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What If Wednesday: Is Iowa State the Model for Baylor Moving Forward?

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NCAA Football: Baylor at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think it’s unreasonable at this point in the season to say that many Bears fans are becoming frustrated with the team and system. After showing some life weeks ago against Oklahoma, the Baylor Bears seem to have regressed, hitting a new low with a 38-7 beatdown from Texas. Matt Rhule is trying to implement his new system and, as I’ve written before, it’s going to take time. But what if Bears fans need not look any further than the current darling of the Big 12, Iowa State, to see where patience might lead this team?

Iowa State is the Cinderella story of the college football season so far. They opened the season with a win over FCS Northern Iowa before losing a heartbreaking overtime game to instate rival Iowa. They then beat Akron before losing to Texas in a lackluster season. At this point, Jacob Park left the team for health issues and Iowa State was heading into Norman with a walk-on QB starting for them. It looked like things were heading towards another “typical” Iowa State football season. But... they won, upsetting then #3 Oklahoma. And then they beat Kansas 45-0, blewout Texas Tech 31-13, and then upset #4 TCU at home this past weekend, 14-7. Iowa State is tied for first in the Big 12 and the story that is sweeping the nation. But rising star Matt Campbell’s tenure at Iowa State didn’t start out so sweet.

Last season was young coach Matt Campbell’s first season at Iowa State. They opened with a loss to instate FCS foe UNI. Cyclones fans had seen this before and many thought Campbell’s tenure was already doomed. They continued to get blown out by instate rival Iowa, 42-3. Frustration was mounting in Ames. The Cyclones got their first win against an awful San Jose State team and managed to pick up a win against Kansas. Some of their other games had been close, but the Clones just couldn’t seem to pull it together. And then, Iowa State, out of nowhere, annihilated Texas Tech in a 66-10 win. The Cyclones ended the season a mere 3-9. Many were less then pleased and most predicted Iowa State to be ninth or tenth in the conference entering this season. But, what people didn’t expect was Campbell’s system to take such strong effect in his second season and for his development of young players to pay off so well, leading to the Cyclones boasting one of the strongest defenses in the country, let alone the Big 12.

The similarities between last year’s Iowa State team and this year’s Baylor team are apparent. Both were beginning season’s with a new, young coach out of a non-Power 5 conference. Both had high expectation for quick success that was quickly dashed by an FCS loss. Both have had substantial growing pains with new systems and philosophies, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Both teams had a lot of young talent that was undisciplined. And both fanbases were/are frustrated. But, patience has paid off for the Cyclones. Their coach is now being touted as one of the hottest commodities in the country, much to the dismay of Iowa State faithful. Regardless, Iowa State is possibly on track for their best season by a longshot only a year after an awful season.

The message for Bears fans? Trust the process. I’m not guaranteeing that Matt Rhule is going to make this team a title contender the very next season or anything like that. But I will guarantee you that if fans and players don’t buy into the process, the process will fail and there will be more bad seasons to come. So I’m begging Bears fans, keep supporting this team and its coaches. Trust the process.

I’m going to end with this great postgame speech from Matt Campbell after Iowa State’s upset of TCU about what falling in love with the process results in. Hopefully Baylor will see something similar to this happen sooner rather than later: