I put the numbers together for this post quite awhile back. It seemed like Iowa State, during Paul Rhoads tenure, didn't lose games it was supposed to win, and pulled off at least one upset per year. Under the previous coach, the team seemed to always drop a couple in which they were favored, and seemed to rarely pull any upsets. I tested this observation.
Over the past three years, Iowa State has only been favored 9 times out of 38 games (plenty of opportunities for upsets!) and ISU is 7-2 in games in which they are favored. The two losses were in 2010 to Kansas State on a neutral field and Colorado the week after they fired Dan Hawkins. So far, so good. How about the upsets? ISU has had 11 upsets in the last three years. They had two in 2010, four last year and five in 2009. Really impressive stuff. There's a reason one web site said Rhoads was worth up to three games per season. The tendency to win when favored and compete when not has meant it's an exciting time to be a Cyclone fan - minimal disappointment and maximum upside.
Digging deeper, I broke every game down by home or away, conference or non-conference. Here's a summary of the results.
Quick observations from this, Rhoads and the Cyclones have won every non-conference game in which they've been favored. This is important because every BCS school schedules non-conference games they're supposed to win. Iowa State can't make it to six wins and a bowl game dropping these. The other number that jumps out is that ISU has only been favored in four conference games over three years. That's either pathetic or the Cyclones have been consistently underrated, probably some of both.
The big payoff - predicting this season's wins using prior these prior results.
The ranks are from the end of last season. The win percentage comes from the previous years' percentages. Based on expected wins, ISU will go 4-8. Based on win percentages, ISU's expected number of wins is 6.42, which means a bowl trip.
Again, these were based on last year's final BCS rankings. I'm worried that Tulsa is favored over the Cyclones at home this first week. That probably means Iowa State will be 'dogs against Iowa and Texas Tech as well. If that's the case, ISU's predicted win total is 4.982, short of a bowl game.
The Big XII is always underrated. The addition of TCU and West Virginia make it an even more difficult conference. Rhoads has to get his team to play at least three games over its talent once again this year to have hope of a bowl game. Watching Iowa State isn't like a roller coaster. It's more like a hill climb. We're pretty sure of the distance they'll cover, it's the second half that gets tricky. Will the Cyclones overcome unfavorable odds and make it to the summit (bowl game)? Or will they fall over early and disappoint? With Paul Rhoads at the helm, I'd bet the former.