After a short hiatus, we are back to our Way Too Early Previews and I have decided I wanted to switch up how we are going to do these. All of the previews have focused on each position and not as much of the projection of what teams will do this upcoming year. Starting with Iowa State, we will look at their schedule and break down the season while also looking at key players returning. Strap in because here we go! (Disclosure, not all schedules have been released but we do know who Iowa State plays)
Week 1: Northern Iowa – Iowa State is 23-5-1 vs Northern Iowa but the last decade has been competitive between the two schools. The Cyclones are 5-3 in the last eight matchups with the most recent game in 2019 going to triple overtime. QB Brock Purdy and RB Breece Hall should provide enough offense to top Northern Iowa but they should not look past the Panthers or they could end up 0-1 to start the season. Prediction: 38-17 Iowa State
Week 2: Iowa Hawkeyes – Iowa State has only beaten Iowa five times since 2003, but this might be the best team they have had in that time frame. The Hawkeyes are also going to be a tough team this season with them beginning in our preseason top 25 as well. This will be Purdy’s first chance to showcase his talents on a national stage in 2021 and put himself in early Heisman discussions if he has a good game. One major key for this game for Iowa State is the fact it returns all of its starting offensive linemen. The continuity between the offensive line, quarterback, and running back will be vital for a game that should come down to the wire. Prediction: 24-20 Iowa State
Week 3: @ UNLV – Expect Iowa State to blow out UNLV. The Rebels are not a good football team right now. UNLV played a conference only six game schedule and lost all of their games by double digits. LB Mike Rose and the defense should be able to hold UNLV to very few points. Rose returning for the Cyclones is a huge as he was the leading tackler and also had 10.5 tackles for loss and five interceptions. Matt Campbell will have his defense clicking and if there is any doubt, the UNLV game will be one where they get extra confidence.
TBD: @ Baylor: In 2020, the Baylor Bears went 2-7 but gave Iowa State all they could handle. With the Bears down by a touchdown, Charlie Brewer threw an interception in the endzone with under a minute left in the game to secure the Cyclone victory. Baylor should be improved in 2021 but they did lose Charlie Brewer. With the game in Waco, that does pose an additional challenge. WR Xavier Hutchinson only had two catches in this game. Hutchinson was Iowa State’s leading receiver in 2020 and should be so again in 2021. TE Charlie Kolar should be a major factor as well after having over 500 receiving yards. Prediction: 30-20 Iowa State
TBD Kansas: The Les Miles experiment in Kansas has not gotten off to the kind of start they would have liked. 2021 will be much of the same. Iowa State has too much firepower and is superior at skill positions for Kansas to match them. A breakout player to watch on the Iowa State team is DB Isheem Young. Last season he finished with 54 tackles and one interception. He has the potential to elevate his game where his an all conference player in the Big 12 next season. Prediction: 45-13 Iowa State
TBD Oklahoma State: This will be a revenge game for Iowa state in 2021. The Cyclones played poorly in this game and know they did not put themselves in a good position to win. They missed two field goals and had seven drives of 15 yards or less. Oklahoma State loses a fair amount from their team including RB Chuba Hubbard and WR Tylan Wallace and should be the underdog against Iowa State next year. The Cyclones will have an experienced secondary bringing back over 88% of their interceptions and passes broken up back. Playing against a team who loves to throw it like Oklahoma State will give them the experience needed to come out on top. Prediction: 33-17 Iowa State
TBD TCU: The TCU Horned Frogs are a sleeper for the 2021 season. QB Max Duggan and RB Zach Evans should lead a formidable offense to help make them a threat in the Big 12. They do not have enough pieces to win the Big 12 next season, but they can finish in the top 4 or 5 of the conference. DL Ochaun Mathis proved to be the only player who could get consistent pressure on the TCU defense last year, but Iowa State has an experienced offensive line which should help negate him. Iowa State RB Breece Hall ran for over 150 yards and three touchdowns against TCU in 2020 and he will be even more of a threat in 2021. Prediction: 33-28 Iowa State
TBD Texas: The Longhorns took Iowa State to the wire, like many did, in 2020. Texas loses their QB and captain in Sam Ehlinger and fired Tom Herman. Steve Sarkisian takes over the reigns and begins a new era of Texas football. Iowa State was able to contain RB Bijan Robinson last year, but I am less certain they will be able to in 2021. Robinson should be one of the best running backs next year and containing him will be a challenge. Iowa State does return over 80% of its tackles and 70% of its tackles for loss meaning they will be up for the challenge. This game is being played in Ames, but I think Texas pulls the upset as Robinson runs wild. Prediction: 24-21 Texas
TBD @ Kansas State: After QB Skylar Thompson went down with an injury on October 3rd, the Wildcats played like a much different team. So much where they lost their last five games of the year after beating Oklahoma early in the year. One of the lone bright spots for the Wildcats was RB Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn only had 44 yards in the 45-0 beatdown by Iowa State last year. Thompson will make a difference for the game, but not enough to change the outcome. The Cyclones returning LB Mike Rose, LB Jake Hummel, and LB Vance O’Rien means too much to this defense and should shut down the Kansas State offense. Prediction: 42-20 Iowa State
TBD @ Oklahoma: Iowa State managed to beat Oklahoma early in the year and then fell short in the conference championship game losing by six. Oklahoma and Iowa State are the two best teams in the Big 12. You can read the Oklahoma preview here. QB Spencer Rattler returns, as do many of his weapons. QB Brock Purdy is going to need to be accurate and limit his mistakes for the Cyclones to have a chance in this game. Purdy threw three interceptions in the Big 12 championship game. RB Breece Hall only had 79 yards in the Big 12 title game. While he had two touchdowns, he was not moving the chains on a consistent basis. Prediction: 38-30 Oklahoma
TBD @ Texas Tech: Matt Wells has been subpar in his time at Texas Tech. QB Alan Bowman recently entered the transfer portal meaning QB Henry Colombi is the likely candidate to take over. Wells came in with a reputation of producing high powered offenses and that has not happened at Texas Tech. Five times he failed to reach 25 points in 2021 and seven times he failed to reach 30 points. Wells enters this season on the hot seat and Iowa State will not do much to help him out. The Cyclones return 82% of their receiving yards meaning Purdy should be comfortable with his targets and have the ability to score against poor defenses. Prediction: 41-17 Iowa State
TBD @ West Virginia: The Mountaineers of West Virginia had a very up and down season in 2020. They showed times where they had a high powered offense but also had instances where they they barely made it to double digit points. In their games against Texas, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State, West Virginia scored a total of 29 points. Neal Brown returns to coach West Virginia and QB Seth Doege also returns which should allow for stabilization and consistency. Iowa State is already there with consistency so the trip to Morgantown should be a formality. Brock Purdy and Breece Hall will be too much. Prediction: 31-17 Iowa State
Analysis: Iowa State goes 10-2 with losses to Texas and Oklahoma. While this may be a disappointment to Cyclones fans, this record still puts Iowa State in the Big 12 title game with a shot at Oklahoma. Brock Purdy and Breece Hall both put themselves in the Heisman discussion with Purdy taking the lead late in the season. Iowa State finishes with a top 20 defense and the best defense in the Big 12. Matt Campbell continues to show why he is one of the best coaches in college football. Overall, another great season for the Iowa State Cyclones.