A pre-season close-up of Iowa State. They look to finish 9th in the Big 12 in 2015.
Iowa State Cyclones
Head Coach: Paul Rhoads (25-46, 6 years)
2014 Season•Record in 2014
•Overall: 2-10 (0-9)
•vs Top 25: 0-5
As predicted last year at this time, I said that the Cyclone program was going to hit rock bottom. With only one win last season and a loss to the other bottom feeder, the Kansas Jayhawks, they did just that. Not that Paul Rhoades did a terrible job in Ames with the team, he did put a better offense on the field than I thought, but the numbers on defense were so bad (118th in points allowed) that they couldn’t stop little Mikey on a trike. I said get a new coach last year and another year has passed and the program will try to pick itself up and get a win in conference. They should this year, beat Kansas, and throw in a home opener with Northern Iowa and Iowa, and a road contest with Toledo, the Cyclones could open strong with some win. All three plus a following game with the Jayhawks in Ames could make a significant difference this season. Now don’t jump to any conclusions. Winnable games does not make wins on the schedule. Yet, I have never said the Rhoads was the worst coach in the country and with another year at the Offensive Coordinator position for former KU HC Mark Mangino, the ISU offense could score enough to bring in two or three wins if things go right. With the Iowa game, anything goes as the Hawkeyes are not going to field a good team and rival games can push in either direction. Give ISU the benefit of the doubt and I say they head into Lubbock for game four with at lest two wins. If they come out of those first four with out a win, Mark Mangino will be the interim head coach by that Texas Tech trip. My words from last year: Another losing season and Rhodes could be out by Christmas. Most of the Big 12 media thinks the Clones will improve in 2014. I’m not included. In fact, I think the Kansas Jayhawks will pass them in the standings and drop Iowa State to rock bottom in the league. I just don’t see the wins.
What will Iowa State put on the field?
Offense: Sam B. Richardson is not he best quarterback in the Big 12 and might not even be in the top 5 or 6. But he is a hard headed fighter and this writer likes what he sees in his play and leadership. Finally the starter without question, OC Mark Mangino will use Richardson in a good way as the signal caller is an effective passer and runner. 254-451 and 2669 in yardage plus 421 yards (2nd most) on the ground, Sam B. will again put up good numbers. In looking at what he did last year, ISU will score as the Cyclones have Allen Lizard, a 6’5 home run threat at the wide out and D’vario Montgomery, another fine receiver to go to. Add the outstanding Quenton Burndgage to the mix after a injury year, ISU has one of the better pass catching groups in the league. The o-line returns three starters and enough returning letterman to make a very fine pass/run blocking group. A weak and small group of running backs could make ISU one dimensional if they can’t find someone to hit the hole. That could be a problem. Look for Richardson to run more than Mangino would like. Grade: B
Defense: Demond Turner has been brought in to play DT (from the JUCO ranks) and that sums up the Iowa State defense, the lowest statistical eleven in the country last year. Five starters returned to spring ball and four will start. Look for another sieve defense which could be a game breaker for Coach Rhoads. Not much to say about his group. Grade: F
Special Teams: Cole Nettern is a good kicker, hitting 11 of 14 in 2014 with the game winner over Iowa. Everything else is mediocre at best. Grade: C-
Schedule: As mentioned, ISU has opportunities to win right out the gate. Will they? Maybe. Texas Tech will be the last game that KU could win. Look for, at best, a four win season. Two wins in conference would be a push as Tech won’t be easy in Lubbock. I’d say, 3 up and 9 down in Rhoads last season in Ames. Points will be scored but without a satisfactory defense, the Cyclones will suffer another tough year. It could be the coach’s last in Ames.