The Cyclone Fanatic staff gives their picks for the last four weeks of Iowa State’s regular season in this week’s staff picks column.
Chris Williams, Publisher
I have learned a lot college football since Matt Campbell took over in Ames but particularly when it comes to his program, it seems like every time there is doubt they jump up and surprise everybody.
Losing as a 10 point favorite at home to Oklahoma State last week was somewhat shocking but even so, Iowa State should still be favored in three of its last four games. That’s where I will go with my prediction. Iowa State will finish 3-1. I assume that the loss will be in Norman, where I have Iowa State tabbed as at least a two touchdown underdog.
But after that, I have the Cyclones beating Texas and Kansas at home. A final week road trip to Kansas State will be BRUTAL. A 7-5 finish wouldn’t surprise me but with the depth on this roster, I am going to give Campbell and his staff the benefit of doubt.
Jared Stansbury, Staff Writer
Like CW above, I am going to give the Cyclones the benefit of the doubt and think they will finish the season 3-1. I do believe the game in Norman next weekend is winnable, but considering the program has won there once in almost 30 years, I can’t, in good faith, pick them to win.
Some people will be disappointed by the 8-4 finish, but at the end of the day it will be further progress for the program, a third straight eight-win season for the first time since the 70s and… we will get to go to DisneyWorld.
Brent Blum, Columnist
It’s always amazing to me the margins in college football unless you are one of the giants. Got this note from a good friend of mine and I think it particularly illustrates the growth of Iowa State, but also the frustration that comes with said growth. Since the start of the 2017 season aka The Resurgence, Iowa State has 13 losses, the average margin of defeat in those losses is a minuscule 5.69 points. For comparison, in Paul Rhoads’ last two bowl teams, the average margin of defeat was 17 points. So, Iowa State has been competitive in every game for the last 2.5 years, which is awesome. However, against FBS teams in that same time-span, Iowa State is only 2-7 in games decided by 5 points or less.
Point being, Iowa State is going to be in some tight games in the next four weeks and need to find a way. I am a big believer in stats like these equalizing over time. By all advanced metrics, the Cyclones are a top 20 team, I see that playing out down the stretch and the Cyclones going 3-1, with all games battles into the second half. Buckle up though as it will be a bumpy ride.
Rob Gray, Senior Writer
I see anywhere from one to four wins in the final four games, which is to say expect the usual drama on a weekly — and perhaps quarter-by-quarter — basis.
Oklahoma’s offense is obviously a juggernaut, but the Sooners’ defense is highly suspect, so I expect the Cyclones to be in this game until the end before ultimately falling on the road.
I find it unlikely any game other than the KU matchup at home will be decided by more than a touchdown, but given how ISU’s three losses have come by a combined 10 points, the majority of subsequent “close” games should bend the good guys’ way.
Will they? good grief, who knows, but I’m fairly convinced at least two of them will, in part because of winning the turnover battles. Law of averages, right?
So mark me down for a 3-1 record to close the regular season, but it won’t happen without Cyclone Nation’s collective heart skipping a beat or two.
Jay Jordan, Football Analyst
Oklahoma disguises coverages. Texas brings pressure. Kansas will do whatever it wants. And Kansas State leaves tight windows for both the run and the pass. All are issues for the Iowa State offense based on three of the first 8 games. Oklahoma is Baylor, Texas is Oklahoma State, and Kansas State is Iowa. None will overly threaten the defense (which means OU will score between 30 and 40). So, the question is, do the issues manifest in the offense against these types of opponents get solved in a measurable way during this all-important bye week? I don’t know and I don’t know that they can all be solved by the coaching staff, i.e. health questions.
But, Iowa State has absorbed nonsense losses in each of the past 2 seasons only to run off winning streaks of at least 4 games thereafter (Texas 2017, TCU 2018). Full faith and credit to the coaching staff who has grown this season and have more to work with than in the past. Iowa State goes 4-0, finishes at 9-3 (7-2) and gets another shot at Baylor in the championship game.
Jeff Woody, Football Analyst
The final four games are really predicated on the first one. Oklahoma is the toughest test, KSU is the second, UT is the third, the bye week is fourth, and KU for senior day/night is last.
All 3 of those are toss-up games. And there has been a propensity for bad luck, which is for sure calculable. But ISU being on the short side of so many close losses isn’t indicative of a bad team any more than a bad 4 game stretch for a shooter like Tyrese Haliburton or Matt Thomas makes them a bad shot. There are things that you can do to affect it, but there are also so many bad bounces that happen during a game.
Odds say (unscientifically) ISU gets more of these than they don’t. I think they get 3 of 4 and finish third in the conference behind Baylor and OU, and with no team in the playoff and one in the “BCS,” get your mouse ears ready, that’ll send ISU to Orlando!
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Contributor
Like everyone else, I was frustrated with the Iowa State offensive performance against Oklahoma State – both regarding the pass/run ratio and the late interceptions. However, from my perspective, those two things seem like outliers in a season of data points that have been positive overall, especially compared to offensive efficiencies of the past.
That’s why it’s actually the Cyclone defense that has me worried for the remainder of the regular season. Two games in a row now, Iowa State has struggled against the perimeter wide receiver screen game. Texas Tech was able to move the ball consistently using an outside passing strategy and Oklahoma State busted two long touchdowns on similar plays that should have been stopped before the first down marker. Perhaps it’s an issue that Jon Heacock can correct in the film room during the bye week, but with Lincoln Riley and that OU offense on tap next, it’s going to be an uphill battle regardless.
Going game-by-game: I foresee a loss in Norman, followed by wins against Texas and Kansas to close out the home slate. (Texas’ defense isn’t very good and their trip to Ames is sandwiched between games against No. 22 Kansas State and No. 12 Baylor.) The regular season finale in Manhattan will likely turn into a classic Farmageddon brawl with official Reggie Smith getting taken out to dinner by Bill Snyder after the game for a job well done. (I know Snyder isn’t the coach any more, but you know he’s still gonna be there, windbreaker in tow.)
Clones finish at 7-5 (5-4) and get selected for the Texas Bowl against former Big 12 foe Texas A&M.
Kirk Haaland, Stats Nerd
Sitting at 5-3 with losses by a margin of one, two, and seven points this Iowa State team is an example of the fine line that exists between winning, losing, and more dramatically an “average” season and a dream season i.e. 2005 Iowa State Football. The four games remaining are far from a walk in the park and you could realistically see a finish anywhere from 1-3 to 4-0 with various combinations of wins and losses. I still have faith in this team, largely because the body of work of performance shows they are arguably a top 25 team even if the game by game results don’t match.
I think the Cyclones will finish the last four games 3-1 for a final record of 8-4 (6-3). The close calls will give us heartburn for years to come, but in the annals of Iowa State Football, the 2019 season will be remembered a success with more promise for the future. I think the Cyclones will lose a hard-fought game in Norman but win the final three of the season, though that trip to Manhattan is frightening, to say the least.