The past few years, it's been frustrating for me, and the administration at Iowa State, to motivate a certain cynical constituency within the Cyclone Nation to support the football program with a consistently sold-out Jack Trice Stadium. Despite a 23-11 record the past three seasons, five straight wins over Iowa, and two bowl bids with a third one in the offing there is a silent minority that remains on the sidelines while their wallets remain in their pocket.
I think after Saturday night's humiliating, all-too-public 58-7 flogging inflicted on the Cyclones by Kansas State on national television I now know the answer why.
These people are hardened by a generation of losing which produced a program so stale that rigor mortis had set in. These people say they have seen flashes of potential from the Cyclones before, only to be disappointed.
They say that every time their about ready to cross that line of faith and dive in head-first, the ISU football team gets embarrassed on a national scale and memories of the way they were creep in. I can't speak for the last 20+ years because I haven't been around here that long. But I can speak for the last few seasons, and there is some recent evidence to suggest these people may have a point somewhat.
- Nov. 4, 2000: Iowa State is looking to beat a ranked team on the road for the first time in nearly forever. The Cyclones rebounded nicely from the disappointing effort against Texas A&M with a rout of Missouri and are looking to again impress the pollsters by backing up their 6-2 record with a win against #19 Kansas State. Besides that, the Cyclones are eager for revenge after blowing a huge lead at home the previous season. Reality check: K-State racks up 367 yards rushing and destroys Iowa State, 56-10.
- Oct. 6, 2001: The Cyclones are 3-0 with exciting new quarterback Seneca Wallace and head to Lincoln to take on #2 Nebraska. Iowa State is allegedly brimming with confidence because of its new playmaker and because they played the Huskers tough at home in 2000. Reality check: Nebraska rolls, 48-14.
- Nov. 3, 2001: Is 5-2 Iowa State ready to take Kansas State's place among the Big 12's elite? The Wildcats limp into Ames unranked. Reality check: K-State throws the ball just 13 times and still scores a 42-3 throttling.
- Nov. 10, 2001: A national cable audience in primetime awaits Iowa State's matchup with #21 Colorado. The Buffaloes are one team that ISU has played tough over the years. Unfortunately, only 39,024 fans await the Cyclones in Jack Trice Stadium. Those who chose not to come didn't miss much. Reality check: Colorado 40, Cyclones 27.
- Oct. 19, 2002: Iowa State has climbed to #9 in the AP Poll, its highest-ranking ever. Seneca Wallace is the undisputed leader in every Heisman Trophy tracking poll imaginable. The ABC television cameras follow the Cyclones to Norman for a key game against #2 Oklahoma. Can ISU pull the upset? Even I buy into the hype. Reality check: Oklahoma dismantles Iowa State, 49-3.
Fast forward to Manhattan on Saturday night and you get the picture. How in the world does a team with Seneca Wallace at quarterback, arguably the best at his position in school-history, lose twice by more than 46 points? Not even Mac's 1-10 team in 1997 accomplished that dubious distinction. Neither did Jim Walden's all-too-forgettable 0-10-1 one team in 1994. You have to go all the way back to Jim "cheater" Criner's 1985 squad, which lost 57-3 to #3 Iowa and 49-0 to #3 Nebraska.
Clearly the talent level on this team is far better than it was in any of the aforementioned circumstances. So what's going on?
Let me propose that these games are being lost long before the opening kickoff. The Cyclones are losing the battle of hearts and minds, which is even more pivotal than the physical brutality of the game. You could visibly see the air come out of the Cyclones' sails at the first sign of adversity against Kansas State. The only time they did anything positive on offense was on a drive that started near mid-field, so they were already in a comfort zone. But when the field position was against them and it was up to somebody to step up and make a play, nobody did. Or nobody was ready to. Or nobody wanted to. Whatever the case may be.
Let's not sugarcoat it: at this point in its program's evolution Iowa State just doesn't believe it can beat these upper-echelon teams. The will just isn't there.
Whose fault is that? Good question. Having been around your coaches I can tell you they do not lack for confidence and enthusiasm. So why doesn't it rub off on the players prior to these big games? I don't know.
Is it a lack of senior leadership? Having interviewed both Zach Butler and Seneca Wallace several times and knowing the caliber of young men they are I have a hard time believing that.
Is it talent? To a point the answer is yes. The Cyclones just aren't quite physical enough. Nonetheless, that doesn't explain the huge margins of defeat.
Something isn't happening between Monday and kickoff on Saturday. That's obvious. I just don't know what it is.
But instead of criticizing and whining, I would like to humbly suggest something to the coaching staff this week: convince the ISU players they are playing Iowa next.
After all, they seem to have no problem getting up for the Hawkeyes. And Colorado's colors are black-and-gold, too.
