Thanks to a switch in the football schedule, Iowa State won’t play its third non-conference game until well into the season against Toledo. Just because they aren’t familiar doesn’t mean that the Cyclones can dismiss them. They complete a non-conference schedule that could be one of the toughest they have had in a long time.
First up it was three-time FCS champion North Dakota State, then an Iowa team that’s expected to finish in the top two of their division in the Big Ten, and now it’s Toledo. They started 7-3 in 2013 with just three losses on the road to Florida, Missouri and Ball State. Then in the final two games, they got hammered pretty good by Northern Illinois at home and then lost a shoot-out on the road against Akron.
One thing that will help the Iowa State defense are the Rockets losing their major offensive players. Starting quarterback Terrance Owens, running back leader David Fluellen, and wide receiving leader Bernard Reedy are all gone. Fluellen will be the biggest miss as he carried the ball 166 times for 1,114 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 27 catches for 222 yards, the third-best receiver on the team.
Toledo focuses on the run, ranking 14th nationally. They’ll still have one half of their tandem from last season, Kareem Hunt, who exploded as a freshman last year with 137 carries for 866 yards and 6 touchdowns. He’ll hope to renew a dual-threat tandem by having Marc Remy, Damion Jones-Moore, or Cassius McDowell step up in their production.
The only quarterback that comes in with production is sophomore Logan Woodside, who went 21-of-41 with 240 yards and recorded a touchdown in four games. The other QBs on the list are redshirt freshman Michael Julian and junior Phillip Ely, but Woodside is expected to be the opening day starter.
Like most MAC teams, what holds Toldeo back is the defense. The team ranked 88th nationally and couldn’t stop anyone. They gave up 28.6 points per game, opponents were more successful than them on third downs, and they let opponents score 90.2 percent of the time in the red zone.
They only held an opponent to under 20 points twice in the season and both of those teams went a combined 8-16 last year.
If you had to rank how difficult teams are on the Iowa State schedule, it’s hard to say if Toledo is definitely better than Kansas or West Virginia. There’s just too many question marks coming in with the offense along with a weak defense from last season.
Either way, Iowa State is in prime condition to take this game, especially after getting some reps in the season. If the Cyclones find their way to a 2-3 season by the time they get to this game (like I projected), they’ll still be in the fight for a bowl berth with a victory. I think that will happen in a shootout.
IAST 35, TOL 31