Monday Musings

In his weekly word, Cyclone Nation's Steve Deace says he doesn't like the budding overconfidence of Iowa State fans heading into this week's showdown with not-as-mighty, but still dangerous, Nebraska.

The importance of this week's upcoming game against not-as-mighty Nebraska cannot be understated.

Choose your cliche. I'll go with watershed. This is a pivotal moment in the development of the Iowa State program from doormat to also-ran to Big 12 North contender.

Ironically, it's the 10th anniversary of the last time the Cyclones toppled the Big Red. It's the first time these two old foes are each ranked going into the matchup since 1978, the year my 24-year old little brother was born. That should give you perspective on just how wide the gulf in tradition is between these two combatants.

The Huskers are there for the taking, but that's what makes them especially dangerous. See, they know that as well. A program of their caliber didn't earn its esteemed tradition because it's used to waving the white flag when it's feeling vulnerable. You don't make the coveted nine-win plateau your Mendoza Line because you cower at the first glimpse of adversity.

Nebraska is proud, and has good reason to be. The worst thing that could have happened to Iowa State was Penn State's 40-7 pulverizing of the Huskers on Sept. 14th. The Husker Nation has had two weeks to sit and stew in its own misery after that debacle, and they're looking to vent that frustration on an Iowa State team it's used to venting on.

Another thing your Cyclones hardly need going into this pivotal tilt is your overconfidence. I read with particular interest in the Des Moines Register this morning that Cyclone fans expect a victory over Nebraska. I'm guessing that headline from Iowa's newspaper of record will be greeting the Husker players when they arrive for practice this afternoon.

Dan McCarney and the Iowa State program have thrived on being the underdog. A program with the pride of a Nebraska thrives on being disrespected. That's not a good emotional dynamic heading into the game.

The last two times I can remember a Nebraska team being dismissed this much was before the 1994 Orange Bowl and a 1997 game at Washington.

In the 1994 Orange Bowl, the #1-ranked Huskers were 17-point underdogs to a Florida State team with talent like Charlie Ward, Derrick Brooks, and Warrick Dunn. All the Big Red did was play the Seminoles all the way to the final gun, before losing on a missed field goal at the end.

The 1997 game is an even better example. The Huskers were coming off a poor showing at home against Daunte Culpepper and Central Florida. The next week they traveled to Seattle for a matchup with #2-ranked Washington as a touchdown underdog. The defense promptly knocked Brock Huard, Washington's starting quarterback, out of the game in the first half and rolled to victory.

In both of those cases, statements were made.

Iowa State had a chance to make a statement against Texas A&M two years ago in Ames in a game that was also a 2:30 start on ABC. The Aggies had struggled early in the season, and a Cyclone win would've put ISU in the top 25. Jack Trice Stadium was buzzing with anticipatory glee at the prospect of their Cyclones finally besting a traditional power. Instead, Iowa State laid an egg and was punished by the quicker and stronger Aggies.

Now, there are two key differences from the aforementioned examples that work in Iowa State's favor:

    1. You now have Seneca Wallace, arguably the best at his position in college football right now, as your starting quarterback.
    2. This is a Nebraska defense that has surrendered at least 40 points in three of its last six games going back to last season.

Still, never count out the Huskers. They don't have all those wins, Heisman Trophies, Big 8/Big 12 championships, bowl game appearances, and national titles for nothing. Trust me when I tell you this will be the most physical game Iowa State will play this season.

Remember this week this is an Iowa State program still in its adolescence, struggling to find its place in the general scheme of things. Will the Cyclones plateau as a solid program capable of contending for mid-major bowl appearances, or is the rest of the program good enough to capitalize on a once in-a-lifetime talent like Wallace to reach previously unattained heights.

Saturday at about 6 p.m. central time we'll have our answer.

The Iowa City Investigation

There may or may not be some news very soon in the investigation of an alleged sexual assault that may or may not have taken place at a residence in Iowa City housing several members of the Iowa men's basketball team.

I would like to use this space to ask all of you to reserve judgement until at least charges are filed, and trust me when I tell you it's no guarantee they will be. Remember that discretion is the better form of valor.

Please refrain from naming names until the ICPD does; or doesn't, as the case may be. If charges are filed, please take no joy in this. It's not just bad for the Hawkeyes but for the whole state as well. This would bring undue scrutiny on our state and I ask all of you to keep in mind the still unresolved charges filed against Brent Nash and Royce Hooks, two former members of the Iowa State football team.

Let me finish by stating one thing my wife has pointed out: one bothersome aspect of this ordeal has been the lack of regard by many of us, myself included, for the alleged victim. Most of the talk has centered around the lack of direction of Steve Alford's program and the impact any charges would have on his status and the program. I understand that sports is our forum, and that many of us are uneasy thinking in those terms. However, let's not forget this is a human issue, not a basketball one.

Weekly Top 25

If I had a vote in the AP poll this would've been my ballot this week:

1. Miami, Fla. (4-0)

Last week: 1

This week: idle

2. Texas (3-0)

Last week: 2

This week: at Tulane

3. Georgia (3-0)

Last week: 3

This week: New Mexico State

4. Oklahoma (3-0)

Last week: 4

This week: South Florida

5. Virginia Tech (4-0)

Last week: 9

This week: at Western Michigan

6. Ohio State (4-0)

Last week: 7

This week: Indiana

7. Florida State (3-0)

Last week: 8

This week: at Louisville

8. Florida (3-1)

Last week: 14

This week: Kentucky

9. Notre Dame (4-0)

Last week: 10

This week: idle

10. Penn State (3-0)

Last week: 16

This week: Iowa

11. Oregon (4-0)

Last week: 12

This week: idle

12. Tennessee (2-1)

Last week: 5

This week: Rutgers

13. Kansas State (4-0)

Last week: 20

This week: idle

14. USC (2-1)

Last week: 6

This week: Oregon State

15. Michigan (3-1)

Last week: 13

This week: at Illinois

16. Washington State (3 -1)

Last week: 15

This week: at California

17. N.C. State (5-0)

Last week: 24

This week: Massachusetts

18. Colorado State (3-1)

Last week: 18

This week: at Nevada

19. Washington (2-1)

Last week: 18

This week: Idaho

20. Iowa State (4-1)

Last week: 21

This week: Nebraska

21. Wisconsin (5-0)

Last week: 23

This week: idle

22. Nebraska (3-1)

Last week: 22

This week: at Iowa State

23. Texas A&M (2-1)

Last week: 11

This week: Louisiana Tech

24. Oregon State (4-0)

Last week: NR

This week: at USC

25. Auburn (3-1)

Last week: NR

This week: Syracuse

Dropped out: #21 Boston College, #25 California

Honorable Mention: #26 Alabama (3-1); #27 Air Force (3-0); #28 LSU (2-1); #29 Kentucky (4-0); #30 Georgia Tech (3-1).

(Steve Deace can be heard each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines)

AllCyclones Top Stories