Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iowa State vs Kansas State Predictions

When is the last time your Iowa State Cyclones have been only a 12 point underdog ON THE ROAD to a top-15 opponent?  Sorry, this was a rhetorical question and I don't really have the answer off the top of my head.  Maybe in 2002 against Oklahoma?  Anyway, on to the game.

I really feel good about this game from a Cyclone standpoint.  Kansas State is the type of team that will play really close ball games.  The last two seasons I have been downright pissed walking out of Arrowhead Stadium losing to these guys.  I have to hand it to Bill Snyder though.  He will go down as one of the best college football coaches of all time.  His teams always play disciplined and fundamental, which really speaks to his coaching considering the amount of junior college players he recruits.  Here is the analysis.

When Cyclones have the ball:
ISU has to get the ball moving again to keep the defense off the field.  It is supposed to be rainy and possibly windy.  If its not terribly windy I see the Cyclones throwing a lot of bubble screens to Jarvis West and company.  Look for Albert Gary to get looks over the middle and assuming Josh Lenz is back Jared Barnett will have a 3rd down receiver.  To be honest I think Rhoads and Herman have a few tricks in the playbook they have yet to show.  When the Cyclones got down against the Sooners I felt they were playing awfully close to the vest and I started to wonder if maybe Rhoads was holding onto something for this game.  Kansas State is tough against the run.  Jared Barnett will have to throw for 250+ for the Cyclones to win.  Advantage: Kansas State

When Kansas State has the ball:
They can run and run it well especially with their quarterback.  ISU has, according to stats, struggled against the run at times.  However, ISU is playing their best defensive football of the season.  Add in the fact that KSU can become, at times, one dimensional and ISU's best players are linebackers AJ Klein and Jake Knott and KSU could be in trouble.  One thing ISU needs to look out for is the reverse.  Oklahoma gained about 80 yards on just two reverse plays last Saturday.  I really hope Wally shoves eight in the box and leaves our corners on an island.  Advantage: Push

Special Teams:
I have been incredibly impressed by ISU's special teams (excluding the kicking game).  They seem to block extremely well on both punt returns and kick returns.  I really think they will break one at some point and maybe this is that game.  Kicking, however, reared its ugly head again against Oklahoma.  They brought their go to play (the missed PAT) out of the playbook again and I'm not a big fan of it.  Really if it wasn't for the kicking field goals part I would say ISU might have an edge.  However it is a HUGE part and thus Kansas State gets the edge.

Prediction:  I really think ISU can win this game.  It wouldn't surprise me one bit.  Kansas State has won A LOT of close close games.  Are they due to lose a close one?  If this game was in Ames I would be all for picking the upset.  Its not and I think the Clones will lose a close game.

Kansas State 16   ISU 13

Monday, November 28, 2011

ISU Bowl Possibilities

Disclaimer:  Any complaint or downfall of any of these bowls is obviously exponentially better than the flip-side (not being in a bowl).  You cannot overestimate how crucial this opportunity is for this team.  Here is a bit from Paul Rhoads at his weekly presser.

"Rhoads noticed a big difference between spring practice this year and the previous year because of the lack of bowl practices."

The extra month of practice along with another nationally televised game will help this program move even further along.  Depending on the opponent and the type of game that is played, who knows, maybe CPR will make another YouTube appearance.  WIN the bowl game and the Cyclones are sitting at least at .500 over Rhoads' first three years.  Did I mention the extra practice this extremely young team will get?

Possibilities (In order of best for ISU to at least we are in a bowl)  Note: The Insight Bowl is not in these projections.  Unless ISU beats KSU Saturday this really isn't a possibility.

 1.  Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA)
     December 28th     
     8pm CST  
     Against: Pac-12

This would be probably the best bowl ISU has ever been in.  It is a destination that a whole slew of Cyclones would travel to.  It is also the ONLY bowl game on at the time.  Around the holidays a lot of people will be watching this game.  I know it is always one of my favorites to watch.  A lot of people get caught up in the payouts.  Payouts really don't matter when it comes to bowl games.  The conference will split the net-payouts.  This bowl would give the Cyclones and this program the most exposure.  A chance to beat a decent Pac-12 would be a great step for this program. 

