the Big 12 championship game in five weeks.

But they have sent the Big 12 into a total chaos. That being said, what else is new?

The conference has fours team, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, at the top of the conference standings with 4-1 record.

The Cyclones stunned Oklahoma on October 7th with a 38-31 win and did the same on Saturday beating TCU 14-7. That gave Iowa State it’s second and third wins, ever, over AP Top 5 teams. ISU entered the season 1-56-2 against Top 5 teams. Now they’re the first team since Florida in 2005 to beat two top 5 teams before November. That’s the kind of month it’s been for Matt Campbell and his guys.

“You’re either going to be that team that steps on the pedestal and has a chance to do it or you’re not,” Campbell said. “For us, we know what our recipe for success is, which is rewarding to know that. Now, can we stay the course and can we continue to do those things?”

Those things are the “little things”.

Turnover margin and limiting the penalties are just a couple of “those things” that Matt Campbell is referring to, and his team took care of business again in those departments on Saturday.

The Cyclones had just 4 penalties for 35 yards compared to 11 for 104 against TCU. ISU is averaging just 36 yards in penalties per game, 11 ahead of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who are second in the Big 12. Meantime, Iowa State also won the turnover battle 3-1. The Cyclones are tops in turnover margin in the Big 12 at +10 for the season and +6 in conference play.

Iowa State is also becoming one of those teams that just finds ways to win. It’s not about mastering one set formula and having it work every week. Their win against Oklahoma required scoring nearly 40 points. This past week it meant being a bend but don’t break defense and getting timely turnovers against Kenny Hill, who threw an interception and fumbled in inside the ISU 20-yard line. The Cyclones are not a one trick pony.

But now back to the Big 12 conference.

Had the Cyclones not lost to Iowa in September, we could legitimately be talking about Iowa State as a College Football Playoff contender. The Cyclones still have two losses and I will stick to my theory that the first two-loss team to make a College Football Playoff will not come from the Big 12. No chance. The committee simply does not respect this conference like it should. That’s been obvious over the first three years of the new system.

But don’t tell any of this to quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning.

“We’re not done here,” linebacker Joel Lanning said. “We have other games that we’re going to try and win. We want to win championships here and change this program around.”

I’d argue Lanning, Campbell, Kempt and the rest of these Cyclones have already changed this program around. If they rest of the Big 12, and the country, isn’t on notice at this point, they just aren’t paying attention.

Regardless, as the calendar turns to November, the Cyclones control their own destiny to the Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium. They hold two wins over top ten teams, something no other team in the Big 12, or the country, can say.

And if you think the Big 12 has been fun to this point in the season, just wait for these next two weeks when Oklahoma plays Oklahoma State, Iowa State hosts Oklahoma State and TCU travels to Oklahoma.

The fun is just beginning, and Ames, Iowa finds itself right at the center of the storm.

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