AMES — It’s go time.
Nobody thought that the Cyclones would beat Baylor or Oklahoma State the last two weeks. In fact, I’d bet that back in July, most “experts” had the Cyclones tabbed at 1-4 (swapping the Iowa win for one against NDSU) at this point in the season.
Everything is about to change, however, when the Cyclones host Toledo (4-2) as a rare six-point favorite on Saturday afternoon (2:30 on Cyclones.tv).
Up until now, we’ve all heard about how tough Iowa State’s schedule has been and that is 100 percent true. Iowa State’s three losses in Big 12 play have come to teams that are a combined 6-0 in the league (13-2 overall with those losses to Auburn and Florida State). North Dakota State will probably win its fourth straight FCS title this season. Iowa is 4-1 (but I’d argue that the Hawkeyes are the weakest opponent that Iowa State has played).
Knowing that, here is the biggest question that will be asked of this program for the rest of this season: Will the Cyclones respond and win the games that they are supposed to win from here on out?
“I am very hopeful that the next seven games, it is going to pay off,” Paul Rhoads said of the front-loaded schedule during his Monday presser. “We have battled them all. We’re not a program that backs down from any of our opponents and we are hoping that it has toughened us up. We are hoping that it has thickened our skin. We are hoping that development has taken place and improvement has taken place.”
Toledo is a solid opponent. The Rockets are currently 4-2, the 20th-ranked rushing team in America at 242.7 yards per game, and the clubhouse leaders to win their division of the MAC this season.
Both teams will enter Saturday with a plethora of injuries.
This is a game that the Cyclones should win. This is a game that the Cyclones dare I say, must win.
Just beat the MAC team at home.
*** Of course, nobody was talking about football today in the Jacobson Building. Jamie Pollard’s statement on Big 12’s officiating was rightfully the hot topic. At the time of publishing this piece, the Big 12 Conference had not made a statement on Pollard, Iowa State or the officiating in Saturday’s game.
*** Other than affecting his pocketbook, what will Pollard’s comments ultimately do for Iowa State? On the surface, the answer is nothing. Wins will not be awarded to the Cyclones. I don’t see any additional apologies coming Iowa State’s way. But after talking to a handful of athletic department employees today, morale is up at Iowa State. This is a group of people who, now more than ever, believes in its leader. One would hope that feeling would carry over to the football players.
*** Having said that, Iowa State shouldn’t need a morale boost from its athletics director to beat a MAC team in football.
*** A good friend of mine and diehard Iowa State fan said this to me this morning when discussing the issue: “If Iowa State won’t stick up for Iowa State, who will?”
*** From Jay Bilas to local members of the media and fans, there are a lot of opinions being tossed around regarding Saturday. One opinion that I do not understand are those condemning senior center Ben Loth’s criticism of the officiating on Twitter.
Who really cares?
In the year 2014 — when every human being (my mom and dad are on Twitter for crying out loud) who knows how to turn on an electronic device is on Twitter or Facebook — is an injured senior reserve offensive lineman whose career is over tweeting about officials really a story?
*** Sports writers are always wanting the coaches and athletes they cover to be interesting and speak their minds. Pollard did that. Now we want to crucify him for it? Sounds a little hypocritical to me.
I’m not endorsing Pollard’s message (as I noted on Saturday – I’d like to know what the 9-1 vote was about), but I respect the crap out of the man for speaking his mind.
*** Half of the Big 12 is ranked in the AP Top 25’s top 17 this week. Overall, that is a better showing from the league than I thought we would see on Oct. 6. Oklahoma losing hurts the league’s perception though.