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Crystal Ball Gazing: The Iowa State Cyclones

The spring season preview rolls onward with the team that inflicted our most disheartening loss of last year, the Iowa State Cyclones.

Iowa State is nothing if not tenacious, but 2013 shouldn't be their year.
Iowa State is nothing if not tenacious, but 2013 shouldn't be their year.
Cooper Neill

The week of the Iowa State game TCU was at its absolute lowest point in a long time. Though the frogs were 4-0, they had lost all three of their 700+ yard rushers from the previous season (Ed Wesley to the NFL, Waymon James to a catastrophic ACL injury and Matthew Tucker to an ankle injury), forcing backup quarterback Trevone Boykin into the running back role in practice for added depth. Then Casey Pachall did the dumb, dumb thing and suddenly we were not only short all of those great running backs, but we were left with our starting quarterback out and a backup who had been taking snaps against the Iowa State looks as a running back instead of a quarterback. We all should have seen the doom coming, but it was just Iowa State- a team that had put up just 9 points against a bad Iowa team and 13 points against a suspect Texas Tech defense. Surely our defense could simply shut down the Cyclones and if Boykin could just keep from turning the ball over we could get out of the game with a win and keep our bowl hopes alive- This was the week after Baylor and West Virginia's Ode to the hatred of defense so neither game looked particularly winnable without Casey behind the center. We'd just have to beat Iowa State and hope that we could crawl out of the massive pit that injuries and bad decisions had thrust us in. Then in the first two series Iowa State completed a 51 yard touchdown pass and Trevone Boykin threw an interception. And back into the pit we went.


TCU ended up being tied with Baylor for Iowa State's best scalp of the year, as the Cyclones eked over the line into bowl eligibility, closing the year with a bowl loss to a Tulsa team that they had defeated in their season opener. Heading into 2013 it's looking like a tough rebuild for the Cyclones, as they return just nine starters, tying them with West Virginia for 117th in the country in starting experience.

ISU On Offense

Returning Starters: 5

The good news for Iowa State is that three offensive linemen are returning, which should give the Cyclones enough time to gel around an otherwise young core. The quarterback who defeated TCU transferred to Illinois State after being displaced by young gun Sam Richardson late in the season, so this is a game that the multiple looks that TCU's 4-2-5 offers could pay big dividends. The Cyclones return just one receiver, and he's not Josh Lenz, the tremendously fast wideout who scored all of Iowa State's offensive touchdowns in the TCU game, and the Cyclones are transitioning to use more pistol formation looks this year so the young receiving group is going to have to come up strong if Iowa State is going to be effective on offense. The good news for Iowa State is that quarterback Sam Richardson is more consistent than either the departed Steele Jantz or Jared Barnett, but he'll have to have a spectacular day if he's going to have success against TCU's secondary- which is made all the more important by what kind of depth the Cyclones return on defense.

ISU on Defense

Returning Starters: 4

Just two of the ISU front 7 (6, really- ISU runs a lot of nickel/4-2-5 looks) return on defense, which bodes poorly for the Cyclones against teams that can run the ball. The majority of the secondary has departed as well, so it's not likely to be a unit that can really leave their corners on an island and try to cheat up against the run- if they do then a parade of deep balls over their head will teach them otherwise quickly. The Iowa State game last year was one of the most frustrating games I've ever seen a TCU offense play, and keep in mind I was watching during the tail end of the Southwest Conference and Fran's beloved Option to the short side of the field every second play call, which should tell you that Iowa State was something awful. Trevone Boykin looked very much the talented freshman, mixing good throws with terrible decisions, holding the ball too long and thinking that he was still the most athletic man on the field- a serious issue for athletic quarterbacks in high school who aren't named Denard Robinson or Vince Young. As a result, passes were tipped, Boykin was sacked and some of the most awful interceptions you'll ever see were thrown out there, including a game clinching tipped pick 6 by defensive end David Irving (who is, annoyingly, the one Iowa State D-lineman to return). This year TCU should have healthy running backs and a quarterback who was not moonlighting at running back during the week of the game and be facing a defense that will be well coached, but very young. Cue the Emperor saying "Witness the Power of this fully operational Battle Station." Expect the points to be much more, and the turnovers to be much less.

As always, Frogs O' War offers last year's Iowa State game in its entirety, but like the Oklahoma State game I would recommend that you skip this one unless you're from the Wide Right and Natty Lite portion of SBNation, or are interested to see one of the few games last year where Aundre Dean received significant carries.

2012: TCU vs. Iowa State (via FrogsOWar)