Monday Musings -- Late Edition

In his latest, and late, Monday Musings our publisher says this could be a very big week for ISU athletics.

After a year full of more than its fair share of controversy, disappointment, and tragedy, a beleaguered Cyclone Nation has been left wondering if that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

However, if things work out right this week, battle-weary Iowa State sports fans could find themselves singing a different tune; something like Here Comes the Sun. If things turn out right this week, it could mark a turning point in what has otherwise been a dismal year thus far for cardinal-and-gold faithful.

First off, Wayne Morgan's men's basketball program, which is still at the fetal stage of development, could land a commitment from one of the top high school basketball players in the United States. Roy Bright of Mount Zion (Durham, NC) Christian Academy is poised to make his college destination known on Thursday. Sources indicate to CN and TheInsiders that after being pursued by the likes of Cincinnati, Oklahoma, North Carolina State, LSU, Michigan, and Connecticut, Bright is set to decide between ISU and Tennessee.

And it appears that ISU is favored to land his high-flying services.

Ames and Knoxville were the only campuses this athletic phenom took official visits to, and the two schools have been jockeying back and forth for his affections for months now. ISU assistant coach Fred Quartlebaum has had a relationship with Bright for a few years now, going back to his Tar Heel days. When Morgan hired Coach Q, landing Bright became one of ISU's highest priorities.

Coach Q's easy-going, friendly approach to Bright has apparently earned his trust, while other suitors having been pulling out all the stops to impress him. We here at CN were actually tipped off last Wednesday from our sources that Bright was leaning towards ISU and could make an announcement this week. However, those same sources asked us to sit on that information until further notice because of the mounting pressure on Bright to stay closer to home and attending a "bigger name school."

Plus, trust me when I tell you that football and basketball programs closely monitor the recruiting information posted on sites such as ours on both TheInsiders and Rivals networks, because guys like our Bill Seals are allowed to talk to their prospects more than they are per NCAA rules. Thus, had we let the cat out of the bag a week ago that one of the top prep basketball players in the country was leaning towards ISU, that would've given rival recruiters a heads-up that it was time to pull out all the stops.

Dave Telep, the lead basketball-recruiting analyst for TheInsiders, says Bright is the best player to come out the heralded program at Mount Zion since Tracy McGrady in 1997. Van Coleman of FutureStars actually thinks Bright is a better athlete than McGrady. Those heady accolades aside, landing a top player like Bright would bring instant legitimacy to Coach Morgan's program even before the start of preseason practice.

That's because right now all that the new coaching staff at ISU has to sell is itself. They haven't won anything yet. They haven't coached against Kansas yet. They haven't even established a program yet, but already they've landed a top-150 recruit in Rahshon Clark and may get the commitment of an All-American in Bright. It makes you wonder what they'll be able to accomplish on the recruiting front once they actually have a product to sell?

We knew the coaching staff at ISU had an impressive resume when it came to recruiting contacts and networking, and make no mistake that recruiting – as legendary Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall used to say – is 70 percent of the game. But did anybody think those reputations would pay dividends already?

Impressive, to say the least.

The next piece of good news could come courtesy of the football program this Saturday against 20th-ranked Northern Illinois. The Cyclones are a touchdown underdog against a Huskies squad that has arguably the most impressive non-conference win resume in all of college football.

Last week, NIU – which normally plays before crowds of 30,000 in Dekalb – went down to Tuscaloosa and upset then-No. 21 Alabama in front of over 80,000 fans. Folks, the Crimson Tide have won almost 90 percent of their games all-time at Bryant-Denny Stadium, so don't underestimate how impressive that was.

Still, I'm guessing Dan McCarney loves how this game is setting up because nobody relishes the underdog role more than he does. His Big 12 Cyclones are underdogs in a game that many of us thought would be an "upset trap" before the season started. The Huskies are hearing the hype, while the Cyclones are fielding reports, without any factual basis, of team dissent.

ISU has had two weeks off to get mad, get better, and get healthy. It looks like the Cyclones could get everyone back except punter/kickoff specialist Tony Yelk, which means this will be the healthiest squad they've fielded this season. They should play some angry football after the way they were dominated and broke down against Iowa. And by getting back several injured players they should be better.


NIU is good, but its style of play is conservative, ball-control offense with Michael Turner to complement its outstanding defense. That means, barring any further special teams breakdowns, this should be a close game.

That also means it will be up to somebody in the white ISU jersey to step up and make a play to win the game. If that happens, this could be the swing game of the season and eight weeks from now when the Cyclones make it to a fourth straight bowl game will look back and point to this week as the week that it turned around and the team found an identity.

If it doesn't happen, it could be a long season. Saturday should be interesting.

The Not So Big 12?

The national landscape in college football appears to be as wide open as ever. Consider the fact that the Mid-America Conference has five wins against ranked non-conference opponents, and that's five more than the Big 12 owns.

