Opponent: Iowa State
Kickoff: September 24th
Location: Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, IA)
Conference: Big 12
Head Coach: Matt Campbell (entering seventh year)
Last Year’s Record: 7-6
Notable Outcomes: Lost to Baylor 31-29; beat Oklahoma State 24-21; lost to Clemson 20-13
Key Losses: Brock Purdy, QB; Breece Hall, RB; Charlie Kolar, TE
Key Returners: Will McDonald, DE; Xavier Hutchinson, WR; Trevor Downing, C
Strength: Offensive line. Iowa State lost a LOT of offensive production from last season, losing arguably their best running back, quarterback, and tight ends in program history. For the Cyclones, they’re lucky to have a pretty solid offensive line with experience to anchor the transition to a lot of new faces at playmaker positions. Trevor Downing will lead that line at center, along with starters Jarrod Hufford and Darrell Simmons Jr. who return at guards. Further, Jake Remsburg returns at tackle after missing the 2021 season with injury. There’s a lot of depth and experience there for the Cyclones.
Weakness: Secondary. I think there’s an argument to be made that some of the offensive positions that are replacing all time greats are weaknesses, but there is what I think is some pretty good talent coming in to replace a lot of those players. Secondary, however, took some heavy losses and looks a bit less promising. There is only one returning starter in Anthony Johnson Jr., who moved from cornerback to safety. Beyond that it’s a lot of pretty fresh faces. That’s due in part to some kind of bizarre transfers, with starter Isheem Young transferring to Ole Miss and Craig McDonald transferring to Auburn.
Way Too Early Prediction: Iowa State had a disappointing 2021 season after there was a ton of hype built up from their 2020 campaign. In many ways, Baylor is in the same spot this year as Iowa State was last year. The questions then for both teams will be if Baylor can live up to expectations and if Iowa State can reclaim some of its success from two years prior. For whatever reason, this matchup tends to get a bit chippy, which is a strength of both teams as both play high level, physical football. The matchup between Baylor’s veteran defensive line and Iowa State’s experienced offensive line could prove to be the main key to this game, one that I believe Baylor will be able to edge out given the return of its first-team All-Big 12 nose tackle, Siaki Ika, along with the rest of its two deep from last season. I like Baylor to win this one in a defensive slugfest. If my predictions so far are correct, and Baylor makes it out of its early road gauntlet undefeated, that is a very strong sign the Bears are looking at another special season.