If you're a sports fan like me, about the time the calendar turns to June you're already sick of baseball, track, and golf and looking forward to the football season.
This year, in particular with all of the strife and turmoil in Ames over the past six weeks, probably more Cyclone fans than ever before are looking forward to Dan McCarney's charges taking the gridiron for the 2003 season.
Well, if you've got a football Jones, your Dr. Feelgood can already be found at a magazine rack near you. The preseason college football annuals are already prominently displayed at your favorite newsstands. Is it just me, or do these things come out earlier than before every year?
Anyway, I'm one of those guys that purchase a slew of these every summer for a quick pigskin fix. Already on my desk here at home at the Lindy's Big Ten and Lindy's Big 12 preview yearbooks. And within the next day or so I'll likely pick up an Athlons as well.
Yes, I know these things go to print in some cases before spring practice is over thus making their information exceedingly dated by the time the season starts, but I just can't help myself. The first week of June for me is like a Christmas in July sale for the wife. We both know the real season is still months away, yet we can't help but indulge ourselves nonetheless.
Inside the hallowed halls of the football offices within the Jacobson Building, they are also looking forward to the release of the college football preview magazines.
That's because perhaps no football program, and no coaching staff, in America is more undervalued by the college football media elite than Iowa State's. And perhaps no football program, and no coaching staff, in America thrives more on being underestimated than Iowa State's.
I've spoken to Mac several times the past few years about the lack of respect ISU gets each summer in the preview magazines. His response is always a combination of bemusement and frustration. Mac is clearly a coach who has few peers when it comes to marketing his program via the media and to the fans with positive energy. Nonetheless, he craves the motivational edge the no-respect card affords him. In fact, you could make the argument that the quest for respect is the foundation of the program Mac has established at Iowa State.
For example, check out this quote former ISU player Ben Bruns – who doubled as an analyst for CN and the Cyclone Radio Network last season – gave us after the Nebraska victory:
"The whole quest that we've been on since Coach McCarney arrived is for respect so that everybody in the nation recognizes us as one of the top programs. That quest continues."
Another example of this sentiment occurred at the 2001 ISU Media Day during a live broadcast of my radio show. During a commercial break, I was discussing with Mac the "unit ratings" in The Sporting News College Football Preview. TSN ranked Missouri's coaching staff, led by a freshman head coach who had yet to coach in a Big 12 game, ahead of Mac and ISU, which were coming off a 9-3 record and final top 25 ranking. I brought this up during the commercial break off-the-record because I thought Mac might be a little cautious about addressing publicly something involving a rival coach.
However, in what can only be described as quintessential Mac, he promptly went right after The Sporting News and their ranking his coaching staff below Missouri's as soon as we were back on the air.
Mac has also been known to open preseason press conferences by reciting off of the top of his head Iowa State's preseason rating in the various magazines. He's also been known to pin that information up on the bulletin board of the ISU locker room. Who says coaches don't pay attention to that type of stuff?
With that in mind, ISU coaches should find plenty of offseason motivational fodder in the Lindy's Big 12 preview.
In Lindy's preseason rankings of teams 1-117 in Division 1-A, the Cyclones come in at 59th, a full 27 slots lower than an Iowa team they have defeated the last five seasons in a row. ISU is also ranked behind "traditional powers" – note the sarcasm – like Missouri (35th), New Mexico (45th), Tulane (49th), and Central Florida (52nd).
In fact, the only bowl teams from 2002 ranked behind ISU in Lindy's 2003 preseason ratings are mid-major North Texas (60th), Kentucky (63rd) and Louisville (64th), who enter the season with new coaches, and Boise State (78th).
The Cyclones are also pegged for 10th place overall in the Big 12, and next-to-last in the North Division. Despite arguably the most competitive home schedule in school history, the only game Lindy's lists as one of its Big 12 "Big Ones" involving ISU is the Iowa-Iowa State clash on September 13th. No Iowa State players are named to Lindy's Big 12 "Honor Roll."
Now, there are some Cyclones who earn individual acclaim. Kicker Adam Benike, who had an inconsistent spring at best, and defensive lineman Jordan Carstens do earn preseason All-Big 12 honors from the magazine. Offensive lineman Bob Montgomery and safety JaMaine Billups are on the All-Big 12 second team. In addition, ISU's wide receivers, secondary, linebackers, and special teams are ranked in the first division of Big 12 teams in Lindy's unit ratings.
Nonetheless, despite some respectable assessments of the talent on hand in Ames, Lindy's does not project Iowa State to earn a school-record fourth consecutive bowl bid.
Something tells me that Mac and his lieutenants wouldn't have it any other way.
Big 12 Brutal Again
If Lindy's Big 12 Preview is any indication, the Big 12 is going to rank among college football's gated communities yet again.
Oklahoma is Lindy's preseason #1, and is also the preseason #1 in Athlons as well by the way. Lindy's also ranks Kansas State 5th, Texas 7th, and Colorado is 22nd. Oklahoma State (27th), Texas A&M (28th), Nebraska (34th), and Missouri (35th) are ranked in the top 40.
In its bowl projections Lindy's has two Big 12 teams in the BCS: Oklahoma is projected to beat Miami (Florida) in the Sugar Bowl for the national title while Texas is predicted to play Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl.
Lindy's also sends Missouri to the Independence Bowl, Oklahoma State to the Holiday Bowl, Colorado to the Houston Bowl, Texas A&M to the Alamo Bowl, Texas Tech to the Fort Worth Bowl, and Nebraska to the Tangerine Bowl.
Better Get Your Season Tickets
So far ISU has sold 17,420 season tickets for the 2003 football season. That's about 2,000 season tickets ahead of last year's pace with a goal of 25,000 season tickets in mind.
If you're on the fence about whether or not to cough up the reasonable price of $215 for a season ticket to support a program enjoying some unprecedented success in recent years, consider these two factors:
- Last week the ISU ticket office suspended single-game ticket sales for the Iowa-Iowa State game. That means the only way you're going to witness our state's biggest annual sports spectacle in person is by purchasing a season ticket.
- According to Lindy's, the No. 1 (Oklahoma), No. 5 (Kansas State), No. 7 (Texas), and No. 22 (Colorado) ranked teams all come to Ames as well.
The next step is for you to call 1-888-ISUCYCLONE.
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(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each weekday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)