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 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 and Cyclone Nation during the football season.
CN: During the bye week Iowa State got some good news and bad news. Let's start with the good. Rex Grossman throwing four interceptions in Florida's upset loss at Mississippi definitely helped Seneca Wallace's Heisman candidacy.
BRUNS: It did, but ultimately I think it comes down to how you play down the stretch. Even though Trev Alberts was saying Grossman is out of it, if he plays well down the stretch and Florida wins the SEC he's back in it. The same could be said for Seneca as well.
CN: Then there's the bad. The second half schedule was tough enough without the strong showings of Missouri and Texas Tech. Those are two opponents Cyclone fans were counting on as rare breathers while Iowa State was running the Big 12 gauntlet.
BRUNS: I was fairly confident about Texas Tech being a tough game all along. But Missouri is a physical team that has found an operator at quarterback. They've quietly put themselves in position to compete. However, you also look at Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Colorado from over the weekend and you say these are excellent football teams but by no means are they invincible. It gave me a sense that we could go to those places and have a shot at all of those games. Which is something I already knew, it was just reaffirmed.
CN: Considering the great first half of the season with the wins over Iowa and Nebraska, school-best #11 national ranking, and all the positive exposure to the program Iowa State has accomplished a lot already this season. How have the team's goals changed with this fast start?
BRUNS: I don't think anything has changed. I think they had their sites set on the Big 12 North to begin with. Now, I don't have any confirmation on that. But as soon as the bowl game against Alabama ended those guys were very frustrated. I talked to a lot of players afterwards and told them they'd be wrong not to have their sites set on the Big 12 North championship. That's why that Florida State game is huge. If they don't make mistakes in the first half they would've taken down the most prolific program in college football in the past 15 years. All this first part of the season has done is reaffirmed their potential.
CN: Considering where the team is now, if the Cyclones "settle" for another bowl like the Independence Bowl will you be satisfied?
BRUNS: I don't think so. I've heard people say: "Wow, we're almost bowl eligible." Who cares? I know the guys on the team don't care. If they go to the Houston Bowl after being ranked 11th in the nation I know they'll be disappointed. They're a darn good football team. The neat thing is all the eyes of the nation are on Iowa State. It's the way Coach Mac wanted it to be and the way every one of us who signed to play for him knew it would be someday.
CN: What did the Cyclones accomplish during the bye week?
BRUNS: They got some good fundamental practices in. They got some time to get some guys healed. They got some to work on Texas Tech. More importantly, they got a little break and a little time to take their day-to-day mind off of football. College football is not an easy thing and you pay for that scholarship in blood. So any opportunity to get a little extra time to spend with family and friends is a great thing.
CN: Class is a big part of the Iowa State program, not to mention the fact Dan McCarney is ultra-cautious about giving opponents bulletin board material. With that said, what do you make of the comments by Lane Danielsen and JaMaine Billups in Wednesday's Des Moines Register? Danielsen said the Texas Tech secondary is "soft" and Billups said Kliff Kingsbury "is no Seneca Wallace" and "we'll contain him." That doesn't sound like the kind of talk we've normally heard from the Cyclones, does it?
BRUNS: It sure doesn't. While you might think that, and while everyone around is saying the exact same thing, you have to be very careful at this point because you're finally starting to taste what is out there for you. Being #11 is pretty high, and you need to understand you're not fighting for the respect you once were. Now, people are trying to knock you off. So I think those guys need to be careful. Do I think Coach Mac probably said something to those guys afterwards? Yeah. There's no need to give the opponent more incentive.
CN: Is it any coincidence this kind of talk coincides with the bye week? Any chance the guys sat around and listened to all of the positive feedback from around the country and came back this week believing it too much?
BRUNS: There's something not quite right about going up four spots in the rankings when you don't play. They need to understand it doesn't mean anything. That's tough when you're sitting around and there's nothing else to do but talk football, plus people are coming up to you and saying good things. You need to steel yourself from that kind of overconfidence. Losing can test your character, but winning can to. We'll see how this newfound success is handled.
CN: How impressed have you been with Kingsbury and the Texas Tech offense the last few weeks? They've rolled up some impressive numbers against quality foes like Mississippi, N.C. State, and Texas A&M.
BRUNS: I have not had the opportunity to watch Texas Tech to play too much this year, but if I were their defense I'd be terrified. They must have no confidence after playing every day in practice against a guy like Kingsbury. He's the best quarterback Iowa State will play during the regular season, even though Chris Simms has more potential.
CN: What about their unique offense poses the biggest challenge?
BRUNS: They are pretty good on first and second down at getting good yardage in those situations. When you throw the ball as much as