It certainly wasn’t the outcome the Iowa State Cyclones were looking for on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship. A 27-21 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners was not in the cards coming into the game. Iowa State and its fan base had every reason to believe they could win this game and hoist their first conference title since the year the Titanic sank.
Sure, there were mistakes. Brock Purdy had them at quarterback. The offensive line made them late. Special teams as well. But despite all of that, Iowa State was a touchdown drive away from being Big 12 Champions and possibly making a College Football Playoff.
Hours after the game, as the emotion wore off, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Breece Hall tweeted this.
While he’s not entirely specific, he clearly means “back” to a Big 12 Championship Game.
And while some fans around the country may scoff at the notion that Cinderella Iowa State could ever get back to this stage again, those fans would be ignorant and wrong.
Breece Hall is right.
First off, if you look around the Big 12 Conference, there is no obvious No. 2 behind Oklahoma right now. Iowa State’s case is as good as any to have longevity as the biggest challenger to the OU throne, at least in the next couple of seasons, and there are several reasons why.
Just look at the depth chart. Of the 50+ players listed heading into the Big 12 Championship Game, only 15 are seniors. Eight of those 15 were starters, which includes special teams.
There’s no question that players like Chase Allen, JaQuan Bailey, Greg Eisworth and others will be desperately missed on the field and in the locker room. But you’d be foolish to think that the program ends with those guys walking out the door.
They were part of the process that Matt Campbell constantly preaches about. They certainly helped build it. But it doesn’t come to a crashing halt with them leaving. Campbell built a fortress, not a house of cards.
No one knows yet if Brock Purdy is going to return at QB or if he’ll choose the NFL Draft. But from some people I’ve talked to around Iowa State, they believe his freshman back up Hunter Dekkers could end up being even more explosive than Purdy. Just the thought that a possible high-round draft pick at quarterback could leave Iowa State and the fan base, while certainly upset, isn’t overly concerned, would have been unfathomable just five years ago.
That’s what Matt Campbell is building in Ames.
On the recruiting trail, Campbell and his staff are doing the best job in the Big 12 in player development. And it’s not close. Iowa State has recruited classes inside the Top 50 in the nation the last couple of seasons, but he’s finding gems that the recruiting sites are either underappreciating or flat out disrespecting.
Just look at linebacker Mike Rose. He was the No. 868-ranked player in the nation in the Class of 2018, the 57th-ranked outside linebacker. Now he’s the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
It’s been well documented that Breece Hall couldn’t get a look from Oklahoma.
In many ways this all ties back to the now famous line from Breece Hall following the win over Texas. “It’s five-star culture vs. five-star players.”
No matter how much success Iowa State has on the field, they’ll never recruit like Oklahoma by plucking five-star players from all over the country.
But no matter what, Matt Campbell showed the college football world, once again, on Saturday, that his formula on building a five-star culture is one that is sustainable.
And if you think it’s going away after this magical season, I’m with Breece Hall when he suggests you’d be dead wrong.
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