Oct 24, 2020; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Iowa head coach Matt Campbell talks with quarterback Brock Purdy (15) in a game against Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium. OSU won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY Sports
With the calendar flipped to November and the college football season’s home stretch approaching, the race towards the Big 12 title game in Arlington has never been more open.
Three teams, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, sit as the league’s co-leaders with only one conference loss on their resumes while Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia sit right below them with two losses and chartable paths to Cowboy Stadium of their own.
That log jam at the top and the lack of a clear favorite unlike past seasons has solidified in Matt Campbell’s mind the biggest key for whoever will hoist the Big 12 championship trophy on Dec. 19.
“When it comes down to it, it’s the one that can keep getting better,” Campbell said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “I think that’s such a unique challenge in the year we’re in. Growth and maximizing your full potential in any year is critical to the team that has the ultimate success in a conference, but I think it’s even magnetized now more than ever before.”
Since 2017, Iowa State is second in the country with 13 wins during the month of October, behind only SEC powerhouse Alabama, but that continued growth has somewhat eluded in the program in posting a 6-6 record during November in those same seasons.
That inability to reach the program’s maximum potential has prevented the Cyclones from being squarely in the Big 12 race up to the seasons’ final weeks, but this year’s squad will have an opportunity to exorcise those demons as they control their own destiny in a sense with three games against the league’s top six teams left on the schedule.
But, the No. 17 Cyclones must first get past Baylor, which has started Big 12 play 1-3 after a 33-23 loss to TCU last week, when the Bears visit Jack Trice Stadium for a 6 p.m. kick this week.
The game presents Iowa State’s first opportunity for continued growth as the program strives to reach heights never before seen in the modern era.
“I think that growth process is so dramatic just based on the type of year we’re having and the absence of about three and a half months of being together,” Campbell said. “I think there’s still continued growth that’s going to occur. The team that’s got the ability to stay the course to do that ultimately will be the team that has the best success.”
Charlie Brewer: “Winner”
It did not take Campbell long to find a word to describe Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer on Monday. The senior quarterback is probably the Bears’ biggest returning piece from last year’s team that lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.
His 26-of-45 for 307 yards and three touchdown performance was instrumental in Baylor’s 23-21 triumph over Iowa State last season in Waco and he was the driving force behind the Bears offense for a team that ultimately finished the season 11-3 with a loss in the Sugar Bowl.
“Well, I think first and foremost, he’s a winner, right? What I love about Charlie Brewer is really what we stands for, his mentality, he’s tough, he’s gritty, he’s a winner, he gives his team a chance to win every game he’s played during his career at Baylor,” Campbell said. “I think, for me, there’s a great appreciation for what he’s about and what he stands for. I just think in terms of who he is, even before you get into he is talented, he can run, he can throw, man, the grittiness, his winning ability and what he does for his team week in and week out has been really impressive.”
Iowa State fans can expect to hear a familiar name called relatively often when the Cyclones’ offense squares off with Dave Aranda’s defense.
Dillon Doyle, the son of former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle, is the Bears’ second-leading tackler with 28 tackles this season, including 17 solo stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. The younger Doyle, a product of Iowa City, West High School, joined the Baylor program after transferring from Iowa in the fallout of his father’s dismissal over the summer.
“Well, knowing and seeing him playing high school football, knowing what his pedigree is, he’s tough and physical,” Campbell said. “I think he’s a really talented football player and a young man that was playing on a really good defense a year ago (at Iowa). I think you see a young guy that has confidence and a young guy that has great physical traits and really is playing and I think settled into the scheme really well. He’s playing really good football.”
“I think in our sport sometimes, you’re leaving it up to public opinion even in a regular, normal season. I think those are all things that if you get caught worrying about those things then you prohibit your growth internally. Those are things I think it’s really hard to sit and worry about or think about. There’s too much going on and there’s too many challenges at hand. I know that’s a great question. Certainly, I understand it, but I think, personally, from my end, it’s way out of my reach and way out of my hands to even have a comment back towards it. I think we spend so much of our time just worrying about our own football team and trying to get better right now.”
– Campbell on the Big 12 stacking up with other leagues across the country once bowl selection discussions start taking place in December