Probability: 15%

2.   Texas Bowl (Houston, TX)
December 31st
12 pm CST
Against: Big Ten

 Yes this is just one step down in the pecking order.  It would be an excellent destination for the Cyclones.  The fact that the game is in Texas, a prime recruiting ground for ISU, is great.  Warmer weather, also great.  A decent Big Ten opponent, splendid.  A 12 pm time slot on New Year's Eve?  Not ideal.  Figure in that there is a full slate of bowl games on that day and this game could get lost in the shuffle.  It helps NYE is a Saturday.  However, from an exposure standpoint it is not as good of an opportunity for ISU.

Probability: < 5%  The Texas Bowl will not pass on a chance to get Baylor, Texas, or Texas Tech.
3.  Ticket City Bowl (Dallas, TX)
January 2nd
12 pm CST
Against: Big Ten

I know, I know this is not a Big XII bowl game.  However, is this better than the Pinstripe Bowl?  Absolutely.  Let me explain.  Yay! January bowl game!  The Ticket City Bowl doesn't quite have the name some others might but January 2nd this year is as good as January 1st most years.  There are zero, cero, nada, zilch, none, bowl games on New Year's Day.  It is of course a NFL Sunday.  That makes January 2nd the day in college football.  This bowl kicks it off.  Here are the other bowl games that day: Outback, Capital One, Gator, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl.  Think people will be watching those?  Think people will see highlights of the Ticket City Bowl during that game?  Rhetorical questions.  Downfall?  Its on ESPNU.  Unless you fell for the Digital Plus package just to get NFL RedZone like I did you probably don't get ESPNU.  Additional bonus:  Getting to play in the Cotton Bowl.

Probability: 40 %  The "Experts" would disagree with this percentage.  However, the experts don't know anymore than I do.  I really find it hard to believe ISU gets passed up by all of the Big XII bowls.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
December 30th
3:20 pm
Against: Big East

The only real benefit to this bowl is that it is a Big XII bowl.  The Cyclones would be better off against a Big Ten opponent.  They would be better off with fans in the stands.  They would be better off in an area they can recruit.  They would be better off not in this bowl.  This is the bowl I projected ISU would land in at the beginning of the year in my fearless predictions.  I really feel as though ISU might end up here unfortunately.  I really hope I am wrong.  Here is a little tidbit that makes me think if ISU falls to the Pinstripe Bowl they will take them.  There were ZERO bowl reps at Missouri's last home game against Texas Tech.  ZERO!!!! Something makes me think Missouri will get their usual treatment and won't get a Big XII Bowl.  Unfortunately for ISU if that is the case and they don't end up in a better situation the Cyclones could be headed to NYC.  Reminds me way to much of going to Boise.

Probability: 40%

Any Other Non-Big XII Bowl

There are numerous possibilities out there.  Military Bowl, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Beef O'Brady's Bowl and even the possibility of the Hawaii Bowl.  These would be better than the alternative, staying at home, yet not as good as some of the other possibilities.  However, I would place the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl above the Pinstripe.  ISU actually does recruit California.  NYC, not so much.

Probability: < 5%

My dream scenario:  Las Vegas Bowl

My realistic dream scenario: Holiday Bowl

My economically efficient scenario: Ticket City Bowl/ Texas Bowl

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cyclones Experience Growing Pains and Gains In Norman

As a lifelong Cyclone fan I was in uncharted territory this Saturday.  I really expected ISU to compete with Oklahoma in Norman.  Traditionally those two things just don't mix.  I had drank the Kool-Aid all week coming off the biggest win in school history.  The message boards were crazy this week and every article and sound byte I read or listened set me up for utter disappointment.  Sure, for every story about the Cyclones resurgence and for every Paul Rhoads YouTube clip there was someone there to bring me back to earth.  Hangover.  52-0.  Norman (which might as well be a four letter word to Cyclone fans).  Yet, I was confident this guy known as CPR would get the Cyclones breathing again in Norman (pun intended).  By the time 11 a.m. rolled around I was about as vulnerable as I have ever been.  This was setting up for disaster.

