Athlon pegs Iowa State No. 17 nationally in preseason, picks Cyclones fourth in Big 12

The feeling of college football season approaching is in the air and it is starting to make me swear. Or maybe that can be attributed to the increasing heat that accompanies the calendar flipping to June.

Regardless, this week brings the arrival of Athlon’s annual college football preview magazine arriving on newsstands and I have gotten my hands on a copy of the publisher’s Midwest edition, featuring Cyclone signal-caller Brock Purdy, along with Big 10 receivers Ihmir Smith-Marsette of Iowa and Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, on the cover.

Each of the past few years, the Cyclones have been featured more and more with this year being no exception to that fact. The magazine ranks Iowa State as the No. 17 in the country in the preseason with No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 14 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Texas and No. 25 Iowa all on the program’s 2020 schedule.

Here are a few other highlights/tidbits from inside the magazine’s pages:

*** Athlon predicts Iowa State to go 8-4 overall, 6-3 in Big 12 play, finish fourth in the league and end the season in a trip to the Texas Bowl to take on Mississippi State. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas are the three teams above Iowa State in the Big 12 rankings. Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas round out the league standings.

*** Junior tight end Charlie Kolar is listed as a second-team All-American coming off a sophomore season that saw the Norman, Okla. native solidify himself as one of the best tight ends in the country by catching 51 passes for 697 yards and seven touchdowns.

*** The magazine’s first mention of Purdy (besides the cover) comes on page 27 when he’s listed as the No. 21 player in the country entering the season.

“The 2019 season marked the first time Iowa State averaged more than 20 points per contest since 1976,” it reads. “Purdy started all 13 games and threw for 3,982 yards and 27 touchdowns to only nine picks. He also averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt and scored eight times on the ground.”

Purdy is obviously the biggest reason why Iowa State’s quarterbacks room is listed as the nation’s fifth-best in the publication’s unit rankings.

*** The publication’s Big 12 unit rankings are largely high on Iowa State, especially defensively. The Cyclones are listed with the top unit at all three levels of the defense while the quarterbacks come in at No. 2 behind Texas. The running backs and wide receivers/tight ends are both rated No. 4 while the offensive line, which will be tasked with replacing (technically) four starters is listed at No. 7.

*** Three of the Cyclones’ contests are listed on the magazine’s list of Big 12 Games to Watch this fall, first with the Cy-Hawk clash in Iowa City on Sept. 12.

“Matt Campbell has done a lot of good things in his four seasons at Iowa State, but he still hasn’t beaten Iowa.”

Thanks for the reminder.

The other two games listed come on back-to-back weeks in October. The Oct. 10 match-up at Oklahoma State followed by the Oct. 17 game against Oklahoma at Jack Trice Stadium.

*** Iowa State landed 14 players on the magazine’s preseason All-Big 12 team, headlined by Kolar and junior cornerback Anthony Johnson, who both received first-team honors. Purdy and sophomore tailback Breece Hall makeup two-thirds of the second-team backfield and are joined on the second offense by junior receiver Tarique Milton and sophomore offensive guard Trevor Downing. Senior defensive end JaQuan Bailey, junior linebacker Mike Rose and senior safety Greg Eisworth also received second-team nods along with senior kick returner Kene Nwangwu.

The third-team features senior tight end Chase Allen, sophomore defensive end Zach Petersen, junior linebacker O’Rien Vance and Milton again as the punt returner.

Jared Stansbury


Jared is in his seventh year covering Iowa State football and basketball for Cyclone Fanatic. He worked as the site's intern for three years while studying Journalism in Iowa State's Greenlee School of Journalism. He started as a full-time staff writer in May 2016. He took over as the site's managing editor in January 2020. Jared spent five falls covering Iowa high school football as a reporter for KMA Radio, 1460 KXNO and 1430 KASI.