Spring football is over and we now all begin the countdown to the Big 12 Media Days, Fall Camps, and then, yes, the start of the 2018 college football season. So, with that being said, let’s have some fun and take a look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for every team in the Big 12 conference. We will start rolling these out throughout the month of May. Agree? Disagree? Don’t be afraid to let us know in the comments below!
We now take a closer look at the Iowa State Cyclones, who are coming off a surprising 8-5 season and try to keep that momentum going into Year 3 under Matt Campbell. Campbell is not going anywhere, armed with a new long-term extension and will try to continue to build a program that won as many games last season as it did from 2014-16 combined. How will it play out?
Iowa State Cyclones: Best-Case Scenario
The Cyclones received fantastic news when QB Kyle Kempt was granted a sixth year of eligibility. He returns and looks to build on a season that saw him thrust into the starting job and continue to grow as a player and a leader. The Cyclones lose wide outs Allen Lazard and Marchie Murdock, but Hakeem Butler is ready to step up as the No. 1 receiver with Deshaunte Jones right by his side to make a great 1-2 punch on the outside. Then, there’s David Montgomery, who might be the best running back in the entire Big 12 conference this fall. But the depth behind him is nothing to scoff at with Sheldon Croney, Kene Nwangwu and Mike Warren. The offensive line loses Jake Campos, but shifting Sean Foster to left tackle should allow the line to remain very solid with the likes of Julian Good-Jones, Josh Knipfel, Bryce Meeker and others.
The defensive line can dominate behind Ray Lima and JaQuan Bailey, and while Joel Lanning is gone at linebacker, Willie Harvey can lead a unit that has incredibly potential with O’Rein Vance and Marcell Spears alongside. Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne are a dominant 1-2 punch at cornerback and can help the safeties find their footing as the season progresses.
The Cyclones get off to a 2-0 start against South Dakota State and rival Iowa before the Sooners come to town for a big-time early season showdown. This time it’s in Ames, where ISU pulls off another stunner as the Sooners are still working out the kinks in the post-Baker Mayfield era. Akron wraps up the non-conference play and Iowa State is 4-0 after one month. Then it’s two road games at TCU and Oklahoma State. The Cyclones trip up and split those two, improving to 5-1. The Cyclones then drop a tight game at home to an explosive West Virginia offense, but rip off three-straight wins against Texas Tech, Kansas and Baylor. At 8-2, the season wraps up with a road game against Texas and a home game against K-State in Farmaggedon. Another split there and Iowa State heads to a bowl game with a 9-3 record, its best record since 2000 (also 9-3).
Iowa State Cyclones: Worst-Case Scenario
Iowa State welcomes back Kyle Kempt at QB, but with teams having a year’s worth of tape on him, he does not make the strides at the position that the coaching staff expects. Plus, the loss of Allen Lazard hurts mightily, as Hakeem Butler is not ready to handle getting all the attention as the No. 1 wide receiver. As a result, teams lock down on David Montgomery to stop the run and Montgomery doesn’t have the explosive junior season that many are projecting. The leadership from Lazard and longtime offensive lineman Jake Campos are also seriously missed. Plus, offensive coordinator Tom Manning is missed after he took a job with the Indianapolis Colts in February.
Defensively, the heart and soul of the team, Joel Lanning, is missed more than just his 114 tackles last season. Despite some solid talent on the defensive line and linebacker, the team cannot duplicate last season’s success which ranked third in total defense and second in points allowed per game (20.9). The safety position is a concern and Big 12 offenses are able to have success throwing the ball against ISU, which masked some issues last season. In 2017, Iowa State was ranked second in passing yards allowed per game, but ranked 8th in pass defense efficiency, which is exposed this season.
The Cyclones end up losing another heartbreaker in Week 2 to Iowa, and the Sooners come to Ames and stomp on the Cyclones to get revenge for last season’s loss. A win over Akron has ISU at 2-2 through the first month. A couple of road games at TCU and Oklahoma State prove tricky, followed by a home loss to West Virginia and suddenly ISU is sitting at 2-5 and 0-4 in Big 12 play. The Cyclones get back on track winning two of three against Texas Tech, Kansas and Baylor and are 4-6 with two games left. A road game against Texas results in a loss against the rejuvenated Longhorns team, and Bill Snyder, once again, gets the best of the Cyclones in Farmaggedon, as Iowa State misses a bowl game and finishes the season at 4-8.