Who Wins The Big 12: Iowa State?

As I do each year, I spend a decent amount of time crunching numbers like returning starters, returning yards and points, returning defensive plays made, schedule and trends, intangibles, and more. I then end up predicting every single Big 12 game in the upcoming season, and the last three seasons I correctly picked the Big 12 champion.

In 2010, I picked OU and the Sooners defeated Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game, although I must admit I had OU beating Missouri but the Huskers and Tigers were both 6-2 in the North Division. In 2011, I correctly picked Oklahoma State and last season, with more than a few people poking fun at me, I picked Kansas State.

This year for the first time I'm going to share my game-by-game summer prognostication with everybody rather than just one post on how the league will finish. We will go top to bottom and with Kansas tucked away at 2-10 overall (0-9 in the Big 12) we move on to Iowa State.

Iowa State Cyclones
I was always a big fan of the coaching job that Dan McCarney did at Iowa State, and Paul Rhoads is a former McCarney assistant that grew up down the road from the Iowa State campus. This job means a lot to Rhoads and he has shown it.

Meanwhile, Iowa State's administration has shown to Rhoads that they want to help him by building really nice facilities and giving Iowa State new advantages. I was there the night that Rhoads' squad delivered a huge national attention grabbing upset by knocking number two-ranked Oklahoma State from the ranks of the just two unbeatens and a shot at a national championship.

Last season Iowa State maintained the ability to be competitive beating Iowa, TCU and Baylor. Unfortunately, the Cyclones are going to get caught thin this season on defense with the loss of two tremendous playmaking linebackers in A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. They return middle linebacker Jeremiah George and hard-hitting safety Jacques Washington but they will be thin even with flip-the-field punter Kirby Van Der Kamp.

On offense, the Cyclones have a solid quarterback in Sam Richardson and an emerging running back in Devondrick Neely to go with James White, but the receivers are a huge unknown.

I don't like the schedule either as the games that will be very tough to win like Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU are at home. The games that the Cyclones have a real shot other than Kansas are on the road at Texas Tech, at Kansas State and at West Virginia. They also travel to top league teams Baylor and Oklahoma.

Rhoads is a great motivator and coach but his 2013 Iowa State team may be a year away from the maturity it takes for a winning season and another bowl trip.

Iowa State Schedule and Predictions
Aug 31, Northern Iowa - Win - Top flight FCS team, but Cyclones have more than enough to win this at Jack Trice.
Sept. 14, Iowa - Win - After an open week and the momentum of the week one win, the Cyclones paste a below average Hawkeyes team.
Sept. 26, @Tulsa - Loss - Cyclones are ready for rubber match with Hurricane, but tough to win at Tulsa.
Oct. 3, Texas - Loss - Longhorns still looking for identity, but so are Cyclones.
Oct. 12, @Texas Tech - Loss - Iowa State fights hard but catches a Kingsbury-led Tech squad that turns the corner in the win over Iowa State.
Oct. 19, @Baylor - Loss - Back to back weeks in Texas against up-tempo offenses wears down a depth challenged defense.
Oct. 26, Oklahoma State - Loss - Cowboys are on a roll and still have a number of players that remember their last trip to Ames and what it cost them.
Nov. 2, @Kansas State - Loss - Very close game that if played in Ames is likely a Cyclone win.
Nov. 9, TCU - Loss - Homecoming is the start of back to back weeks against really good teams as ISU secondary can't keep up with Pachall and TCU receivers.
Nov. 16, @Oklahoma - Loss - Again, Iowa State has fight but Sooners wear the Cyclones down.
Nov. 23, Kansas - Win - Iowa State has a party and takes out some frustrations as they bury Kansas.
Nov. 29, @West Virginia - Loss - Friday after Thanksgiving game in a battle and the second of the season that would have been a win if it were in Ames.

Final Predictions: 3-9 / 1-8 (Big 12)
The silver lining is I believe that all but the losses to Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and OU will be close, and could be wins. If Iowa State develops some defensive depth, power on the defensive line that isn't seen right now, and some receivers for Richardson to balance the running attack then this could be a 7-5 season with a 4-5 Big 12 record. Also, Iowa State is doing some new things in strength and conditioning in its new facility. Could those new training techniques become a difference maker?

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