One week from today, I will be waking up in Dallas for the annual Big 12 media days.
Perhaps it is simply that I am getting older, but summers just fly by anymore. The “offfseason” in college athletics is pretty much non-existent anymore. I mean, it’s July 10 and Iowa State still has two basketball scholarships to fill.
Throw a daily radio show and chasing a beautiful toddler around everywhere I go and I am plenty busy. It’s all good though. Keeps me out of trouble.
Regardless, ready or not, the season really is just around the corner so it’s time to start acting like it around here.
Last week, CF message board poster “Cyclones500” posed the following question to our readers: “What is your five year expectation for Matt Campbell?”
That is a fascinating question.
Being that a week from today will mark the “unofficial start of the college football season,” I thought it would be appropriate for me to chew on this question.
My gut instinct says to go with the following: You only have to win six games (sometimes five) to go to a bowl. Mediocrity should always be the baseline expectation for a program that takes football seriously.
These days, Iowa State is taking football very seriously. Financially, you are dumb not to.
Expecting a bowl game every year sounds great but the reality is that Iowa State only has 12 postseason appearances in its football history. Iowa State has a 3-9 record in those bowl games. Traditionally, like it or not, this is one of the worst programs in power five football.
For a few reasons though, I believe that Iowa State is on the verge of an upswing in football. Here are five of them:
1 – I believe in Matt Campbell’s vision
— It all starts with getting players, which Campbell seems to have done quite well early in his tenure. The guy has only coached one season but has compiled what looks like will be three of the top-five rated recruiting classes in school history.
Iowa State went 3-9 last year but if you watched closely, the Cyclones improved by the week and we saw young players all over the field show promise along the way.
If the Campbell staff proves to me that it can really recruit well in the trenches, then I will be a full-blown believer.
— I love the fact that this staff embraces social media. When it comes to making kids want to move to Ames, they get it. Take advantage of what you can.
— More than anything, because of the way he is recruiting (geography mainly), it just doesn’t feel like Campbell is going to be beholden to loaded but picked over states like Texas and Florida, which I love.
It feels like the “Midwest option for the Big 12” line in Campbell’s opening press conference wasn’t just a line. They are trying to build this program off of it.
2 – The facilities are in place – for now
If you talk to recruits, when it comes to facilities, Iowa State is one of the best kept secrets in college football.
This place has come a long way since when I was in college (2003-2007). Back in those days, a guy would be on the top level of the Lied Red Center working out and see Bret Meyer throwing a post to Todd Blythe on the “practice field” down below.
It was disgraceful for a Big 12 program that was expected to compete against the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Facilities are like anything in life though: The second you get comfortable is the second you begin to lose. Iowa State has to keep improving. Having said that, Iowa State has never been in a better position here either.
3 – The most loyal fans in the country
There is a reason why Iowa State has its best recruiting weekends (in every sport) during home football games. It’s because you guys are freaking awesome.
Players like cool uniforms, facilities, tradition and all of that jazz. More important than anything though, they want to play in front of actual people who care. Win or lose, sun or snow, you get that at Iowa State.
I always ask people, “Can you imagine what this place would be like if Iowa State is ever good in football?”
Iowa State would absolutely explode.
4 – The state of the Big 12
Ben Bruns was the first person to float the following theory out to me a couple of years ago: Iowa State actually benefits by Texas and Oklahoma being the overwhelming powers of the Big 12.
When the top of the league is stronger, it weakens the middle, which helps Iowa State ascend.
When Texas was down (Texas has lost four games or more in every season dating back to 2009), the balance of power in Texas was spread to TCU and Baylor specifically.
The theory: Year to year, Iowa State can USUALLY at least hang with TCU, and Baylor – if not beat them at home. But when schools like that are benefitting from a down Texas? It makes things very difficult for an Iowa State to compete with the south.
Now I write that fully understanding that TCU and Baylor were both flourishing under elite coaches in Gary Patterson and as much as it pains me to say it, Art Briles (gross).
I am banking on Tom Herman returning Texas to prominence. Despite the fact that I am picking Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 in 2017, I still ultimately believe that Lincoln Riley will be a big success at Oklahoma too.
Meanwhile, Kliff Kingsbury is one bad season away from getting fired at Texas Tech. Baylor, within its post-rape culture era, is in for a rude awakening. I really believe that as great as Gary Patterson is, TCU has maxed out. And Bill Snyder can’t coach forever (right?!?!). I’m still pretty ‘meh’ on Dana Holgerson.
All I’m saying is that if Campbell is legit, with a weakened middle of the Big 12, there is no reason why Iowa State can’t get to seven or eight wins on a peak year before too long.
5 – Quarterback recruiting
Among other things, this is ultimately what did Paul Rhoads in. The guy never recruited a winning quarterback.
I have already bought in on Jacob Park. This is a immensely talented guy who should set a nice foundation for the Campbell era and the guys behind him will only benefit from it.
So there you have it. That is a long way to indirectly answer what I believe should be our five year expectations for Matt Campbell’s program at Iowa State.
Bowl games more often than not with special peak years sprinkled in. When you get to consistently doing that, championships and that type of language can become realistic.