It's Thursday, which means it's question time once again here on Frogs O' War, and happily, unlike SMU Iowa State has fans! And not just fans, but funny ones who run the excellent Iowa State blog Wide Right and Natty Lite, which is required reading even for those of us with no particularly vested interest in Cyclone sports. Their head man KnowDan was kind enough to answer questions for us in the offseason, but things have developed since then (TCU has lost two 700+ yard rushers in the meantime. I made myself sad with that sentence.) and we exchanged Q&As once more (I'll link to my answers when they're posted). He didn't even call me an Ignorant Frog!
HawkeyedFrog: The Clones have opened the season 3-1, but can't be too happy about the offensive performance in the Tech loss. How do you feel about Iowa State's season to date and how do Paul Rhoads teams generally bounce back after a tough loss?
KnowDan: The offensive performance was abysmal against Texas Tech and was the 2nd lowest output in Rhoads' tenure after a 173 yard performance against Oklahoma in 2010. That team went down to Austin the next week and beat Texas 28-21 for the first win over the Longhorns in program history. If that tells you anything about how Rhoads' teams typically rebound after a loss. Rhoads has always said it's easier to coach after a loss than a win because the guys are hungry to learn and get better and after the performance of the entire offense last Saturday I think this is especially the case.
HawkeyedFrog: Iowa State's defense looks solid, but the offense has swung back and forth from effective and efficient in games against Tulsa and Western Illinois to downright Big Ten worthy against Iowa and Tech. Which of the two offenses will be making the trip to Fort Worth, and does it matter who the quarterback is?
KnowDan: It's ironic you ask if it matters who the quarterback is behind center. With the way the offensive line played against Texas Tech there is no quarterback alive that would have had success last weekend. As much as this offense flows through the quarterback's ability to get the ball to his receivers in space and run a successful zone read it still starts and stops in the trenches. As the offensive line goes, so goes the entire offense. The offensive line feasted on weaker defensive lines and linebackers against Tulsa and Western Illinois. Iowa's defensive line wasn't impressive, but like Tech, they did not respect the passing game and were constantly flowing downhill on 1st and 2nd down to stop the run. If TCU gets aggressive at all with Iowa State's offensive line then we are in for much the same offense this weekend. At this point I think that there is nowhere to go but up for this offense and hope that starts on Saturday.
HawkeyedFrog: About that defense again... it scares me. The D-line is deep and stays fresh and the secondary tripled Tech QB Seth Doege's interception total. Is my fear misplaced, or are we headed for a first to 21 wins game?
KnowDan: This has the feeling of a game that first to 21 wins. Especially if the weather forecast continues to worsen as the week wears on (ed. Ugh, weather.). Normally I would not care about the weather for a road game but myself and some other WRNL miscreants will be in attendance at the game. Good news for TCU: I have never seen Iowa State win in person away from Ames. Bad news: Writer NormanUnderwood was in attendance for the win over Texas in 2010. More bad news: Paul Rhoads is 18-1 when holding opponents under 24 points. Only Missouri's 14-0 victory in Ames in 2010 breaks this mold.
But back to your point, the defense is solid. Now that defensive line has progressed to the point where they can generate pressure consistently the schemes have become more varied. Usually this means letting Jake Knott and A.J. Klein do what they do best: dominate in space. Casey Pachall scares the crap out of me but TCU's lack of consistency on the ground plays into defensive coordinator Wally Burnham's hands. If the defense can take away one part of the game then they generally have a lot of success. The biggest key here will be the Cyclone offense allowing the defense to rest, which they failed to do against Texas Tech.
HawkeyedFrog: Iowa State hasn't been really really good at football... well... ever, but Paul Rhoads seems to be bringing a sense of pride, not to mention excellent coaching to the program. If Paul Rhoads stays at Iowa State for another ten years do you think he wins a conference title? What needs to improve for the Cyclones to be a title contender?
KnowDan:10 years and one conference title? Absolutely it can happen. With the exception of a few powerhouses, college football is cyclical and at some point everyone finds their place on the map (even Kansas).
For the Cyclones to reach that level though a few things have to happen. First, the overall talent level has to increase. Rhoads has developed depth at nearly every position but now it needs to be elevating that first and second string talent to another level. Second, Wally Burnham needs to remain in Ames for at least another five years. At least long enough to run more players through the defensive system so when he moves on someone on staff can take it over with hopefully minimal drop off. Lastly, luck, a lot of luck. If Iowa State wins the Big XII it's going to be as a one or two loss team, which means they will win a few games they shouldn't and the top teams will drop a few they shouldn't.
HawkeyedFrog: Both Iowa State and TCU had trouble with the kicking phase of the game, but while TCU's issues seemed to be mostly weather based (when we were successfully able to get foot to ball we did quite well) Iowa State missed a field goal and an extra point- the latter of which really seemed to take away from Iowa State's momentum after they took the lead. is Arceo a good kicker who had a bad day, or will Cyclone fans be holding their breath every time he's called on this week?
KnowDan: Holding our breath. There is not enough Maalox in the world to control my stomach when Arceo steps to the ball. There is a highly regarded freshman kicker on the bench right now that is trying to be redshirted and I think he's one more botched extra point away from seeing playing time.
HawkeyedFrog: Finally we get to the obligatory predictions section. What do you think Iowa State's record will be at the end of the season, and will that record include a win or a loss to the Horned Frogs?
KnowDan: Iowa State is going to be around that 6-6 range again at the end of the year, but could slide down to 4 or 5 wins if the offense doesn't improve. I'm remaining optimistic that things will change and the offense doesn't continue to hit bottom. A lot of that can be alleviated if the Cyclones play well in Fort Worth on Saturday. However, I think that final record does not include a win over the Horned Frogs. Somewhere in the 27-16 range I see this one playing out.
HawkeyedFrog: In his prediction there's either a missed extra point, a safety, or Iowa State goes for two twice. I love it. Thanks to KnowDan for filling us with knowledge, and be sure to check out Wide Right and Natty Lite, one of the hidden gems of SBNation.