Take a look at Iowa State's 2015 schedule. Do you see a must-win?
If Iowa State is to take the step forward in 2015 that it has so often talked about since the conclusion of last season, there certainly seems to be a must-win game. Which one? Week 1 against in-state rival Northern Iowa.
That might sound silly calling a Week 1 game — against an FCS opponent no less — a must-win, but that matchup against the Panthers could be the tone-setter for the weeks ahead. Iowa State has dropped its last two season-openers (both against FCS foes), and has watched the season spiral downward from there with a combined five wins in two years.
A season-opening win could change that trajectory.
On top of that, Iowa State will be debuting its new south end zone expansion at Jack Trice Stadium in front of 61,500 fans. Plus, the season-opener marks the start of the easier portion of the Cyclones' schedule with Iowa, Toledo, Texas Tech and Kansas to follow before they hit the brunt of the Big 12 schedule with the likes of TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma.
The good news for Iowa State is that Northern Iowa has lost running back David Johnson to the NFL and is currently sorting through a four-way quarterback battle heading into Week 1. Meanwhile, Iowa State's veteran offense should be ready to take the next step while the new-look defense should be improved.
Whatever the case, if Iowa State wants to see improvement in 2015, it must start fast. That means Week 1 against UNI is a must-win.