Sep 14, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell (left) enters the field with his team after the second rain delay during a game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve made it.
Week one of the college football season is here and we’re just five days away from the official start of the most anticipated Iowa State football season in program history.
In some ways, it feels like the last 240 days flew by. In others, it feels like these 240 days dragged on endlessly.
Regardless, we’ve almost made it and, on that note, I have 11 sure-to-be-proven-wrong predictions for the 2021 Iowa State football season.
1 – Iowa State finally starts fast
There’s too much returning production and chemistry for this team to start slow like previous Matt Campbell teams. They’re not working out the kinks of new starters in the trenches or a bevvy of new receivers for Brock Purdy to throw to.
All these guys have played a lot of football together and that should allow them to pick up more or less where they left off back in January.
Will this team be a well-oiled machine from the season’s opening kickoff?
That is probably too much to ask, but there won’t be that disappointing kick-to-the-nuts like going to overtime with Northern Iowa or losing to Louisiana that we’ve become accustomed to during Campbell’s tenure in Ames.
2 – The streak ends at five
The number of people involved with the Iowa State football program who were here the last time the Cyclones beat Iowa could probably be tallied on one hand.
This Iowa State roster is (perhaps not) arguably the best the program has ever had. It has numerous players who will be regarded as some of the best to ever play their position in Ames, but despite numerous records and accolades, they’ve never beat the Hawkeyes.
You can be certain this group is aware of that fact. Nobody wants that to be one of the few boxes left unchecked as we contemplate their legacies inside the lore of Cyclone football.
Sept. 11 has been circled on a lot of Cyclone-themed calendars for a long time. I think that will be reflected on the football field.
3 – Snyder’s House of Horrors will still be stress-inducing
I know Iowa State thoroughly dominated Kansas State during last year’s 45-0 beatdown in Jack Trice Stadium, but I still consider the Oct. 16 date with the Wildcats in Manhattan to be one of the scariest on the slate going into the season.
After all, Iowa State hasn’t won in the house Bill Snyder built since 2004. We all remember the picked-up flags debacle in 2017 and the Wind Bowl in 2019.
Iowa State will be expected to, and should, win this game, but I find it very hard to believe that it won’t take an extremely stressful path to get there.
4 – Iowa State will be 6-0 going into a homecoming date with Mike Gundy
Mike Gundy is probably the guy who would show up to the homecoming dance wearing a button-down camouflage shirt with the sleeves ripped off, a pair of jeans cut off at the knees and a seed-corn cap that was purchased during the second Bush administration. And don’t forget the pair of steel-toe boots that he may or may not have worn while doing chores on the family farm immediately before he cleaned up (or just put on deodorant and sprayed half a can of Axe body spray on himself) and came to the dance.
Still, nobody else in the league has given Iowa State fits consistently like Gundy’s Cowboys. Campbell’s teams have bested Oklahoma State only once and it took a true freshman quarterback most people outside of central Iowa and the greater Phoenix area had never heard of to do it.
This game ranks high on the terror scale for me going into the year. You already know Gundy and his crew would love nothing more than to ruin Iowa State’s Cinderella season on the same field the Cyclones crushed his program’s own undefeated run 10 years earlier.
5 – Records will fall almost every week
Brock Purdy already owns 25 school records, but he’ll add several more to that list early in the season, including the career records for passing yards, completions, pass attempts and total offense.
Breece Hall will cement himself as one of the best backs to ever wear an Iowa State uniform when he passes Troy Davis as the program’s all-time leader in touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. He’s also roughly 1,900 yards short of Davis’ career rushing yards record.
JaQuan Bailey’s run as the career sack king at Iowa State might not even last an entire season. Will McDonald is only eight sacks away from tying his former pass-rushing mate for the most by a Cyclone.
If Connor Assalley maintains his starting kicker job, he’ll leave Ames as the most statistically decorated kicker in Cyclone history, too.
Charlie Kolar is already statistically the best tight end to ever play at Iowa State, but he’ll work his way onto the program’s top-10 charts for overall receiving. Mike Rose won’t break any records, but he’s got a chance to leave as a top-10 tackler at Iowa State in addition to moving up significantly on the all-time tackles for loss chart.
6 – ISU v. OU (Part I) could be CFB’s regular-season game of the year
Both teams will be favorites to win every game on their schedules ahead of their matchup in Norman on Nov. 20. If that holds true, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for them both to be in the top four of the CFP at kickoff. If the dominoes fell right, it could be a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2.
Iowa State in a “Game of the Century”… who would have thought?
The winner would leave with the upper hand in the race for a spot in the College Football Playoff until…
7 – ISU v. OU (Part II) could be CFB’s game of the year
The regular-season matchup would only be a primer for the real headliner between these two teams in Dallas with all the chips on the table for the taking.
It would be a matchup of two teams that will know each other unbelievably well. We don’t often see two teams play four times in a calendar year with so little roster turnover on both sides. It would be one last battle between two teams that have brought the best out of each other during this two-season stretch.
Campbell and Heacock vs. Riley. Manning vs. Grinch. Purdy vs. Rattler.
It would be a game deserving of a stage so big that even Jerryworld might not do it justice.
8 – A Cyclone goes to New York
I’m not going to make a call as to who it will be, but if Iowa State lives up to expectations, and especially if it can win the Big 12, I would be shocked to not see Breece Hall or Brock Purdy in New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December.
9 – New Year’s in New Orleans
As confident as I am in Iowa State’s ability to get there, I can’t pick them (or really anyone outside of the usual suspects) to make the College Football Playoff until I see it happen.
A date with old Big 12 rival Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl feels like a good consolation prize, assuming the city has recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Ida, which tragically swept across the region this weekend on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall.
10 – College Gameday comes back to Ames
…and one of the greatest scenes in the show’s history takes place as Iowa State fans show their disdain for ESPN for three hours while the show tries to go on without acknowledging the elephant in the room. Nobody in Ames is going to let you off the hook for how you’ve acted on television and as an AP poll voter during the last year, Rece Davis.
11 – Whatever happens will be unforgettable
It is hard to imagine a scenario in which Iowa State’s 2021 football season isn’t the most memorable on record. Whether it is ultimately memorable for good reasons
or bad reasons (not entertaining bad juju) remains to be seen, but it will be special regardless.
Let’s all enjoy celebrating this team we’ve watched grow up over the last four or five years. Let’s all enjoy celebrating the return of full stands to Jack Trice Stadium. Let’s just enjoy it all and soak in every second.
We’ve made it.