Ben Bruns was a standout center at Iowa State and a key member of the 2000 senior class that led Iowa State to a 9-3 record and top 25 ranking in both the final Coach's and AP polls. Bruns finished 5th in the voting for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the top center in college football, and in high school was named the Class 1-A Player of the Year by the Des Moines Register. The native of Denver, Iowa, now provides analysis for the Cyclone Radio Network, as well as Cyclone Nation, during the football season.
CN: Address the prestige of playing against third-ranked Florida State?
BRUNS: "I think you always look at a Florida State as one of the best in country. It's a tremendous honor to be involved in a game against them. But we already play some of the best teams in the country in the Big 12 every week."
CN: Realistically, how confident are the players heading into Saturday night?
BRUNS: "You can't look at it as Iowa State against Florida State. You have to look at the guy that's beside you. If you're confident in what he can do, and you do your job, then you're confident your team can play with anybody. If you get behind early then it gets hard to keep that mental attitude that you can win. It becomes more of a challenge to prove to yourself that it's going to be a ballgame. You have to smash them in the mouth right away or life gets real hard. As a player, you know what's going on around you. You read the papers and know what people are saying because there could be information about your opponent out there. We all strive for respect, and if you don't feel you're getting it when you read that stuff it's going to motivate you. But if it were me, I would look only at my assignment and what I have to do to beat my guy. If there are 22 Cyclones doing the same thing there's no reason you can't come out with a win. Florida State is not perfect, they're going to make mistakes."
CN: Do you agree with my assessment that perhaps only 6-8 Cyclones could crack the two-deep at Florida state?
BRUNS: "I don't agree with that at all. I think you're going to see a team in Iowa State that is the fastest we've ever had. Top to bottom I was just blown away at how fast the whole team is as I watched practice. The one edge that goes to Florida State is in the line. But we have good players there in the secondary and at wide receiver. One thing you can look to as a barometer is the bowl game against Alabama, which is a storied program. They have incredible athletes and you saw an Iowa State football team that was faster, stronger and more physical. That said to me that we can compete with anybody."
CN: Which teams in the Big 12 match up with Florida State athletically?
BRUNS: "I think definitely Kansas State and Colorado. Obviously, Texas is fast. But since we didn't play them last year I didn't get a feel for what type of talent they have."
CN: As a follow-up, can Florida State physically dominate Iowa State similar to what Kansas State and Colorado did last season?
BRUNS: "What you saw towards the end of last year was the maturation of that defensive front. We put Alabama and Iowa in long third-down situations and rarely did they convert. I really don't think it will be a case of Florida State running the ball all over the place. If everyone stays healthy, we will be able to put them in long third-down situations. I think guys like Jordan Carstens can stand in there and man up."
CN: As a former center, what do you think can reasonably be expected from a young and inexperienced offensive line making its debut against Florida State?
BRUNS: "I don't know that that can be quantified in terms of a 100-yard rusher or no sacks allowed at this point. Those guys are so young it has to be quantified in terms of assignments. If people are in the right place at the right time things will go well. But not having experience against a defensive line that does all sorts of crazy stuff is something you can't put in tangible terms. I would want to see no mental errors, because that's what's going to make the difference."
CN: Are there any areas where Iowa State holds the advantage over Florida State, in your opinion?
BRUNS: "I think defensive back and quarterback are two areas. Our secondary is loaded and there are four good cover-corners to choose from. The safeties, you can't find many better guys than that. I think Chris Rix just basically launches it out there with the caliber of receivers they have and turns it into a track-meet. Hopefully he'll make some mistakes as a second-year guy. I don't see Seneca making those mistakes. He's far beyond any quarterback I saw last year in terms of the total package. There are very few situations where he doesn't do something intelligent."
CN: What would a win Saturday night mean for the Iowa State program?
BRUNS: "So much has been made of not beating a ranked team. I think this would go beyond that. I think it goes to your entire season. If you win this game, there may be nobody else that can beat you unless you get hurt, because you believe that you can beat anybody. That's the sort of breakthrough that we've been waiting for."
CN: How much of an advantage will the pro-Cyclone crowd at Arrowhead Stadium be?
BRUNS: "If things get cranking early it could be a big factor. But if we get down early the air could go out of there quickly. What the crowd needs to understand is that it's a four-quarter football game and they need to be patient."
CN: Let's say you're the offensive coordinator. What's a good opening play-call to set the tempo for the game and the season?
BRUNS: "I think maybe a roll-out pass is something I would look at to get Seneca outside and throwing the ball. Any play where he has the ball would be a good choice. So would a reverse. Another thing is our tradition of establishing the running game early."
CN: Give us your winning formula for a Cyclone upset over Florida State.
BRUNS: "Time of possession is the key. I'm not completely convinced we'll be able to run the ball as effectively as we have in the past. But, last year before the Iowa game I said that if we don't run the ball better than they do we won't win. And we didn't. However, Seneca, the receivers, and the protection was so good that it didn't matter. You can control the game throwing the ball as long as you're making conversions on third down and that's what we need to do."