Next up in our Opponent Preview Series are the Iowa State Cyclones who are coming off of a disappointing year in 2023. The Cyclones finished at 4-8 in 2023, finishing last in the Big 12 with their only conference win coming against West Virginia at home. That being said, six of their eight losses were by one score, and they boasted arguably the Big 12’s best defense in 2022. There is reason to believe that the Cyclones will be much better in 2023, if only by positive regression toward the average in terms of luck in close games.
TCU’s Record Against Iowa State: 9-5
Current Streak: TCU has won one straight against the Cyclones
Most Recent Matchup: 2022, TCU won 62-14 in Fort Worth
There will be a few new faces in key positions for the Cyclones in 2023, especially with the departure of 2022 first-team All-American wide receiver and 6th-round NFL draft pick Xavier Hutchinson. The starting quarterback job is now up in the air with the expected suspension of 2022 starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers who was recently accused of gambling on college football games and who has stepped away from the team. Matt Campbell will certainly have his work cut out for him replacing those two as Hutchinson had a monster year with 107 catches for 1,171 yards and 6 touchdowns while Dekkers had a solid year with 3,044 yards (3rd in the Big 12 in 2022), 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
There are two current candidates to replace Dekkers as starting quarterback for the Cyclone in Rocco Becht and JJ Kohl.
Becht served as the backup for Dekkers in 2022 and attempted passes in just two games last year. One of those games came against the Frogs at the end of a blowout where he completed seven of thirteen passes for 65 yards and threw an interception that Josh Newton took all the way back for 6. Becht is listed on the Iowa State roster at 6 foot 1, 205 pounds, and has football genetics as his dad was a tight end and first-round pick out of West Virginia in 2000. Becht will be a redshirt freshman in 2023 and was a three-star recruit coming out of Wiregrass Ranch High School in Zephyrhills, FL. Aside from graduating from one of the cooler named high schools in America, Becht has not shown much so far in his collegiate career but does have the experience advantage on Kohl.
Kohl will not be far behind in terms of time in the offense despite being a true freshman in 2023, since he was an early enrollee and went through spring practices with the team. Kohl was a very highly rated recruit coming out of high school, the second highest rated recruit in Iowa State’s history according to 247 Sports. Kohl stands at a towering 6 foot 7, giving him very unique size at quarterback. While Kohl weighs in at 250 pounds, he still has room to add to his frame and there are durability concerns with being so tall at a position where he will take hits to his legs. If he is able to stay on the field, Kohl is immensely talented and ultimately provides the higher upside for a program looking to find a spark on offense.
The Cyclones will return their leading rusher from the 2022 season in former four star Jirehl Brock. Although Brock was the top back for the Cyclones last season, he did not have the counting stats expected of a lead back, in part due to lack of opportunity. Brock averaged a very solid 4.5 yards per carry but had only 99 carries on the year compared to Deuce Vaughn who had almost 300 carries in 2022 to lead the Big 12. The Cyclones were very pass heavy last year with Dekkers at quarterback as he led the Big 12 in passing attempts. Leaning heavier on his senior running back could be an option for Matt Campbell who needs to find a way to kickstart an offense that ranked last in the Big 12 in points per game in 2022.
Also returning for the Cyclones is a running back that came on strong to finish the season and someone who could be the starting back in 2023, sophomore Cartevious Norton. Norton had double digit carries in his last five games in 2022 racking up 312 yards and 2 touchdowns on 87 carries. Both Brock and Norton figure to receive more carries in 2023 as Campbell looks to ease the transition to a new quarterback and find more succes on the offensive side of the ball.
Jaylin Noel with a HUGE touchdown and back-to-back fourth down conversions!— OutCYde the Lines (@OutCYdeTheLine) October 29, 2022
Cyclones bring it within a touchdown 13-20 pic.twitter.com/onuscHLHUm
The loss of Hutchinson leaves the receiving corps without an established go to weapon but junior Jaylin Noel appears poised to take over as the next quarterback’s favorite target. While most top receivers from Iowa State have been in a similar mold of tall and physical, Noel presents a different approach standing at 5 foot 10. Noel wins with quickness and ability to separate through route running as opposed to making contested catches down the sideline. Noel projects to have a dramatic increase in production from what was a solid 2022 with 60 receptions for 572 yards and 3 touchdowns.
On the offensive line, the Cyclones lost their best lineman from 2022 in second team All Big 12 selection Trevor Downing. The unit did not have a great season in 2022 as Dekker was sacked 26 times, second most in the Big 12. The Cyclones do return the other four starters that played along side Downing so there should be better performance due to experience and cohesion as a unit which is extremely important for an offensive line to have.
The Cyclones lost a couple of big contributors from their vaunted 2022 defense this offseason. One of those contributors is star edge rusher Will McDonald. Iowa State runs a 3-3-5 defense, like TCU, that can make it harder for hand in the dirt pass rushers to have a lot of success due to run stopping responsibilities and increased double teams. Despite this McDonald was still able to have a big 2022 where he picked up 5 sacks and 36 tackles. McDonald was picked in the first round of the NFL draft this past year by the Jets and the Cyclones will have to find a way to replace his presence on the line.
The Cyclones will get their star cornerback, TJ Tampa, back for the 2023 season. The 2022 second team All Big 12 selection had 40 tackles, 9 pass break ups, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. Tampa will have to step up with the loss of fellow defensive back Anthony Johnson who was picked in the 7th round of the NFL draft by the Packers.
Jeremiah Cooper will also be expected to step up in the defensive backfield as he is coming off of a solid freshman season where he was All Big 12 Honorable Mention for defensive freshman of the year. Cooper had 32 tackles and a pass breakup his freshman year despite missing the last three games due to injury in 2022.
The Cyclones return another solid DB in 2022 All Big 12 Honorable Mention Beau Freyler. Freyler racked up 68 total tackles, second on the team, and an interception and will be counted on to be a solid tackler again as the Cyclones lost their leading tackler, Colby Reeder, to graduation.
Although the Cyclones lose a number of big contributors from an excellent unit in 2022, there is still a lot of experience and returning talent on the defensive side of the ball. The 3-3-5 is run very well by the Cyclones and Matt Campbell has earned the benefit of the doubt that he will churn out a solid defense at the very least.
Matchup with TCU
The 2022 version of this game was not close by any stretch of the imagination but the Cyclone immediately get a big boost in 2023 as the game will be played in Ames, Iowa instead of in Fort Worth, Texas. The Cyclones offense lost its best receiver and most likely its starting quarterback this offseason. The Frogs return lots of experience as well as additions from the portal and high school that figure to produce immediately so I expect the TCU defense to dominate the game in 2023 as well. The Iowa State defense lost its best pass rusher this offseason but still figures to be a very good unit in 2023. With the amount of roster turnovers on the offensive side of the ball for the Frogs and an expected increase in running the ball which will kill more clock, I doubt the Frogs will put up close to 62 points again. That said I think the Frogs’ offense finds much more success than the Cyclones’ offense and the Frogs win relatively comfortably barring any crazy Ames occurrences (which is not out of the question because Ames, Iowa is a strange place).
Prediction: TCU 30, Iowa State 13