ARLINGTON, Texas — When you haven’t been successful in years, mediocrity is the the first goal for any college football program. At Iowa State, the lack of success under Paul Rhoads led to tempered expectations when Matt Campbell took over four seasons ago. You can now consider those expectations unleashed. Entering the 2019 season the Cyclones are considered the third-best team in the Big 12, if the league’s preseason media poll is to be believed. It’s a validation of how Campbell has built it in Ames, Iowa – methodically, meticulously and meant to last.
Campbell’s record at ISU — 19-19 — may not be as impressive at first glance. But the Cyclones have back-to-back eight-win seasons and two straight bowl trips. Before the Cyclones’ 8-5 season in 2017, they had not had a winning season since 2009. Before the Cyclones’ 8-5 season in 2018 they had not had back-to-back winning seasons since 2004-05.
If the Cyclones win eight or more games this season it will be the first time that’s happened since 1976-78 when the Cyclone were in the Big 8 Conference. Although the outside pressure seems to be sky high, Matt Campbell has his own expectations of his team that he is more worried about. When asked about outside expectations for his football team, Campbell said “I will say this about expectation, first and foremost, I don’t mean this to be negative in any stretch of the imagination, but if we worried about what the expectations of our football program were outside of our walls, the first three years, I think we would have crumbled really fast. So, what we have been able to do is handle our own expectations and making our own expectations way loftier than anything that could be said outside of our walls.”
Of course, not reading into outside expectations is far easier said than done in today’s world. From social media to newspapers and magazines, people are buying a lot of stock into this year’s Iowa State team and many think that they will end up in the same place that Big 12 media days were held come December. “We would obviously like to get back here come December,” said senior right guard Josh Knipfel. “Every week coach Campbell reminds us to not let the moment be bigger than it needs to be. Just take it one game and week at a time. All the good schools are that are playing in championship games or big bowl games are doing all the little things right and paying attention to detail by taking it one game and one step at a time.”
Obviously every Big 12 school would dream of playing for a Big 12 championship but at the end of the day, only two teams make it, while only one team will come out on top. I can guarantee you that the two schools that make it to Arlington come December will be the two schools that are doing all the right things. Sure, there will be some mistakes along the way, but the way you handle and learn from those mistakes are very critical when it comes to good football teams. For the first time in a long time, Iowa State can get their shot at glory. They have tasted some success under Matt Campbell, but I can assure you that the goal of this Iowa State team isn’t making a bowl game, it isn’t winning eight or nine games, it’s about getting the opportunity to play for a conference title and bringing it back to Ames, Iowa. The question is, can they do it?
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