Heading into the season, it appeared the Big 12 and Big Ten would be the toughest conferences in the country, but parity has arrived and both leagues have experienced their share of non-conference disappointments.

Texas Tech gets hammered at N.C. State. Kansas State loses to a Marshall squad at home that was playing with a backup quarterback. Missouri needs overtime to beat Middle Tennessee State. Kansas lost at home to Northwestern. Texas lost at home to Arkansas by double-digits. Colorado has allowed 89 points in its last two outings.

What does this mean? Well, those of you that hit the message boards and the call-in shows following the Iowa loss with cries of cancel the season may have been a little premature.

Oklahoma has been impressive, and it's highly unlikely the Cyclones have any shot to win that game on October 4th. But as I look at the rest of the games on ISU's schedule right now, I don't see similar mismatches any longer. It's still going to be an uphill climb to get back to the postseason with the schedule that awaits, but talk that ISU was going to not win a game the rest of the way or finish 4-8 is way, way, way overboard this early in the season.

Then again, we'll learn a lot about the Cyclones from the way they respond on Saturday in Dekalb.

Note about next week

There will not be a Monday Musings column from me next week because I will be taking my mother to the Mayo Clinic for a serious operation.

I'll try to keep up with what's going on back home while I am away, and answer your questions on our premium message board. But due to the seriousness of the procedure, I won't be able to commit to putting together a column next week. I'm sure you guys understand that family comes first, and if any of you out there believe in the power of prayer please keep my mother in yours if it's not too much trouble.

My Top 25

If I had a vote in this week's Associated Press poll, this would've been my top 25 ballot:

1. USC (3-0)

Last week: 1

This week: idle

Next week: at California (2-3)

2. Oklahoma (4-0)

Last week: 2

This week: beat UCLA, 59-24

Next week: idle

3. Miami, Fla. (4-0)

Last week: 7

This week: beat Boston College, 33-14

Next week: idle

4. LSU (4-0)

Last week: 5

This week: beat Georgia, 17-10

Next week: at Mississippi State (0-3)

5. Ohio State (4-0)

Last week: 4

This week: beat Bowling Green, 24-17

Next week: Northwestern (2-2)

6. Florida State (4-0)

Last week: 10

This week: beat Colorado, 47-7

Next week: at Duke (2-2)

7. Virginia Tech (3-0)

Last week: 11

This week: beat Texas A&M, 35-19

Next week: Connecticut (3-1)

8. Tennessee (3-0)

Last week: 12

This week: beat Florida, 24-10

Next week: South Carolina (3-1)

9. Arkansas (3-0)

Last week: 14

This week: beat North Texas, 20-7

Next week: at Alabama (2-2)

10. Oregon (4-0)

Last week: 21

This week: beat Michigan, 31-27

Next week: #21 Washington State (3-1)

11. Michigan (3-1)

Last week: 2

This week: lost to Oregon, 31-27

Next week: Indiana (1-3)

12. Georgia (3-1)

Last week: 8

This week: lost to LSU, 17-10

Next week: idle

13. Iowa (4-0)

Last week: 17

This week: beat Arizona State, 21-2

Next week: at Michigan State (3-1)

14. Nebraska (3-0)

Last week: 13

This week: idle

Next week: at Southern Mississippi (2-1)

15. Texas (2-1)

Last week: 18

This week: beat Rice, 48-7

Next week: Tulane (3-1)

16. Northern Illinois (3-0)

Last week: NR

This week: beat Alabama, 19-16

Next week: Iowa State (2-1)

17. Kansas State (4-1)

Last week: 9

This week: lost to Marshall, 27-20

Next week: idle

18. Minnesota (4-0)

Last week: 19

This week: beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 48-14

Next week: at Penn State (2-2)

19. TCU (3-0)

Last week: 22

This week: beat Vanderbilt, 30-14

Next week: at Arizona (1-3)

20. Washington State (3-1)

Last week: NR

This week: beat New Mexico, 23-13

Next week: at #10 Oregon (4-0)

21. Toledo (3-1)

Last week: NR

This week: beat Pittsburgh, 35-31

Next week: at Syracuse (2-1)

22. Pittsburgh (2-1)

Last week: 6

This week: lost to Toledo, 35-31

Next week: at Texas A&M (2-1)

23. Bowling Green (3-1)

Last week: 23

This week: lost to Ohio State, 24-17

Next week: idle

24. Purdue (2-1)

Last week: 24

This week: beat Arizona, 59-7

Next week: Notre Dame (1-2)

25. Wake Forest (3-1)

Last week: 25

This week: beat East Carolina, 34-16

Next week: at Virginia (2-1)

Out: #15 Florida (2-2); #16 Arizona State (2-1); #20 Alabama (2-2).

Honorable Mention: 26. Louisville (3-0); 27. Florida (2-2); 28. Washington (2-1); 29. Missouri (4-0); 30. N.C. State (2-2).

(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460 KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)


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