After watching the offense cough up the ball deep in their own territory I was starting to feel comfortable again as a Cyclone fan.  The defense then stuffed this potent offense and held them to a field goal.  After an Oklahoma botched snap and a quick ISU score the scoreboard reads ISU 7 Oklahoma 3 (Pending PAT).  Then came the missed extra point, ISU's go-to special teams play.  Yet the Cyclones are ahead of Oklahoma at the end of the first quarter.  Upset brewing.

The second quarter featured two more Cyclone turnovers and 20 unanswered Sooner points.  The defense was the only reason this was not a lot worse.  At halftime the score reads Oklahoma 23, ISU 6.  Blowout brewing?

The second half featured more of the same for both the Cyclones defense and the Cyclones offense.  The Cyclones defense played outstanding and the Cyclones offense sputtered.  Although the game never got close enough in the 2nd half to truly make the Sooners nervous they certainly couldn't have felt comfortable.  I came away incredibly impressed with this defense.  They played the game, not the scoreboard.  Over and over with their backs against the wall they came away with huge stops and turnovers.  Over the last four games (3-1) this defense is allowing 18.5 points per game.  These opponents typically average 37.8 points per game.  Wow, hats off to these guys.

Many people will come away discouraged from the offensive performance.  At the end of the day this group was featuring at some points 8 or 9 underclassmen including a red-shirt freshmen quarterback.  This offense was just beat by a defense belonging to the #9 team in the nation.  A defense featuring strength, speed and agility that made them blue chip recruits.  A defense that held a senior led Cyclone offense scoreless last season.  Growing pains.

Most of the players on this Cyclone roster were overlooked by the Oklahoma's and Texas' of the world.  Many of them were overlooked by BCS schools in general.  Yet, they continue to play, continue to improve and continue to show they will stand toe-to-toe with the big boys.  A 20 point loss can never be considered a "good loss" and in college football there is no such thing as a moral victory.  Everyone in that locker room expected to win and was extremely disappointed to walk out with a loss.  They will walk into the Little Apple next week against this weeks 11th ranked team in the BCS standings once again expecting to win.  So will a majority of the Cyclone fan base.  After the game there may be another YouTube celebration.  There may not be.  At the end of the day, these Cyclones will still be making their second bowl trip in three years.  Only a failed fake extra point attempt in overtime against Nebraska has prevented this from being a third consecutive trip.

ISU will likely start the game next week as double digit underdogs.  As Jeff Woody would put it "We've been favored two times in eleven games.  We have six wins.  You do the math".  I also think I can steal Paul Rhoads' famous line and speak for all of Cyclone Nation in saying "We are so PROUD!".

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Post Oklahoma State Thoughts Q&A

Q: Was this the biggest win in school history? (From Dan McCarney in North Texas)

Dan, this absolutely was the biggest win in school history.  Had it not been a bowl eligibility clinching win there would be an argument.  Beating the #2 team in the nation in their 11th game of the season is different than beating the #2 team in the nation at the beginning of the year.  Playing on ESPN was huge.  Being the only show in town was huge.  Causing BCS chaos was huge.  Having over 52,000 screaming ISU fans there was HUGE.  This was probably the most unbelievable atmosphere I have been a part of at Jack Trice.  To me this was similar to my 19th birthday against Colorado when the game was delayed because of tornado's.  I think the new Big 12 scheduling will pay off big for the Cyclones in their late year attendance.  Thanks for the question Dan.

Statement: You guys don't have a shot of beating Oklahoma State. (Hawk Fan at lunch)


Statement: ISU got lucky. (From Mike Hlas in Cedar Rapids, IA)

Luck is a funny word.  A word that has no part in being associated with this game however.  Nebraska turning the ball over 8 times in 2009?  That may have been a little luck.  Oklahoma State turned the ball over 5 times.  Those turnovers were forced and the Cyclones didn't even take advantage (only 3 points off turnovers).  ISU was down 24-7 with about 12 minutes left to play in the 3rd quarter.  They outscored them 30-7 the rest of the way.  They gained more yards than OSU, they won the turnover battle and they did something no other team had done all year: get Heisman front runner Brandon Weeden rattled.  The only thing that reminded me of "LUCK" in this game was Jared Barnett's performance down the stretch.

