Opponent: Iowa State
Kickoff: September 25th
Location: McLane Stadium
Conference: Big 12
Head Coach: Matt Campbell (entering 6th year)
Last Year’s Record: 9-3
Notable Outcomes: Lost to Louisiana 31-14; beat Baylor 38-31; beat Oregon 34-17
Key Losses: Jaquan Bailey, DE; Lawrence White, FS; Kene Nwangwu, RB
Strength: Running back. Iowa State returns one of the best running backs in the country, let alone the Big 12, in Breece Hall. He was the runner-up for the Doak Walker Award and averaged 146 yards per game last year. His backup, Jirehl Brock, is also a star in waiting who will provide valuable backup reps for Hall. The Iowa State offense will start with the ground game and then move through Purdy and his talented tight ends.
Weakness: Defensive line. This is tough because honestly the Cyclones have a lot of talent at every position. The defensive line will still be solid this year, but with the loss of all-time great Jaquan Bailey that might be the weakest unit the Cyclones will field. Will McDonald IV, who led the nation with 10.5 sacks, returns as well as Eyioma Uwazurike. My other temptation was to list “quarterback decision making” here. Brock Purdy is an excellent athlete and will help the Cyclones win a number of games. However, in the Cyclones’ losses last year, poor decision making and turnovers from Purdy tended to be a common theme. However, as Purdy has some fringe Heisman hype entering this season, listing him as a “weakness” seems like a big stretch. If anything, his decision making might cost the Cyclones a game if he hasn’t matured from last season. But his skills will win them many more.
Way Too Early Prediction: I think Baylor will make significant strides this season over last season. But Iowa State is one of two games (Oklahoma being the other one) that I just can’t come up with a convincing argument for how they would win. The Cyclones are deep and boast some of the strongest offensive and defensive players in the conference. IF Baylor were to win this game, it would likely result from a combination of 1. Iowa State having the tendency to start seasons slow and improve down the stretch. 2. This game being a relatively early home game for Baylor, where heat could be a factor (*insert tent reference here*). 3. Baylor’s offense has drastically improved from last season. As is kind of a theme with these, we just really don’t know where Baylor’s offense is at this point other than coach speak and what not. We probably won’t really know until this game, as they should look good-to-great in the first three games. Even if the Bears lose here, if it is a close game where the offense moves the ball with some effectiveness, that would be a good sign for the rest of conference play.
31-24 Iowa State