Surely, you’d think a team sitting in the top third of a Power-Five Conference would get a little more praise than they currently receive. That team, in this case, is the Iowa State Cyclones. Their record indicates a team just over the .500 mark, but they could easily be undefeated, or at least have a couple more wins.
I don’t know what it is about the Cyclones, but when it comes to big time analysts, it seems they can only get one, maybe two to side with them. In the world of college football, that’s Kirk Herbstreit, and occasionally, Desmond Howard.
Go back to the third week of the season when the annual “Mecca” game went down between the Cyclones and Hawkeyes. This game was more special than years past with College Gameday electing to come to Ames for the first time ever. In addition to that hype, more history could’ve been made with a possible Top 25 matchup for the first time in the decades-long rivalry.
A slow start
Both teams entered this season ranked, and thus was the hope they would stay ranked for the “Super Bowl” within the State of Iowa. Unfortunately, the Cyclones managed to just drop out the week prior. Iowa State opened their season against the in-state Northern Iowa Panthers, an FCS school which had a history against both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. A near upset resulted as Iowa State’s offense was lackluster, but they managed to eke out a win in triple-overtime.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, the Hawkeyes steamrolled their first two opponents, slowly climbing the ranks along the way. Iowa State’s narrow win slid them closer to being unranked, and they were on the outside looking in after two weeks, partially due to having an early Bye week.
You can’t necessarily fault the College Gameday crew for the picks they made, with most picking the Hawkeyes to win, despite being in Ames. When you look at it on paper, a close loss to even a top-tier FCS program looks bad. That was the only film the crew could really base their picks off of, while Iowa looked like a truly rounded team, despite playing low-level FBS schools. Regardless, it seemed like Iowa State already wasn’t getting enough respect.
Racking up wins
Those Cyclones nearly pulled off the upset, losing to Iowa by one point (18-17) after muffing a punt late in the fourth quarter.
They responded in a big way by essentially murdering UL Monroe the following week by rolling up 72 points and setting various schools records along the way.
The rollercoaster ride continued when they went down to Waco and put together a massive late comeback, only to fall short 23-21 due to a late field goal by the Bears.
Brock Purdy found his stride again and Brocktober reemerged to help Iowa State rattle off three dominating wins over TCU (49-24), West Virginia (38-14), and Texas Tech (34-24). Their consectuive wins streak in the month of October ended however when they hosted the Cowboys the following week, losing another close game 34-27, their largest margin of defeat on the season. Of course, Tylan Wallace, regarded as one of the best WR in college football, had a career day against the Cyclones, then proceeded to tear his ACL just days later.
Before that loss to Oklahoma State, the Cyclones had made another brief appearance in the rankings. Had they won that game, a massive showdown with Oklahoma was on the horizon for a chance to vault into second place in the conference. Alas, that didn’t happen, but both teams had a Bye week to prepare and try to avenge being upset.
Similar to the Baylor game, Iowa State fell behind early but managed to do just enough to hang around. Purdy and the Cyclones nearly staged one of the largest comebacks in school history, down by 21 points at the half and cutting it to one with just seconds left. Matt Campbell and the Cyclones elected to go for the two-point conversion, a risky move that almost paid off. Instead, the Cyclones lost to the Sooner 42-41, marking their fourth loss of the season by one score or less.
Two tough losses in a row, the Cyclones were sure to not let another one slip away. Still in the meat of their schedule, they hosted the newly ranked Longhorns for a very important game. Lose, and they drop into the middle tier of the conference, but a win would keep them afloat in the top third. Iowa State got things going out of the gate and led most of the game, until Texas started chipping away in the second half. Iowa State found themselves down by one (here we go again) with just over three minutes left to play. Enough time to execute a final scoring drive, but no mistakes could be made.
Sitting just outside the redzone, the Cyclones were staring at fourth & five. They could send in Connor Assalley to attempt a go-ahead field goal, but then Texas would have two minutes and change to respond. They kept the offense on the field and were able to draw Texas offsides to move the sticks. A couple of simple run plays brought the clock down to four seconds, letting the result rest on Assalley’s shoulders. Texas was out of timeouts, so there was no opportunity to freeze the kicker, thankfully. Assalley kicked it true as time expired and the Cyclones finally were on the winning side of a close game once again.
Iowa State holds a 6-4 record overall and are 4-3 in conference play. They’ve lost their four games by a combined 11 points, but could also be eight points away from being 4-6, clinging to the hopes of getting to another bowl game. Kansas is on the docket next, followed by a road game at Kansas State to close out the regular season. There’s a very high possibility they win both games and finish at least third in the conference.
Teams above them consist of Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. The two Oklahoma’s have yet to square off, meaning Iowa State could move into third if the Sooners win. Baylor hosts Texas next week in a pivotal game, with both teams coming off dissappointing losses. To think that the Cyclones could finish third in a conference that’s had as many as five teams ranked at one time, and not be talked about more, is just sad, but that’s usually how things go for Iowa State.
There’s chaos yet to be had within the Big 12, but the one fact is, the Cyclones will be going Bowling once again, it’s just a matter of where.
One other fun nugget: Purdy is currently third in FBS in terms of passing yards, trailing only Anthony Gordon (Washington State) and Joe Burrow (LSU).
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