Game Time: 11:00 a.m. Central on 9/17/16 | TV: FS1 | Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Iowa State will always have a special place in my fan heart because they came to The Carter in 2012 and handed TCU the Frogs' first ever Big 12 loss. In 2013 we pulled out a narrow victory in Ames, and even though TCU has won by a wide margin the last two years, things were too close for comfort again in Ames last year. In that game the Cyclones were up 21-14 after the first quarter and trailed TCU just 24-21 at the half before getting blown out by a score of 21-0 in the second half. Yeah, we've won the last three matchups, but I'll just always be once bitten, twice shy about this team.
In what will be TCU's third straight game at The Carter to open up the year, it will be the first time the Cyclones leave Iowa in 2016. There is also the ever intriguing possibility that TCU vs ISU could be a battle of the unbeatens. Iowa State has to get past Northern Iowa and Iowa, which gives them arguably an easier path to zero losses than TCU has. The TCU vs ISU unbeaten matchup will probably never happen, but it is really fun to think about and talk about, at least to me.
This will be a good conference opener for each team. Both will be coming off games facing a good opponent from a power five conference, and both will be breaking in a new quarterback and a, largely, new offensive line. While TCU's rebuilt offensive line has the benefit of experience due to some late-season injuries last year, the only full time starter returning is Joseph Noteboom. Iowa State is in the same boat, as their only returning starter on the offensive line is left tackle, Jake Campos.
Among the new faces for Iowa State this year, new head coach Matt Campbell stands front and center. Campbell is a run-first kind of guy who coached at Toledo from 2011-2015 and put together a 35-15 record (24-8 in MAC) over that time. If their offensive line can pull off a rebuild, he'll have a preseason 1st team All Big 12 back to work with in that running game. Sophomore running back Mike Warren finished 4th in the Big 12 with 1,339 rushing yards as a freshman last year.
Mike Warren isn't the only talented skill position player Matt Campbell is inheriting either, and they're all young. Sophomore Joel Lanning is set to become the full time starting quarterback this year after splitting time with Senior Sam Richardson, who is now on staff as a grad assistant, last year. Lanning had his breakout game against Baylor last year, and ended up starting the final five games of the 2015 season. Matt Campbell spoke highly of his athleticism and leadership abilities during spring practice as well.
So Iowa State has their quarterback of the future and he has one of the top running backs in the conference to hand it off to. That's good, sure. But who's he going to throw it to? That would be Iowa State's other preseason 1st team All Big 12 player, sophomore wide receiver Allen Lazard. He's 6'6", 223 lbs and last year he put up 808 yards on 56 catches with six touchdowns.
The Cyclones might actually be a team on the upswing. They've got a talented young big three to build around. They've got a new coach who's had success at the college level. Here's hoping that they have success. Their fans definitely deserve it, but I'll qualify that by saying that I'm wishing them a successful season, provided they stumble a bit when they come to Fort Worth on September 17th. Think of it as a bump in the road and they'll be better for it.