2010 NCAA Football Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

2009 Record: 7-6 (3-5 in Big 12)
2009 Bowl: Insight Bowl (beat Minnesota 14-13))
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Paul Rhoads (7-6 at Iowa State)
Non-Conference Schedule: Northern Illinois (9/2), at Iowa (9/11), Northern Iowa (9/25), Utah (10/9)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 20.5 points per game (last in Big 12, 103rd in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 179 (4th in Big 12)
Passing Yards/Game: 184 (9th in Big 12)
Total Yards/Game: 364 (8th in Big 12) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 21.8 points per game (5th in Big 12)
Rushing Yards/Game: 165 (10th in Big 12)
Passing Yards/Game: 250 (10th in Big 12, 103rd in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 415 (11th in Big 12, 99th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.31 per game (4th in Big 12)
Penalties: 49 yards per game (2nd in Big 12)

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 4
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Austen Arnaud, Sr (179 of 304 for 2017 yds, 15 TD, 13 INT, 561 yds rushing, 8 rushing TD)
Rushing: RB Alexander Robinson, Sr (231 carries for 1193 yds, 5 TD, 5.1 ypc, 99 ypg)
Receiving: WR Jake Williams, Sr (36 rec, 403 yds, 5 TD, 2.8 rec/game)
Tackles: SS David Sims, Sr (88)
Sacks: CB Ter'ran Benton, Jr (2)
Interceptions: SS David Sims, Sr (5)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #76
Pre-Snap Read: #88
Sporting News:  #82

2010 Pre-Season Big 12 North Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #6
Phil Steele: #6

When you combine the 99th ranked team in total defense yards allowed and the 103rd best scoring offense in the Nation what do you get? If you guessed a team that won a bowl game then you win a cookie. Iowa State gave up a lot of yards last year but ultimately did a good job keeping the other team out of the end zone as they ranked #2 in the conference (behind Nebraska) with a 66% opponent red zone conversion percentage. Iowa State has some key players back from last year but their schedule is significantly tougher with the addition of Utah, Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back-to-back games(and Nebraska looking for revenge). We reached out to Mark Kieffer of the SB Nation blog Clone Chronicles to see what he thought about Iowa State's chances in 2010.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the Cyclones?

Strengths: Offensive Line and Running Backs. Alexander Robinson is the biggest name in the Big 12 you may have never heard of. The guy put up nearly 1200 yards rushing last year, and did so playing a majority of the season with a groin injury.

Weaknesses: The defensive front seven. ISU is replacing their entire starting linebacking corps, and 3 starters on their defensive line too. They are going to make a talented secondary look very mediocre, as I'd expect them having problems rushing the QB, and tackling RBs in the backfield. There are two schools of thought here regarding the defensive front seven: on one hand, there's very little experience and this group will struggle greatly. On the other hand, the front seven last year was the worst in the Big 12, so how bad could it be replacing almost all of them? . I'm not sure what camp I'm in yet.

Which game on the schedule do you want to win more than any other?

K-State. I know a lot of fans will say Nebraska because this may be the last time we're playing them, but beating them in Lincoln last year (lucky or not) was pretty sweet. With K-State, I hate their team, and do not enjoy their fans either. Outside of a few glory years, they are very similar to ISU, yet those fans have this entitlement and believe that their team has some great tradition or elite quality to them. Not the case at all. On paper, these teams are even, we lost to them in the crappiest way possible last year, so it's time to beat them this year.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

This is a tough one. ISU plays at Iowa, at Oklahoma, and at Texas this year, along with some others. I've seen ISU pull off miracles before against Iowa, so it doesn't fear me. Oklahoma and Texas are much better, obviously, but we're expected to lose, so it's hard to really fear those games too. It may sound silly, but it might be the opener against Northern Illinois, because ISU has the most the lose. People seem to think Northern Illinois is better than Iowa State, and losing to them on the first game of the year, a Thursday night game at that, would be a horrible way to start the season. Those 3 games I mentioned above, along with Utah and Nebraska are expected losses. Win any of those, great. Lose any of them, oh well, it was expected.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

