Just like last year I will be previewing the Iowa State Cyclones’ upcoming season. There is a lot to be excited for this year as a Cyclones fan. Coach Paul Rhoads has said, and I believe him, that this is his most talented team thus far. The Big 12 has added two new teams to the conference in TCU and West Virginia, and at this point it seems like Iowa State & the Big 12 would like to see the Mountaineers and the Cyclones turn into a big rivalry game. I think we might be able to get there, but I think West Virginia and their fans are looking forward to the likes of Oklahoma & Texas. If we can take them down on Black Friday and potentially spoil their season, we may just have a rival after all.
Let’s start out with the question we were all asking till about a week ago. “Who will be ISU’s quarterback?” Well Rhoads let us know that it would be the “Man of Steele” Jantz. I don’t know about all of you, but I was pleased to hear this. Jantz is the senior leader on this team and in my opinion has the x-factor of do whatever it takes to win. I am not putting down Jared Barnett in the least bit, and he does own one of the biggest wins in Iowa State history, but Jantz puts on his cape when the game is on the line. Does Jantz need to improve immensely? Yes, by all means. I have said this before and will say it again. He needs to improve in three areas: 1) cut down on turnovers 2) be more consistent in the passing game & 3) improve his decision making in the zone read. I believe the ankle injury last year played a big role in the turnover category, so with a healthy Jantz, the turnovers should diminish. Thankfully coach said that the touch passes that he throws have been improving as well. We need him to complete around 60% of his passes this year. As far as the zone read goes, Barnett was better. Steele has got to do a better job making the decision to hand the ball off or keep it. He is very confident and that is probably why he hung onto the ball when he shouldn’t have. Let’s hope he has faith in our loaded backfield.
Speaking of the running backs, have we ever seen a group so talented and deep at Iowa State? We have starter James White back, along with bruiser Jeff Woody. Shontrelle Johnson has been cleared to play and will play a significant role once again this season. We also have capable young guns in DeVondrick Nealy and Robert Standard waiting for their chance. This could be a special rushing season for Iowa State as we should have fresh legs rotating in and out.
The fellas on the receiving end of Jantz’s passes will once again be solid. We had a few seniors leave, but I believe you will be seeing the wide-outs of the future really make an impact. Obviously we have the sure-handed Josh Lenz and our speedsters in the slot, Jarvis West and Aaron Horne. Now can the line give Jantz time to throw and the receivers time to run their routes? With the loss of a couple all Big 12 linemen, the jury is out on the offensive line. The good news is that we have some depth on the line.
Well time to switch sides of the ball. We could very well see one of the best defensive Iowa State teams in history led by our two all Big 12 linebackers Jake Knott and AJ Klein. They are arguably the best tandem in college football. They should have great senior years and should lead the Big 12 in tackles.
Our secondary is experienced and should be fine. I think Jeremy Reeves is not a guy to be picked on because of his size anymore. This is the year that he is going to make QBs pay for trying to go deep on him. Jacques Washington is going to be the leader of the secondary, and he is more than ready to take on that role.
As for the defensive line, let’s see if we can get some more pressure this year. Jake McDonough is a guy I concentrated on last year, and he has even got to be better this year in the interior. Our ends are led by Roosevelt Maggitt and should be able to contain or pressure.
Kirby VanDerKamp is entering his Jr. season as one of the best punters in the Big 12 and should have another stellar year. Let’s hope we don’t have to depend on his leg that much this year. As for our kicker, well that is still up in the air. Whoever wins that job needs to be more consistent than the kickers Iowa State has gotten used to over the years.
Now for my predictions, and I do want to just throw out there that last year I predicted 7-5, with a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl. We went 6-6 and to the Pinstripe Bowl…not too shabby huh? I have no idea if I will be able to replicate that this year, but I will try.
1. Tulsa (W) 31-17 (We start out the year by proving Vegas wrong and the Jack is rocking)
2. Iowa (W) 24-17 (We get another winning streak against the Hawks and it is a Cyclone state for another year)
3. Western Illinois (W) 38-7 (This is a game we should not and will not lose)
4. Texas Tech (W) 42-37 (Closer than last year but still a win and the streak is to 3)
5. TCU (L) 35-23 (TCU beats us in our first Big 12 matchup)
6. Kansas State (W) 24-21 (Enough of these narrow losses…we narrowly win)
7. Oklahoma State (L) 42-10 (The Cowboys get their revenge and knock us off easily)
8. Baylor (W) 28-21 (RG3 and Kendal Wright no longer a thorn in our sides)
9. Oklahoma (L) 35-18 (It would be great to get this upset at home, but it just won’t happen this year)
10. Texas (L) 14-10 (Close game, but the Longhorns D wins it in this low scoring affair)
11. Kansas (W) 28-13 (Charlie Weis will get Kansas turned around, but not in 1 year)
12. West Virginia (L) 45-20 (Everyone is on upset alert here…so we lose)
There you have it another 7-5 year. You won’t have to pack a winter jacket in December because the bowl destination will be the Car Care Bowl in the great state of Texas!