In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 26, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. You can find all the rankings and previews here.
No. 70 Iowa State
Iowa State was largely forgotten after a season-opening loss to Northern Iowa and subsequent shellackings by Iowa and TCU that left first-year head coach Matt Campbell at 0-3 and with a microscopic chance at bowl eligibility.
The Cyclones didn't sniff six wins but they did terrify the Big 12's best teams and enter 2017 with an intriguing quarterback, two talented running backs, one of the best receivers in college football and a secondary that can survive an entire season in the pass-happy league.
2016 Record: 3-9 (2-7, Big 12)
Iowa State failed to top three wins for the fourth-straight season but their 3-9 record was not an accurate reflection of their 2016 success.
After starting the season with three-straight losses, including a home loss to Northern Iowa, the Cyclones won managed to find three victories and lost to Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Oklahoma by a combined 25 points. They held five conference opponents to 34 points or fewer — no small feat in the Big 12 — and were the only team to confuse Patrick Mahomes.
Head Coach: Matt Campbell (2nd year, 3-9 overall)
Iowa State finally had enough of Paul Rhoads' mediocrity (32-55 overall and eight wins in his final three season) and replaced him with then-36-year-old Matt Campbell.
Campbell was lauded for off-the-field work at Toledo — where he spent the previous four seasons as head coach after three as a Rockets' assistant — and that has continued in Ames.
This culture he built,” said running backs coach Lou Ayeni, “it’s going to be the reason this place turns.”
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Jacob Park, RB David Montgomery, RB Mike Warren, WR Allen Lazard, WR Deshaunte Jones, WR Hakeem Butler, OT Jake Campos, C Julian Good-Jones
Former four-star recruit Jacob Park took over for the unreliable Joel Lanning in October and played well. The big (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), strong-armed Park, who began his career at Georgia, completed 64 percent of his passes for 951 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions over a four-game stretch that included wins over Kansas and Texas Tech and near-misses vs. Kansas State and Oklahoma.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve seen with Jacob is understanding what it takes to be a quarterback,” said Matt Campbell during spring ball. “Not just play the position of quarterback, but to really be a quarterback. I think he’s grown.”
In his first year of action since 2013 — his senior year of high school — Park was responsibly aggressive, displayed a soft touch and the occasional scramble. Still, he needs to take a big step forward as a junior because average offenses don't survive in the Big 12.
Iowa State is loaded with Big 12-caliber playmakers, a rarity in Ames, led by running backs Mike Warren and David Montgomery. Montgomery averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a freshman in 2016.
Receiver Allen Lazard, a former four-star recruit from nearby Urbandale, Iowa, will break nearly every program receiving record as a senior, and rising sophomores Deshaunte Jones and Hakeem Butler will be nice complementary pieces before shouldering the load in 2018.
The offensive line gets tackle Jake Campos back from injury and center Julian Good-Jones returns after a solid rookie campaign.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DE JaQuan Bailey, LB Willie Harvey, LB Joel Lanning, CB D'Andre Payne, CB Brian Peavy, S Kamari Cotton-Moya
After yielding an average of 36 points in their first three games, Iowa State's defense improved and averaged 29.8 the rest of the way, including 10 against a Texas Tech offenses that averaged 43.7 points, fifth in the FBS.
Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya is their lone returning senior starter. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety had five pass breakups and tied for the team lead with two interceptions but he is equally as valuable in run support, racking up a large chunk of 73 tackles at or near the line of scrimmage.
Cotton-Moya leads a strong secondary that features junior corners D'Andre Payne and Brian Peavy, both of whom are benefiting from early playing time. The pair combined for 18 pass breakups and gave Patrick Mahomes his worst game of the season (18-for-36 for 219 yards, one touchdowns and two interceptions).
Elsewhere, defensive coordinator Joe Heacock needs Willie Harvey and converted quarterback Joel Lanning to be smart at linebacker, where they are so thin. Too often were the Cyclones gashed for 20-plus-yard runs last year. And JaQuan Bailey is back after registering six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as a freshman.
Notable Player Losses
G Dave Dawson, DT Demond Tucker, DE Mitchell Meyers, DE Jhaustin Thomas, LB Kane Seeley
The most notable loss is a player who spent only a few months in Ames this spring. Dave Dawson, a grad transfer from Michigan, was projected to start at guard before opting to retire from football in early June.
Three defensive linemen will be missed, namely disruptive end Jhaustin Thomas. He had a breakout year as a senior, recording 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. And they could've used another season from leading tackler, linebacker Kane Seeley.
Notable Player Additions
WR Matthew Eaton, TE Chase Allen, OT Sean Foster, DT Ray Lima, DT Kamilo Tongamoa, DE Matt Leo, LB Tymar Sutton
Matt Campbell is relying on fresh faces at nearly every level, especially the defensive line, where three JUCO transfers will have big roles. Ray Lima, a 6-foot-3, 310-pounder from Los Angeles, enrolled early and earned praise from the coaching staff this spring. Lima has three years of eligibility remaining, while Kamilo Tongamoa and Matt Leo have two each.
"We're excited," Campbell said of their revamped defensive line. "There's a lot of potential, but we've got to turn that potential into real reality real fast."
Another JUCO transfer, receiver Matthew Eaton will help on offense, as will redshirt freshmen Chase Allen and Sean Foster. The tight end Allen may have played last season if not for a car accident shortly after arriving in Ames.
Keep an eye on another redshirt freshman, linebacker Tymar Sutton, who will be an option if Lanning struggles with the transition.
Iowa State's first three games might be tricky (vs. Northern Iowa, vs. Iowa, at Akron) but it's impossible not to look down the road at Texas' Thursday night visit to Ames and wonder if the Cyclones could be 3-0. Jack Trice Stadium will be rocking if that's the case.
Other notable games include trips to Oklahoma and Kansas State and home games vs. TCU and Oklahoma State.
|Saturday, Sept. 2||vs. Northern Iowa|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Iowa|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||at Akron|
|Thursday, Sept. 28||vs. Texas|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||at Oklahoma|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||vs. Kansas|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||at Texas Tech|
|Saturday, Oct. 28||vs. TCU|
|Saturday, Nov. 4||at West Virginia|
|Saturday, Nov. 11||vs. Oklahoma State|
|Saturday, Nov. 18||at Baylor|
|Saturday, Nov. 25||at Kansas State|