I'd say Alex Alvarez or Ben Lamaak. Both guys are on the offensive line, and naturally the O-Line gets talked about the least. These guys are big reasons why the unit was so good last year. I think the WR corps has the chance to produce some solid players, but it's hard to tell who will emerge from that group. There's a lot of athletic ability, but they have not produced to this point.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Alexander Robinson. Last year, he was our offense. As mentioned before, he was banged up last year. When he was healthy, the team clicked. When he was slowed, the offense slowed. The guy is explosive, can read which hole to run in, and can catch passes consistently out of the backfield.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

David Sims, the strong safety. The Big 12 coaches named him as Defensive Newcomer of the Year (He was a JUCO). He had 88 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 5 picks in 2010. Leonard Johnson, a CB is another name. He has the potential to really be a shutdown corner, and we saw offenses last year throw away from him. The guy started as a true freshmen, and is now entering his junior year. He does a lot of things that doesn't always show up on the stat sheet, like put on a hard hit, making a nice tackle, or covering his receiver well and forcing the QB to look elsewhere.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

QB Austen Arnaud. The guy has the ability to be good, but has been a bit of a disappointment. In the locker room he is the unquestioned leader of this team and his teammates respect him. His sophomore year, he had over 400 pass attempts, completed just over 61% of his passes, and threw 15 TDs and 10 picks. Last year, he had just over 300 pass attempts, completed only 58% of his passes, threw 14 TDs and 13 picks. The guy has been the starter for 3 years, and is entering his senior year. This is his last chance to show what he's got. From watching him, he's capable of more, but just hasn't done it. ISU fans are expecting big things from Arnaud if they want to see ISU survive this monster of a schedule.

Who is the top newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Freshmen RB Shontrelle Johnson. The guy had an offer from Florida, but chose to go to ISU. He's a 3 star recruit, but posses a lot of the same abilities as current RB Alexander Robinson. Most think Johnson is going to be the #2 guy, and will be able to spell Robinson to keep him fresh. With Robinson being slowed by injuries each of the past two seasons, having another guy in there with a similar skill set should help keep the Cyclones going, and hopefully help an overworked Robinson reduce his risk of injury

With the Big 12 losing Nebraska and Colorado would you like to see them stand pat at 10 teams or add two more teams?

I have an Econ degree, so I'm always thinking the business side of things. As long as the current TV deals are in place, I'm fine with having 10 teams. It means more money for ISU (having to split fixed amt 10 ways instead of 12). Now when the current deals expire, if adding in 2 teams helps sweeten the pot, then I'm for it. BYU, Boise State, and Arkansas are teams I wouldn't mind see in the conference.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

ISU has one of the hardest schedules in all of college football this year, so my expectations are low. I'm thinking a 4 or 5 win season is likely. But honestly I could see anywhere from 3 to 7 wins this year. It all depends if they can get things going early, and how they respond to the stretch of Utah, @ Oklahoma, @ Texas. If that stretch kills the team spirit, I could seem them losing to Kansas and Colorado, games that I would consider toss-ups at this point.

I think a successful season is getting through this schedule respectibly. Not getting blown out too bad, and playing hard from game 1 right down to game 12. If ISU was in it with a majority of their games, I could see most ISU fans being OK with however the record shakes down. If ISU is able to get to 6 wins, and back to a bowl game, there will be no complaints out of Ames. Much easier said than done though. If their spirit is destroyed and they mail it in the second half of the season, people will be counting down for Fred Hoiberg's debut as Men's Basketball Coach.

Thanks to Mark for answering our questions and be sure to check out the SB nation Iowa State blog Clone Chronicles. You can also follow them on twitter @CloneChronicles.

Previous Big 12 Previews:
Kansas State Wildcats
Missouri Tigers
Oklahoma Sooners
Texas Longhorns
Texas Tech Red Raiders

Next Up: Kansas Jayhawks

Previous Pre-Season Previews
ACC- Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Syracuse Orange, UConn Huskies, USF Bulls, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Purdue Boilermakers
C-USA- Houston Cougars,  SMU Mustangs, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Tulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
Independent- Army Black Knights, Navy Midshipmen, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Central Michigan Chippewas, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
MWC- BYU Cougars,  Colorado State Rams, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes
Pac-10- Arizona State Sun Devils, Oregon Ducks, Stanford Cardinal, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, LSU Tigers, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- FIU Golden Panthers, North Texas Mean Green, Troy Trojans
WAC- Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, New Mexico State Aggies


Popular Video