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Has a More Likable Team Been (Temporarily) More Hated Than Iowa State?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Iowa State

I really don’t understand. There’s Cincinnati fans. Coastal Carolina fans. Heck, Rece Davis. Random SEC fans.

This week, Iowa State has arguably been the most hated college football team in America. And it makes no sense. Usually this type of vitriol is reserved for the blue bloods of Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and others. But not this week.

Ever since the Cyclones came in No. 6 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, fans and pundits around the country have been blasting the Cyclones. It has been one of the stranger things I’ve seen in recent college football memory.

Here’s just one example from a Cincinnati Bearcats outlet.

 

First off, the Cyclones are still a longshot to make the College Football Playoff. Heck, everyone outside the Top 4 is. Alabama and Ohio State are huge favorites in their respective Conference Championship Games. Meantime, Clemson and Notre Dame play each other, and while I disagree with this notion, the belief is Clemson, the heavy favorite, will win, and Notre Dame can still get in.

So all the chatter around who deserves to get into the College Football Playoff, if there is an upset, remains very much theoretical until something happens.

But it is college football. And it is 2020. So expect the unexpected.

However the ire in which Iowa State has been targeted continues to catch me off guard. Is it jealousy? Possibly.

Iowa State has been a doormat of a football program for most of its existence. Then, they struck gold with their head coaching hire in Matt Campbell. But not only did they strike gold, they guy doesn’t want to leave! Who turns down possible opportunities like Florida State, the NFL (!) and so many others to stay in Ames, Iowa! Unfathomable, say these jealous fans around America.

Maybe that’s part of the equation as well.

But as I watch Iowa State spend some time this week learning how the other side lives (Oklahoma, Texas), I still scratch my head.

I don’t have any rooting interests in the Big 12. I love this conference top to bottom and find reasons to enjoy every team in the conference.

 

But this Iowa State football team is as easy to like as any program I’ve covered in this conference. You have a leader of men in Matt Campbell, with no ego, who puts his nose to the grindstone and outworks you. But then again, he’s man enough to get emotional after big wins.

The stars are humble and likable in Brock Purdy, Breece Hall and Mike Rose. The program has helped usher in some more old-school football elements back to the Big 12, like (GASP), tight ends. And they play excellent defense.

Who or what is unlikable about this team? I’d tell you if I could find it, but I can’t.

For the record, none of this means I’m picking the Cyclones to win the Big 12 Championship on Saturday. But, no matter what happens, this team as it’s currently constructed is as amiable as it gets.

For all those questioning the Iowa State Cyclones, I’d ask you to watch the Big 12 Championship on Saturday. You might get more irritated knowing this program isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But at least watch, observe and then respect where they’ve been and how far they’ve come.

Then, you can go back to hating, if you wish.

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