How crazy was the after party in Ames man?  Did you pound some Natty's??? (From Larry Eustachy in Mississippi)

Larry you would have been proud of Ames Friday night.  But unfortunately what happened in Ames that night will stay in Ames.  Forever.

What do you think Cyclone Nation would have done had I lined up for the game winning field goal in 20T? (From Zach Guyer in Ames)

There would have been vomit everywhere.  Take your most nervous moment in your life and multiple it by a gazillion.  There was no way that field goal was going in and you know it.  There's the Golden Rule and then there's the Cyclone Rule.  Cyclone Rule reads: ISU is prohibited from making easy, chip-shot, game-winning or tying field goals or extra points in any meaningful game.

Should I get used to these splinter's up my a$$? (Steele Jantz in Ames, IA)

I would buy yourself a nice seat cushion Steele and think back to the glory days when you were leading come back wins against UNI, Iowa and UConn.  And then hit the replay button over and over.  I have a question for you Steele.  Can you catch a football??

Where in the hell is Ames and how do I get there?!?! (From Recruits, Nationwide)

Central Iowa.  Just north of Des Moines.  Did you see that awesome movie Cedar Rapids???  Its just west of there, but far enough that the Cedar Rapids Gazette can't show up.  Pricks.

I missed the game.  What happened?  Who is Paul Rhoads?  What is a Cyclone? (From Caveman, in Underarock)

*What happened:
*Who is Paul Rhoads??
And again....

And again...

What is a Cyclone?

Just don't look it up on Urban Dictionary.  Don't even want to know what they think it is.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kenpom and Sagarin Rankings for ISU Updated

Ken Pomeroy rankings
Rank - 101 (9th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 14-17 (3-15 in Big XII)
Aggregate projected record - 15-16 (6-12 in Big XII)

Sagarin rankings
Rank - 85 (8th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 14-17 (5-13 in Big XII)

Iowa State's rankings have risen after 3 games and I expect we'll see that continue through the non-conference schedule.  Unfortunately, this happened last year as well, and the early ratings were a better prediction of conference success than their rating after tearing up one of the easiest non-conference schedules (340th out of 345).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sagarin Preseason Rankings for the Cyclones

Some posters on cyclonefanatic think Jeff Sagarin's computer model is better than, so here's Iowa State's preseason ranking from that site.

Rank - 78 (8 of 10 in Big XII)

According to his formula, ISU has a projected record of 15-16, 3-15 in the conference.  This is pretty consistent with the kenpom predictions.

I'll try to update this throughout the season. Preseason Rankings for the Cyclones

I just got back into, one of my favorite web sites.  And its always interesting to follow the Cyclones through the season.  Here are the Cyclones preseason numbers.

Rank - 120 (9th out of 10 in the Big XII)
Record by projected wins and losses - 10-21 (2-16 in Big XII)
Aggregate projected record - 14-17 (5-13 in Big XII)

None of the other statistics have much meaning right now, so lets compare to last years team.  The only number I could find was preseason rank from kenpom - 175.  So that's an improvement.

Last years' actual results.
Kenpom final ranking - 81
Record - 16-16 (3-13 in Big XII, 12th out of 12)

Is Ken Pomeroy's formula predicting a better season than last year?  It's tough to say, without seeing the full preseason numbers from 2010.  Coming into the 2010 season, ISU had lost players accounting for 69% of its minutes.  Add a new coach and the season's outcome seemed tough to predict.  This season, players accounting for 57% of the minutes won't be returning, but the coach stayed the same and ostensibly, the style of play.  Pomeroy's preseason predictions should be more accurate for this year's team.

Two teams make a game.  Iowa State's opponents could be overrated or underrated, too.  That's why the projected aggregate record is a better prediction, which spells an improvement in conference play but a step back overall.  And another year without a NCAA bid.  Let's hope is wrong just this one time.