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Has anyone done a better coaching job than Matt Campbell at Iowa State? It would be hard to make an argument for someone else. He led the Cyclones to a 9-3 record last year topped off by a 34-17 Fiesta Bowl win over Oregon. And, with 18 starters returning this year there is unprecedented hype around Ames. And justifiably so. Most of the pieces are back on offense from a team that averaged almost 33 points per game in 2020. The defense is underrated but has an abundance of talent . All of the pieces are there to make a title run.
Offense: QB Brock Purdy returns for his 4th year of guiding the Cyclone offense. He was All-Big12 first team last year and has amassed 9,921 yards of total offense. His leadership skills and quick release make him desirable to the NFL. RB Breece Hall, rushed for 1,572 last year with 21 touchdowns. He led the nation in rushing yards. WR Xavier Hutchinson caught 64 passes last year for 771 yards and All-American TE Charlie Kolar is back along with his 44 catches. All 5 starters return to the offensive line including All-Big 12 center Colin Newell and talented guard Trevor Downing is back after missing last year with a leg injury. This offensive unit is talented and experienced and will be a handful for anyone they play.
Defense: The defensive line returns edge rusher Will McDonald and his 10.5 sacks from a year ago. They are a little thin depth-wise at the other positions. The 2020 Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Mike Rose returns at linebacker and he has started all 38 games of his career. Safety, Greg Eisworth decided to opt out of the draft and return for another year and that was also huge. They also return talented cornerback, Anthony Johnson and break-out star Isheem Young. There is a lot to like with this bunch.
9/4 Northern Illinois
9/18 at UNLV
The non-con schedule has 2 games that are must wins in Northern Illinois and at UNLV. However, last year the Cyclones lost at home against Louisiana and they have a habit of losing an early non-conference game against a lesser opponent. The Iowa game is always a great one and this might be one of the best games of the year as both teams are thinking big things.
9/25 at Baylor
10/16 at Kansas State
10/23 Oklahoma State
10/30 at West Virginia
11/13 at Texas Tech
11/20 at Oklahoma
The conference schedule largely favors Iowa State with the exception of the trip to Norman to play the Big-12 favorite Sooners. The other 3 top contenders, Texas, Oklahoma State, and TCU are at home and the Cyclones can’t afford to slip up and lose one of those but they won’t be easy. Kansas is the other game in Ames and that is a must. Other than the game at Oklahoma, they will be favored in the other road games at Kansas St., West Virginia, Baylor, and Texas Tech. Running the table in these four will be the key to getting to the championship game.
Summary: Iowa State looks good on paper and I know they are well-coached. I’m not sure they can live up to the hype and win all the games they should. I’m not 100% sold on Brock Purdy and they are not going to slip up on anybody in 2021. They are going to have a great season but I’m not sure they are a Top-10 team.
Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in the Big-12
Overall Record: 9-3
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