Jul 23, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones (from left) defensive back Jacques Washington and running back Jeff Woody and head coach Paul Rhoads and linebacker Jeremiah Johnson pose for a photo during the Big 12 media days at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Before the Big 12 media days this week, the conference released their annual media preseason poll. As expected, the Iowa State Cyclones joined the Kansas Jayhawks in rounding out the bottom of the list. It’s possible that for the first time in the Paul Rhoads era, expectations should be at that level.
Since the Big 12 shrunk to ten teams and everybody played each other in a nine-game round robin format, the Cyclones have exceeded expectations. They have to play the Texas and Oklahoma schools each season along with a tough in-state schedule that features normally strong Iowa and Northern Iowa squads.
The strength of schedule can usually be found in the top 20, if not top ten in the nation. Yet the Cyclones continue to win enough games to make bowl games and draw massive crowds.
It’s the sign of things really turning for the Cyclones program. This team is finally gaining respect and showing that victories over Texas and Oklahoma State aren’t just flukes.
Yet this season may be a setback in many people’s eyes, but it shouldn’t be warranted.
The 2013 edition of the Iowa State football team will have the least amount of starters returning and the departure of two football leaders in A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. Both the young offensive and defensive lines will be rotating and learning a lot on the go which will be tough considering the demanding schedule — especially for quarterback Sam Richardson who’s only played in a handful of games at the end of last season.
Jul 23, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads speaks to the media during the Big 12 media days at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
While it should still remain a goal, it may not be plausible for this team to reach the six-win plateau of making a bowl game. Expectations should be a bit lower, but that doesn’t mean the excitement should die down.
Surprises happen during a season in any sport, and even when the road looks bleak the Cyclones have finally broken out of the “Eeyore” persona and will take on any challenge given to them in any week.
What should get more attention is how the team builds. The upcoming class of 2014 is already starting to look like the best football recruiting class in Iowa State history if the commitments stay on. Even if this squad only reaches three wins on the year, we can look back at how each individual improved and certain aspects of the team improved throughout the season.
Fans should take that better instead of a team that struggled at quarterback throughout most of the 2012 season and had plenty of running back injuries that killed the depth of that position. Let’s not forget that the Cyclones did finish ninth in the conference last season after all even if they did make a bowl game.
So get nuts and excited about this season. Despite whatever the record ends up to be, and if they make the postseason or not, it should be a fun ride amid some expected growing pains and sitting on the wrong end of potential blowouts. Nothing should stop fans from supporting this team, and that’s something that needs to stay on all of our minds before getting upset during the tough times.