1. The Iowa State Cyclones are in the first year of a new era for the program. Matt Campbell took over as the new head coach, after 7-years of Paul Rhodes. After three campaigns that totaled just 8 wins, it was time for a change. Campbell was the head coach at Toeldo for the last 5-years, netting a 35-15 record including 3 bowl games. It has been a rough start in Ames however, as the Cyclones lost to in-state rival Iowa 42-3, and even FCS team Northwern Iowa 25-20. Add in a 41-20 loss at TCU, and the 0-3 start was a rough one.
The Cyclones finally broke through last week though in a 44-10 victory over San Jose State. The Cyclones maligned passing attack got going to the tune of 316 passing yards and 5 touchdowns, two more than they had in their first three games combined.
2. One reason for the cyclones struggles in the passing attack has been the lack of a quarterback emerging from a crowded competition. Junior Joel Lanning came in as the presumptive starter, Jacob Park has played significant snaps as well. Lanning completed just 8 of 20 passes against Iowa, and had 3 interceptions through the first two weeks. Park came off the bench to lead Iowa State to three touchdowns in his time under center.
The Cyclones do have a dangerous weapon in the passing game with receiver Allen Lazard. The former 4-star recruit had 119 catches in his 2+ seasons in Ames, and has scored 11 touchdowns. He has 18 catches for 295 yards and 2 scores already in 2016. Their only other receiver of note is Trevor Ryen who is second on the team with 13 catches. He is more of a possession receiver and will be a threat out of the slot.
3. The main man for the Cyclone offense is sophomore running back Mike Warren, who rushed for 1339 yards in 2015. He is off to a slower start this year, with just 256 yards through four games. His yards per rush is down from 5.9 to 4.2. However, he had his first 100 yard game of the season against San Jose State, and got his first rushing touchdown as well.
Warren is the main man at running back, getting 61 of the teams 90 carries. Those other three runners have combined for just 102 yards and 3.52 yards per carry with no touchdowns. The Cyclones do involve the quarterback in the running game, with Lanning and Park at least capable of tucking the ball and running, but neither is a dynamic threat to run.
4. The Cyclone defense is in the midst of a massive rebuild, with only three starters from the previous season. They returned an experienced defensive backfield, featuring safety Kamari Cotton-Moya and corners Jomal Wiltz and Brian Peavy. However, a new set of linebackers has taken over this year with mixed results. Willie Harvey is the only returning starters at weakside linebacker, with Kane Seeley and Gabe Luna stepping into the lineup.
Results have been mixed, with the Cyclones allowed 209 rushing yards per game (102nd in the nation) and 4.70 yards per carry. They have been stronger against the pass, allowing under 200 yards per game, 35th in the nation. At 7-yards per attempt, the Cyclones are a bit below average, but not awful.
5. There is a long way to go for the Cyclones to get back to respectability. They might be the underdog in every game left on their schedule, even a road trip to Kansas in mid-November. With an offense that scores just 21.8 points per game, is 97th in yards per game, and 91st in yards per play, there is just no explosive offensive options for the Cyclones, never mind guys that can consistently put together scoring drives. ISU has just 46 plays this year that have gained over 10 yards, 103rd in the nation. Their defense is 80th in the nation in yards allowed, and 69th in yards per play. All this adds up to be a team that has been outscored 118-87 in a young season.