Sep 29, 2018; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) evades TCU Horned Frogs safety Markell Simmons (3) during the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Sports fan to sports fan, I’m bringing it today. I’m frustrated about the start to the football season as both of my favorite teams struggled during the first month.
I’m a Clone, but I bleed purple on Sundays.
Iowa State is 1-3. The Vikings are 1-2-1. Both records, according to expectations heading into the season, are disappointing.
It’s weird though because I’m not freaking out about either squad. It’s because of their respective roster make-up and my confidence in the people holding leadership positions within each organization.
In Minnesota, preseason expectations were that the defense would be one of, if not the best in the NFL. Through four games, Minnesota ranks 27th (out of 32) in yards per play, 21st in yards per game and most importantly, 23rd in scoring defense.
Minnesota ranked 2nd, 1st and 1st in those same categories a year ago.
Then there is Iowa State…
Honestly, the Cyclones are right around where most objective analysts thought they would be. Iowa State caught a tough break early with the South Dakota State game being cancelled and have lost to three teams as significant underdogs – two being on the road. Iowa State won the one game it was favored in by double digits.
Iowa State’s defense, which is giving up a sturdy 3.28 yards per rush (ranked 19th nationally), has been elite in nearly every statistical category. Iowa State’s defense ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring defense, third in total defense and third in rushing defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones have been one of the worst teams in college football, ranking 106th nationally in yards per play.
Here’s why I’ve refrained from entering total freakout mode:
In Minnesota, it’s pretty much the same group of guys playing defense compared to last year. What’s different? With a great defensive head coach at the helm, I am guessing they figure it out.
At Iowa State, this defense will have the Cyclones in every game this season. So that’s a start.
Regarding the offense, Iowa and TCU (ranked 5th and 18th nationally in opponents yards per play) – along with Texas – are the best defenses that Iowa State will see all season long. Iowa has the best defensive front four on Iowa State’s schedule and Gary Patterson is the best defensive coach Iowa State will face.
There are clearly major issues that Iowa State is dealing with on offense and I won’t ignore that. But I’m willing to bet based off of the schedule alone that the Cyclones will improve in the very near future – hopefully this Saturday in Stillwater. After all, David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler are still on the team and offensive lines generally get better the more that they play together.
I expected Iowa State to be in a better position as we enter the month of October. I had Iowa State beating Iowa and going 8-4. That was the swing game for me between 8-4 and 7-5. Everything else has gone according to plan.
Saturday’s trip to Oklahoma State, however, is a big one. The Cowboys are a team that is difficult to get much of a read on so far in 2018.
Texas Tech racked up 621 yards on 6.8 yards per play in OSU’s lone loss of the season two weeks ago. The real number that stood out from that game was Oklahoma State only scoring 17 points vs. the nation’s 113th ranked scoring defense.
Oklahoma State’s win over Boise impressed me but other than that, the Cowboys have beaten Missouri State, South Alabama and Kansas this season. Forgive me for not being “all-in” on Mike Gundy’s squad.
Iowa State is a 10-point underdog in Saturday’s game. The Cyclones haven’t lost a game by more than 10 points since 2016.
I’m not freaking out yet.
Talk to me next Monday for an update.
Other musings on the Cyclones
D-LINE: It will be fun to watch Iowa State’s elite defensive line go up against Oklahoma State’s stud running back Justice Hill on Saturday. Hill is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on the season and has compiled 577 yards. Iowa State has only given up 484 rushing yards this season. Something will have to give!
Numbers aside, it’s a pleasure to watch Iowa State’s defensive line play. Longtime Clones understand how this position has been a constant thorn in this program’s side for decades. Now, it is a bonafide strength.
MONTGOMERY’S STATUS: Matt Campbell called David Montgomery’s injury a “deep bruise” during his Big 12 teleconference today. If I am understanding this correctly, Montgomery should be good-to-go if he can deal with the pain. My guess – knowing David – is that he will play a normal game on Saturday in Stillwater. He’s one of the toughest dudes I have ever covered.
KOLAR’S TD: It was good to see redshirt freshman Charlie Kolar get into the end zone on Saturday night. Iowa State’s coaches are very high on this rookie out of Oklahoma. While he isn’t the total package that Chase Allen is, Kolar already might be a better pure receiver.
WVU KICK TIME: Congrats to the tailgaters reading this … Iowa State’s game vs. West Virginia on Oct. 13 is a 6 p.m. kick that will be televised on FS1. It’s been a brutal home slate for fans so far. The first game obviously got cancelled. The Oklahoma game was one of the hottest I have ever attended at Jack Trice Stadium. The Akron game never felt right considering the tragic events that happened earlier in the week. Iowa State fans deserve a good kickoff time and some decent weather. Now don’t get arrested.