Weekly Top 25
If I had a vote in the AP Poll, here's what my ballot would've looked like this week:
1. Miami, Fla. (9-0)
Last week: 2
This week: idle
2. Ohio State (11-0)
Last week: 3
This week: at Illinois
3. Washington State (9-1)
Last week: 6
This week: idle
4. Oklahoma (8-1)
Last week: 1
This week: at Baylor
5. Iowa (10-1)
Last week: 5
This week: at Minnesota
6. Texas (9-1)
Last week: 4
This week: at Texas Tech
7. Georgia (9-1)
Last week: 8
This week: at #25 Auburn
8. Notre Dame (9-1)
Last week: 7
This week: Rutgers
9. Kansas State (8-2)
Last week: 11
This week: Nebraska
10. USC (7-2)
Last week: 10
This week: Arizona State
11. Alabama (8-2)
Last week: 12
This week: at #14 LSU
12. Michigan (8-2)
Last week: 14
This week: Wisconsin
13. Virginia Tech (8-2)
Last week: 9
This week: idle
14. LSU (7-2)
Last week: 15
This week: #11 Alabama
15. Pittsburgh (8-2)
Last week: 18
This week: idle
16. Florida State (7-3)
Last week: 19
This week: North Carolina
17. Penn State (7-3)
Last week: 20
This week: at Indiana
18. Colorado State (8-2)
Last week: 16
This week: at San Diego State
19. Maryland (8-2)
Last week: NR
This week: at Clemson
20. N.C. State (9-2)
Last week: 13
This week: at Virginia
21. Colorado (7-3)
Last week: 21
This week: Iowa State
22. Florida (7-3)
Last week: 24
This week: South Carolina
23. Oregon (7-3)
Last week: 17
This week: Washington
24. TCU (8-1)
Last week: NR
This week: idle
25. Auburn (7-3)
Last week: NR
This week: at #7 Georgia
My Heisman Ballot
- Ken Dorsey (QB-Miami, Fla.)…35-1 as a starter.
- Brad Banks (QB-Iowa)…Leads the nation in pass efficiency and is having the best season of any quarterback on a championship-caliber team.
- Willis McGahee (RB-Miami, Fla.)…The most-talented running back in the country likely won't win the award because of his teammate.
- Jason Gesser (QB-Washington State)…Keeps piling up numbers and wins, but lack of publicity hurts him.
- Carson Palmer (QB-USC)…Huge Heisman electorate in California, plus huge numbers, makes him a solid dark horse pick.
Updated Bowl Projections
New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 17: Sun Belt Champ vs. Conference USA #5)
GMAC Bowl (Dec. 18: Conference USA #2 vs. MAC #2)
Southern Mississippi vs. Marshall
Tangerine Bowl (Dec. 23: ACC #4 vs. Big 12)
Georgia Tech vs. Texas A&M
Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 25: Mountain West #2 vs. Pac-10 #5)
Air Force vs. Arizona State
Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 25: Conference USA #4 vs. WAC #3)
Hawaii vs. Tulane
Motor City Bowl (Dec. 26: MAC #1 vs. Big Ten #7)
Insight.com Bowl (Dec. 26: Big East #3/Notre Dame vs. Pac-10 #4)
Virginia Tech vs. UCLA
Houston Bowl (Dec. 27: Conference USA #3 vs. Big 12 #6)
Texas Tech vs. Louisville
Independence Bowl (Dec. 27: Big 12 #5 vs. SEC #7)
Nebraska vs. South Carolina
Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27: Pac-10 #2 vs. Big 12 #3)\
USC vs. Colorado
Alamo Bowl (Dec. 28: Big Ten #4 vs. Big 12 #4)
Minnesota vs. Iowa State
Continental Tire Bowl (Dec. 28: Big East vs. ACC)
Pittsburgh vs. Clemson
Seattle Bowl (Dec. 30: Mountain West #4 vs. ACC)
West Virginia vs. BYU
Music City Bowl (Dec. 30: Big Ten #6 vs. SEC #6)
Wisconsin vs. Arkansas
Humanitarian Bowl (Dec. 31: WAC #2 vs. Big 12)
Boise State vs. Oklahoma State
Sun Bowl (Dec. 31: Big Ten #5 vs. Pac-10 #3)
Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Silicon Valley Classic (Dec. 31: WAC #1 vs. Pac-10)
Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31: Conference USA #1 vs. Mountain West #1)
TCU vs. Colorado State
Peach Bowl (Dec. 31: ACC #3 vs. SEC #5)
Maryland vs. Tennessee
*San Francisco Bowl (Dec. 31: Mountain West vs. Big East)
Boston College vs. Mississippi
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1: Big Ten #3 vs. SEC)
Michigan vs. Auburn
Cotton Bowl (Jan. 1: Big 12 #2 vs. SEC)
Kansas State vs. Florida
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1: Big East #2/Notre Dame vs. ACC #2)
Notre Dame vs. N.C. State
Capitol One Bowl (Jan. 1: Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2)
LSU vs. Penn State
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1: Big Ten #1 vs. Pac-10 #1)
Iowa vs. Washington State
Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1: SEC #1 vs. BCS At-large)
Oklahoma vs. Georgia
Orange Bowl (Jan. 2: ACC/Big East #1 vs. BCS At-large)
Texas vs. Florida State
Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 3: BCS #1 vs. BCS #2)
Ohio State vs. Miami, Fla.
Please note that California, Kentucky, and Alabama are not eligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.
*We project the Mountain West Conference will not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of its slots.
(Steve Deace can be heard each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines, the flagship for the Cyclone Radio Network)