If you look up the word “hunt” in the dictionary, it will describe the word as the activity of hunting wild animals or game, especially for food or sport. That word can be applied to many different things.
In the game of football, there will always be a top dog and teams chomping at the bit to be the top dog. As far as the Big 12 goes, Iowa State was typically one of the last teams at the bowl and quite frankly, they were at the kids table while the adults had a table of their own.
However, this isn’t your mom and dad’s Iowa State anymore. This is the Matt Campbell led Iowa State program fresh off a nine-win season, a Big 12 title game appearance and a Fiesta Bowl win. They are due for a big season in 2021.
Yet despite all the outside expectations, Matt Campbell isn’t worried about that. “Preseason polls and stuff right don’t really mean a whole lot. What we know we have is a better football team with a lot of guys who have experience.”
Campbell is right. Iowa State doesn’t need a preseason poll or to have someone pat them on the back to tell them that they are good. Check out the preseason All-Big 12 team and you will find a total of eight Cyclones who made the first team. If you look at every level of the offense and defense, Iowa State either has the best player or one of the best players in the conference. That isn’t normal at a place like Iowa State yet here we are in 2021 and they have earned the right to be a top contender for a conference crown.
While they have earned the right as a title contender in the media’s eyes, Matt Campbell is more keyed in on becoming a good football team. “They have to earn the right to have confidence to be a good football team.” Campbell says. “Part of that process to earn the right to be a good football team is still in the works right now. It’s how you show up in January, February, and March. It’s the effort and commitment you are willing to make to your mind, your body and your craft and times when nobody is looking. We are setting the standards right now to be a good football team when the fall comes.”
As the expectations rise inside and outside the program, the goal this season for Iowa State is to bring home a Big 12 championship. For the teams who are able to win a conference title, comes playoff hopes but to get there, the start of the season is just as important as the end of the season.
In most sports, it all about how you finish the year. Everyone wants to end their season on a high note but in college football, every game is just as important as the next. Right now, four teams make the college football playoff and starting off strong in the non-conference can go a long way in helping a team make it to the final four.
Obviously, the Cyclones have had several miscues in their non-conference over the past few years whether it be in-state rival Iowa or falling to Louisiana-Lafayette last season, but this year can’t be like those other years. This team should be taken as a playoff contender but do to that, they have to start strong, and nobody is more aware of that than Matt Campbell himself. When asked about the slow starts Campbell said “It’s been an area for us where I think we’ve kind of tried to look at that from a holistic approach in saying, man, where do we have to get better.
What I think we’ve really looked at is, man, you get 12 guaranteed opportunities in college football. How from the head coach’s perspective do you put a calendar together and how do you put a process together that allows your football team to be their best in those 12 guaranteed opportunities, right. And you can’t control everything else, but, man, you can control the preparation to get to those 12 guaranteed opportunities to be the best you can be.
So I think I would put any issue that we’ve had on my shoulders because it’s probably been a failure of mine that we just haven’t been able to get off to a good start at times throughout our tenure here, but I think it’s certainly something we’ve looked at holistically, and it’s always, man, how do we give our kids the opportunity to be the best version of themselves they can be.”
If the Cyclones are to win the Big 12 and possibly be in the playoff, they will need to be exactly that, the best version of themselves they can be. You can throw out the schedule because if Iowa State plays up to what they are capable off, the rest will take care of itself.